Planning and Designing a Resilient Future for New Haven’s Long Wharf District

New Haven’s Long Wharf District is a mix of scenic views overlooking the harbor, historic and new residential, recreational and industrial uses. It also has a long history of severe coastal flooding and damage from Irene and Sandy, a problem that’s only become more pressing with climate change. The City of New Haven retained GZA to perform a flood protection study that would assess Long Wharf’s vulnerability to present and future storms.

Drawing on an interdisciplinary team within GZA and collaborating with the Connecticut Institute for Resilience and Climate Adaptation (CIRCA), other designers and the New Haven Plan and Engineering staff, the 2017 Long Wharf Flood Study drew on multiple data sources such as NOAA flood data and post-Superstorm Sandy terrain data to develop high-resolution, hydrodynamic computer flood modeling using web-based GIS geospatial analysis. This science-based and modeling approach helped the City visualize possible coastal flooding scenarios and impacts to the natural and built environment.

GZA developed a conceptual flood mitigation design using a risk-based approach to address the predicted flood hazard impacts based on their probability and consequences. With that data in hand, the team was able to identify climate resilient design strategies and find alternative approaches that aligned with the City’s master plan for the district. The goal was to build a climate resilient district that could minimize the coastal flood risks from low probability yet high consequence storm scenarios.

Utilizing GZA’s study and conceptual designs, the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) became interested in the project and validated GZA’s findings. The Long Wharf Study was expanded by the USACE into their Fairfield and New Haven County Coastal Storm Risk Management Feasibility Study.  In 2022, the City applied for and secured funding that included $25 million of FEMA Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) pre-disaster grant funding, which had been increased by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The City received a Congressional appropriation of $160 million in federal disaster relief funds for USACE to implement flood mitigation of the Long Wharf District to protect important infrastructure for the regional economy including Route I-95 and Union Train Station. 

Included in the City’s forward-looking climate resilience efforts:

  • Major improvements to area’s stormwater management system,
  • Planning, design and funding of the Long Wharf flood protection levee (aka New Haven County Coastal Storm Risk Management Project)
  • Natural resource habitat enhancement and shoreline protection with the Long Wharf and East Shore Park Living Shoreline projects.  

Currently, GZA is the City’s engineer of record for the approximately 3,400-foot Long Wharf Living Shoreline project. Long Wharf will be more resilient to coastal flooding and the impacts of climate change when each of these projects are constructed, which is expected in 2028. 

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