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PHOTO — State Rep. Dorinda Borer, D-West Haven, speaks during a news conference Friday afternoon, June 1, at Sea Bluff Beach announcing $3.9 million in state funding for a new Cove River tide gate system to protect the tidal wetland, which abuts the campus of West Haven High School, from flooding. Joining Borer are, from left, Mark E. Paine Jr., assistant to the public works commissioner, Mayor Nancy R. Rossi, and state Reps. Michael A. DiMassa, D-West Haven, and Charles J. Ferraro, R-West Haven. (Contributed Photo/House Democrats)
WEST HAVEN, June 4, 2018 — State Rep. Dorinda Borer, D-West Haven, announced $3.9 million in state funding on Friday afternoon, June 1, for a new Cove River tide gate system to protect the tidal wetland, which abuts the campus of West Haven High School, from flooding.
Borer heralded the money during a news conference at Sea Bluff Beach just hours after it was authorized by the state Bond Commission. She was joined by state Reps. Charles J. Ferraro, R-West Haven, and Michael A. DiMassa, D-West Haven, Mayor Nancy R. Rossi and Mark E. Paine Jr., assistant to acting Public Works Commissioner Lou Esposito.
The funding, long sought by West Haven officials to replace the aging, nonfunctioning tide gates, is being allocated to the city through a grant administered by the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
The Cove River flows into Long Island Sound through the tide-regulated gates, which flank the Charlotte Bacon “Where Angels Play” playground at Sea Bluff Beach, off Ocean Avenue. The gates also skirt Bradley Point Park.
In high tide, the wooden hinge gates close to prevent the Sound from flooding the salt marsh on both sides of the river; in low tide, they open to allow the river to flow into the Sound.
Officials said the gates are vital to the preservation and restoration of the Cove River tidal wetland. When functioning, they are designed to protect the surrounding infrastructure and restore tidal flushing of the 90-acre marsh without flooding upland property, including homes, businesses and West Haven High, which is undergoing a $134 million reconstruction.
The gates, however, have been deemed “nonfunctioning” for the past 45 years, officials said.
On Oct. 29, 2012, the surge of Superstorm Sandy overwhelmed the tide gates and flooded the high school’s ballfields and track, prompting city officials to seek state funding to safeguard the area from a similar flooding event.
Borer credited Paine and city grants writer Eileen M. Krugel for helping to secure the funding for the project, which also includes replacing the concrete footbridge over the gates.
“This area, with its rich history, should be preserved, and I am grateful the state prioritized our funding request to get this critical project off the ground,” Borer said.
“Our shoreline is our greatest asset and pride and joy,” she said. “Proactively improving the functionality through self-regulated tide gates and replacing the pedestrian bridge, which has been closed for over 20 years, will generate countless safety, environmental and quality-of-life benefits.
“I am proud to have worked with my colleagues to secure these funds.”
For more than six years, Paine has led the city’s efforts to rehabilitate the Cove River salt marsh by eliminating much of the invasive species, such as phragmites, and restoring the natural salt grasses. The area has also seen a resurgence in shorebirds and waterfowl, thanks to the restoration.
Rossi said the new tide gates will continue the marsh’s rehabilitation by enabling proper tidal flow, which ensures that the area is replenished with the salt, sulfur and nutrients it needs to stay healthy.
“The tide gate upgrade will increase coastal resiliency, mitigate stormwater flooding, and provide multiple environmental and recreational benefits that will last for generations,” said Rossi, who thanked Borer and the rest of the city’s General Assembly delegation for lobbying for the grant funding. “Residents and visitors will also benefit from the safety of a new footbridge.”
Plans for the new tide gate system include the installation of several self-regulating tide gates that will allow the city to control tide heights within an inch, with tidal height in the marsh being the biggest factor to maintain its health, Paine said.
Plans also include the construction of a prefabricated concrete footbridge for pedestrian access over the gates and construction of a rock jetty to prevent sand from washing into the marsh, he said.
Officials said the project, part of the city’s Coastal Resilience Plan, is expected to begin in early summer and take up to eight months to complete.
According to Paine, the first system to restrict tidal flow was built in 1912, primarily for salt hay mowing and drying.
The concrete footbridge tide gate system was constructed in 1938. Those gates were removed in 1971 and replaced with the existing wooden hinge gates, which were installed on the new Captain Thomas Boulevard bridge at the time, Paine said.
He added that the original structure was used as footbridge until the late ’90s, when it was fenced off and abandoned because of structural deficiencies.
— MICHAEL P. WALSH, Public Relations Information Coordinator