As winter winds down, and you’re considering outdoor, low-risk activities, making a small batch of maple syrup at home with your family might be a fun and healthy choice. This webinar will provide all the essential information you’ll need to get started, from identifying which of your trees might be sugar maples, to tapping, boiling and finishing the sweet product for use on your favorite pancake recipe. Extension Forester Tom Worthley will take you through the process and share some tricks he has learned.
Join our webinar on Wednesday, March 3rd at 1 PM to learn more.
Registration is open for all three February webinars!
Wednesday, February 10, 1:00 – 1:30 PM
Long Island Sound Report Card: Grading the Urban Sea
Peter Linderoth, Save the Sound
What is this map telling us? Join Peter Linderoth from Save the Sound as he discusses the latest release of the Long Island Sound Report Card. The Report Card grades the ecological health of the open waters of the Sound in addition to numerous embayments. Peter will present an overview of the water quality data sources, grading process, and then dive into the grades and general findings.
Using the New CT Zoning Atlas to Envision CT’s Transit-Oriented Development Potential
Sara Bronin, UConn Law School & Cary Chadwick, UConn CLEAR
In January,Desegregate CT, a coalition of over 60 organizations focused on land use and zoning reform, released its groundbreaking interactive map, the Connecticut Zoning Atlas. This first-in-the-nation planning tool allows the public to easily explore zoning regulations that govern housing in each of the state’s 2,618 zoning districts and two subdivision districts without having to sift through and decode thousands of pages of written code. This webinar will focus on one particular aspect of the Zoning Atlas: the areas within a half-mile of train stations and CT fastrak stations. It will start with a broad overview of Desegregate CT and its platform as it relates to TOD, and it will show how you can use the Atlas to assess how your community already permits TOD. The webinar will conclude with some information about the Desegregate CT’s TOD proposals and how they have worked in other states, including neighboring Massachusetts.
It’s deliberately stepping back to make a better future.
“Retreat is very difficult, but it’s going to happen,” said A.R. Siders, assistant professor in the Biden School of Public Policy and Administration at the University of Delaware. “Wouldn’t it be better to have a managed process? It can be an opportunity to do something more exciting than elevating a few houses, and there are resources available.”
A national expert and keynote speaker at the “Managed Retreat in the Age of Climate Change” virtual workshop on Nov. 13, Siders challenged the audience of about 130 municipal and state land-use officials and others to rethink notions of what’s possible. Rising seas and more frequent flooding of coastal and riverine areas means getting people out of harm’s way is necessary, she said. But can also be a chance to improve our waterfronts for everyone.
Siders said she began focusing on how retreat can be done in an orderly, methodical way—rather than as a haphazard reaction to a disaster—after Superstorm Sandy in 2012. It’s the better alternative to the other options: avoidance, fortifying shorelines with concrete or accommodating rising seas by elevating properties, she said.
To begin the hard conversation with communities, Siders urged land use professionals to pose it as challenge to realize a positive vision for the future: “What do you want your city or community or coast to look like in 30 years? 100 years?
“I don’t want to see a coast that’s armored with sea walls, but I would love to see open beaches all the way from Maine to Texas, so everyone can access them. It won’t happen if we don’t plan for retreat,” she said.
The workshop was the latest in a series hosted by the Climate Adaptation Academy, a partnership of Connecticut Sea Grant and The Center for Land Use Education & Research (UConn CLEAR). Juliana Barrett, CT Sea Grant coastal habitat specialist, and fellow organizer Bruce Hyde, extension educator with CLEAR, emphasized that this workshop is considered the first in a series on managed retreat that will delve into this complex and important issue.
“We see this as just getting the conversation going,” said Barrett.
Hyde set the stage for the presentations with a story and slides from Connecticut’s past. After the 1938 hurricane destroyed a beachfront community in New London, the city acquired the property, razed what remained of the homes and turned it into a large public beach. Today Ocean Beach Park is one of the city’s jewels.
“This is an example of using managed retreat 60 years ago and it has been very successful,” he said.
Siders also noted that there have been more recent examples of successful managed retreat projects across the country, including 12 in Connecticut. Most of these have been small scale, however. At the same time, though, new homes are still being built in vulnerable areas. In Connecticut alone, she said, 478 new homes were built from 2010 to 2017 in a 10-year flood plain.
In the second half of her talk, Siders outlined the multiple issues that arise and kinds of expertise needed to carry out managed retreat. Planners must be mindful of income equity issues—not favoring high income over low income properties, for example—the layers of regulatory and financial considerations/ Also critical, she said, is keeping the process transparent and communication lines open between residents and government. Offering financial incentives, help with finding new homes and working through nonprofit groups to build trust are some of the strategies that might be used, she said.
After Siders, Attorney Marjorie Shansky addressed the legal issues of managed retreat. “Can we adapt policies and regulations to promote managed retreat?” she asked.
These could include mechanisms that favor living shorelines over shoreline hardening, enacting stricter coastal setbacks and buffers and limiting and prohibiting coastal development altogether. She noted that the Florida Keys will no longer issue new building permits after 2023.
Starting the discussion about reimaging a local coastline where people aren’t constantly in a futile fight with rising waters is a good first step, she said. But communities need to start doing more.
“We must move from planning to action,” Shansky said.
Two examples of that kind of action offered inspiration for what can be accomplished. In downtown Meriden, a $13 million project funded by various state and federal agencies has transformed a blighted, flood-prone area into a municipal park. Public Works Director Howard Weissberg, City Engineer Brian Ennis and Assistant Planning Director Paul Dickson took turns describing various aspects of what one of them described as “a flood control site first, a park second, and an economic development parcel third.”
My name is Will Carta and I am interning with CLEAR through UConn CAHNR Extension. I am going to be a senior at UConn and I am majoring in Natural Resources with a concentration in Water Resources and Climate. Before transferring to UConn I spent two and a half years at Manchester Community College. I love fitness, fishing, and playing basketball with friends whenever I get the chance. I am currently working on updating CLEAR’s “State of Low Impact Development in Connecticut“ story map. Many of the links to various regulations throughout this story map are out of date, which I am in the process of updating. I have found that many of the towns that did not have a specific document for their Stormwater Management Plan when the story map was first created, now have one. This is great to see because it shows that more and more towns in Connecticut are acknowledging the importance of Stormwater Management as well as Low Impact Development and putting out regulations to deal with it. Along with the LID Story map, I will also be working on updating UConn’s Virtual Green Stormwater Infrastructure Campus Tour. This virtual tour highlights the University’s leadership role in addressing the impacts of stormwater runoff on water quality.
Technology has expanded the mapping world. No longer are maps static and flat. They are now interactive, zoom able and clickable. They allow focus on a location or a question and enable us to explore our backyard, town, state and world.
Because not all (or probably even most) of those 30,000 people are Geographic Information System (GIS) experts, CT ECO is designed to meet the needs of visitors with varying levels of technical expertise. Alongside all of the maps is an extensive amount of complementary information in the form of Data Guides, Help documents and How-to explanations.
The simplest map access is through the Map Catalog, that contains over 9000 pdf maps that cover every town in Connecticut. These same maps can be purchased at the CT DEEP store in Hartford.
There are currently 12 interactive Map Viewers on CT ECO and the list is growing. Popular Viewers include the Simple and Advanced Map Viewers, both of which contain a long list of map layers mostly maintained by CT DEEP. The Elevation Viewer hosts the state’s elevation information in the form of highly detailed ground topography including elevation values as well as hillshade, slope, aspect and 1-foot contours. Also incredibly useful is the Aerial imagery Viewer that contains 12 statewide sets of aerial imagery between 1990 and 2019 along with six coastal and regional datasets.
Project-based viewers are topically focused. The Long Island Sound Blue Plan Viewer is one of the most recent, providing access to the long list of data layers that are part of the Long Island Sound Blue Plan. Other Viewers include Sea Level Rise and Coastal Road Flooding Viewer, the Aquaculture Mapping Atlas, the CT MS4 Viewer that focuses on stormwater and the DEEP Inland Waters Fish Community Data Viewer.
Finally, mapping professionals and enthusiasts can connect to CT ECO map and image “services” within their desktop or online GIS. The Map and Image Services page lists the over 100 available services.
Users, Uses, and Benefits
Responses to a survey conducted regarding the value of CT ECO revealed the breadth of users. They come from private business, state agencies (like Department of Transportation, Department of Economic and Community Development, Department of Safety and Public Protection, Department of Labor, CT DEEP and even the Office of Film, TV & Digital Media), regional and local government, non-profit organizations, educational institutions, utilities, citizens and more.
CT ECO is also used by hikers, landscape architects, land trusts and metal detectorist clubs (who knew?). The wide audience reflects the broad uses of CT ECO, such as preparing site assessments, permit applications and permit review, engineering projects, traffic plans, wetlands applications like identifying vernal pools, review of site conditions, identifying zoning violations, locating addresses, habitat suitability models, trail maps, forestry, coastal resilience, mining archaeology, appraisals, school projects and more.
It is difficult to put a dollar value on the services provided by CT ECO. Certainly having a central, statewide repository for mapping data, limited as it might be, reduces redundancy and increases efficiency. Many respondents from the survey report saving significant amounts of both money and time. Several users estimate saving over $100,000, with others stating that the time saved is “immeasurable.”
A State of Connecticut GIS professional said, “CT ECO has become the default location for accessing GIS data within the State of Connecticut. The work that the CT ECO staff has done to provide this data to the public has been nothing short of extraordinary.” It is exciting that UConn Extension is filling the critical need for so many different users and uses of Connecticut’s geospatial information.
In a small attempt at lessening the pain of social distancing, CLEAR has been hosting a “mini-webinar” series since late March. There are two 30-minute webinars per week, on Monday and Wednesday afternoons. So far, we’ve held 5 and had almost 500 people in attendance. The webinars are also taped and posted on the website.
We have just announced the second wave of webinars, bringing the total to 12 and taking the series through the end of April. And, while our first set was conducted primarily by CLEAR faculty, our second set is comprised of a wide variety of topics from a diverse set of partners.
If you are like most people, as long as water comes out of the tap, you don’t give it much thought. If your water is supplied by a water company, stringent testing is required by law, and you will periodically receive results of the testing. If you are one of the 40% of Connecticut residents who has a private well, the last time you had that water tested was likely when it was built (you can’t move in unless your well water meets certain criteria), or when you purchased it (if you have a mortgage, the bank will often require testing to make sure you have a safe water supply).
Older homes had shallow wells which drew from groundwater close to the surface. These wells are vulnerable to contamination from surface sources. Newer homes have wells that are drilled into the bedrock, and may be hundreds of feet deep. However, even deep wells can become contaminated from surface sources such as nearby septic systems, road salt, leaks from gas stations, or agricultural activities. Other contaminants such as radon, uranium and arsenic are naturally occurring in some parts of Connecticut.
The best way to protect you and your family from possible contamination is to test your water at one of the state’s certified testing labs. For an extra fee they will come to your home and collect the sample for you, or they will give you instructions on how to collect the sample. The Connecticut Department of Public Health has more information about private well testing. A basic potability test will cover a variety of contaminants including nitrate, sodium, chloride, and bacteria. If you leave near an agricultural area, you may also want to test for pesticides.
It is easy to take our water for granted. Keep your family safe and get your water tested!