Monday, April 12, 2021

Local News

Coastal Resiliency Commission Appointed in Madison

The Board of Selectmen (BOS) has appointed 19 members to form a Coastal Resiliency Commission (CRC), which will begin working to address a variety of issues and potential concerns regarding Madison’s coastline and beaches.

The commission will consist of seven executive members, who will provide oversight and work directly with the BOS and other town boards, and 12 subcommittee members, who will help carry out the charge of the commission in various other ways.

Commission members are not paid, and are appointed by the BOS to two- and four-year terms, according to the commission’s charge.

The initial idea of forming the CRC was brought to the BOS by Director of Planning and Economic Development Dave Anderson last May. Anderson is also serving as an ex-officio member of the commission, though having a staff member serve on a commission is unusual. His involvement was determined by the BOS to be important due to the scope and technical nuances of the issues that will need to be examined, according to Selectman Al Goldberg (D).

Having an experienced town staff member on the executive side of commission was meant to “help drive processes forward,” Goldberg said.

Mary Barneby is one of the recently named commissioned members. She said that it is important that Madison residents “take a stand right now on the future.”

“We live in a beautiful community,” Barneby said. “There are lots of forces around us—weather, storm surges, sea level—all those kinds of things, and I think it’s important for us to all get together collectively and begin to take a look at the things we can control, and the things we can’t control.”

The commission will hold an organizing meeting soon, Barneby said, aiming to divide into three subcommittees, focusing on areas of science, policy/finances, and communication. The commission is required to hold an “initial public educational event,” in six months, which will provide an outline for challenges related to sea level rise and climate change that the town is likely to face.

Selectman Bruce Wilson (R) said the focus of the commission’s work will be on the next 15 to 20 years, working to assess possible problems with the town’s “endangered waterfront.”

The CRC “is really the best way to begin to sort that all out, and to provide us with feedback on how we should be, not just reacting to storms, but how we should be planning for sea rise and defense against nor’easters or hurricanes,” Wilson said.

Wilson said candidates were chosen based on having “relevant subject matter expertise,” but also who were “thoughtful individuals” willing to dedicate the time and energy to the important work they are now tasked with.

Barneby said part of her motivation for joining the commission was listening to the voices of young people around her.

Barneby is the CEO of the Girl Scouts of Connecticut. She said that she often hears scouts often expressing concern about environmental issues.

“I think that we owe it to our kids, and we owe it to the future to do what we continue make Madison a great place to live, but also to make sure we’re not neglecting thats that have to happen right now,” Barneby said.

Incorporating information related to all the potential issues related to climate change or extreme weather into the town’s other long-term planning apparatuses is a large part of the CRC’s official charge, including working with the Plan of Conservation and Development, the Hazard Mitigation Plan, and proposing projects for the town’s five-year Capital Improvement Plan (CIP).

The charge also states that the commission can “engage technical consultants as needed.”

First Steps

The first and most important steps the commission will take will be to assess specific places where the town’s coastline is at risk or vulnerable, Wilson said.

“Whether it’s erosion or simply flooding...I think their charge really spans all the climate impacts that we might experience. There’s a lot of different data sources out there for likely and probably impacts, so I think they need to make sense of that and present it to the town, also educate the public.”

The commission will work with state agencies such as the Department of Energy & Environmental Protection and the Connecticut Institute for Resilience and Climate Adaptation to understand better what to look for, and what to expect.

Being able to operate with a comprehensive and long-term view of changing coastlines is something vital to the town, Wilson said. He offered the example of a possible renovation, or “reimagining” of structures at the Surf Club.

“I don’t think we can make that decision intelligently until we understand what the Surf Club is likely to experience over the next 20 years,” said Wilson. “So I think there is a fair amount of data that needs to be collected just around that particular town property.”

Coastal Resiliency Commission Members

Executive Commission: Mary Barneby, Dave Clark, Graham Curtis, Hank Maguire, Woodie Weiss, Walter Welsh, and Director of Planning and Economic Development David Anderson

Subcommittee Members: April Allen, Tim Casey, Tony Doina, Bill Gladstone, Joe Maco, Gregory Makoul, Fred More, Clayton Patterson, Wayne Rigney, Marilyn Shaw, Rob Sonnichsen, and Elaine Stangland

Jesse Williams covers Guilford and Madison for Zip06. Email at .

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