Natural Resources

New Training! Intro to ArcGIS Online & Storymaps

The CLEAR Geospatial Training Program (GTP) has just launched a brand new workshop! It is called Introduction to ArcGIS Online and Esri Story Maps and includes presentations, demos, hands-on exploration and hands-on exercises. The morning of the day-long workshop covers ArcGIS Online and the web map in particular. Topics include:

  • Introduction to GIS and ArcGIS Online
  • The ArcGIS Online Web Map
    • Getting started
    • Adding and working with data in the web map
    • Sharing and printing

The afternoon of the workshop is all about Story Maps. Topics include:

  • What is a Story Map
  • How Story Maps work
  • Building a Story Map Journal
  • Building a Story Map Tour

By the end of the day, students create a Story Map Journal called The Connecticut Valley Railroad: Then and Now. It is about the history of the railroad whose tracks and historic stations exist in the backyard of the Middlesex County Extension Center in Haddam where the workshop is held. The Story Map Tour, Stations of the Historic Connecticut Valley Railway, is a tour of a few of the historic stations along the railroad. Read more…

‘New normal’ of flooded roads presents complex challenges

Story and photos by Judy Benson

climate adaptation workshopWith frequent downpours flooding many of the state’s coastal roads throughout the fall and into January – including the previous day – the workshop could hardly have had more relevance and timeliness.

“I spent yesterday dealing with countless calls to my office from people saying they couldn’t get to their houses because of flooding,” said Steve Johnson, acting assistant public works director, open space and natural resource agent for Milford. “This is getting to be the new normal. Yesterday I also watched a school bus drive through two feet of water to get the kids home.”

Johnson was one of the speakers at the Climate Adaptation Academyworkshop on Jan. 25 on road flooding. A capacity crowd of more than 80 municipal public works, planning and engineering officials from throughout coastal Connecticut came to the Middlesex County Extension Center in Haddam to spend the day learning about legal, environmental and practical approaches and challenges to “a problem with no easy answers,” said Juliana Barrett, coastal habitat specialist at Connecticut Sea Grant, during opening remarks. Co-sponsored by Sea Grant, UConn CLEAR and UConn Extension, the workshop is the third in a series focusing on the local ramifications of climate change and how towns can learn to cope.

Caught between the encroaching waters and dry land are salt marshes and roadways through low-lying coastal communities. Finding ways so that both can continue to exist on the Connecticut shoreline will be one of the main tasks of coastal town officials for the coming decades, Kozak said.Setting the stage for the issue at hand was David Kozak, senior coastal planner in the Land and Water Resources Division of the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. Ocean waters have been creeping onto land at accelerating rates over the past 50 years, and sea levels are projected to rise another 20 inches by 2050 and about four feet by 2100, he said. “Sunny day flooding,” when roads become submerged by high tides rather than heavy rains and storm surge, is becoming more common, he added.

Read more…

CT Trail Census Receives Grant

Naugatuck Greenway
Naugatuck Greenway

Our Connecticut Trail Census program recently received $206,049.50 in grant funding from the Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (DEEP) Trails & Greenways Program and the Connecticut Greenways Council. UConn Extension’s Connecticut Trail Census is a statewide volunteer-based data collection and education program implemented as a pilot from 2016-2018 on 16 multi-use (bicycle, pedestrian, equestrian) trail sites across the state.

Tackling the climate change challenge, one place at a time

climate corps students in classClimate change is perhaps the biggest challenge humanity has ever faced, and just thinking about it can make someone feel exhausted and overwhelmed.

How can the next generation of environmental professionals be prepared to deal a problem that big?

One answer could be found this fall in the Climate Corps class taught at the University of Connecticut by Sea Grant’s Juliana Barrett and Bruce Hyde, land use academy director at UConn CLEAR (Center for Land Use Education & Research). Now in its second year, the course invites students to tackle this global challenge on local scales, methodically breaking it down into more manageable parts.

Read more….

Story and photos by Judy Benson

Stormwater Corps: Looking for Green Stormwater Opportunities

stormwater corps collage
If you were out and about in the towns of North Haven, Milford, Hamden, West Haven or Cheshire this summer, you may have seen a team of four young adults writing on clipboards, snapping pictures of parking lots, laying their phones down on the sidewalk, and peering down into storm drains. These four intrepid UConn undergrads, nicknamed the Stormwater Corps, were evaluating opportunities for “disconnecting” stormwater through the use of green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) practices such as rain gardens, bioswales, and pervious pavements. Such practices help to infiltrate stormwater runoff into the ground, reducing flooding and water pollution. The students, trained by CLEAR’s water (NEMO) team, were tasked with using a combination of online mapping technology and good old-fashioned field work to look for “low-hanging fruit”­­-sites in each town where green stormwater practices were likely to be most feasible, have the greatest impact, and be cost-effective. Their findings were compiled into town reports complete with aerial photos and stormwater reduction estimates, and presented by the team to key municipal staff in each town with an emphasis on the “top five” potential sites. The Stormwater Corps project, supported by a grant from the Long Island Sound Futures Fund of theNational Fish and Wildlife Foundation, includes funds for each of the five towns to put toward construction of their top priority GSI practice. CLEAR’s long-range goal is to combine a semester-long stormwater/GSI class with the work with the towns, forming a fully realized third “Corps” program to add to the Climate Corps and Brownfields Corps.
Questions should be directed to:
Michael Dietz
NEMO Program Co-Director 

michael.dietz@uconn.edu  or (860) 345-5225

CT’s First Stormwater Utility

Earlier this summer, New London became the first municipality in Connecticut to establish a stormwater utility which goes into effect January 1, 2019.  This means they will begin charging all property owners a fee for their contribution to the city’s stormwater runoff.  Previously, New London relied on property taxes to fund maintenance of their stormwater infrastructure which includes all the storm drains and underground pipes that carry runoff from buildings, streets, and parking lots into nearby waterbodies.  This model has left much of the city’s stormwater management efforts significantly underfunded.  By charging stormwater fees, New London, a small city with many tax-exempt properties, is securing a dedicated funding source to pay for maintaining their stormwater infrastructure and complying with other management efforts, like public outreach, removing illegal discharges from the stormwater system and sampling stormwater discharge for pollutants.

New London may be the only stormwater utility in Connecticut but not in New England. According to a 2016 survey of U.S. stormwater utilities by Western Kentucky University, 3 New England states were home to established stormwater utilities: Maine (5), Vermont (3), and Massachusetts (7).  But outside our region, these utilities have become much more common.  Overall, the U.S. had nearly 1,600 stormwater utilities led by Florida, Iowa, Minnesota, Ohio, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin each having more than 100 a piece.  Clearly, there are many states (including some with reputations of having less stringent regulatory environments than CT) that have already embraced stormwater utilities as a practical way to pay for strong municipal stormwater management programs.

stormwater utilities map
Number of Stormwater Utilities in every state. From Western Kentucky University Stormwater Utility Survey 2016.

By Amanda Ryan

 

A Marsh Migration Buffer Takes Shape

Dodge Paddock Beal Preserve is a small oasis in Stonington Borough and is owned by Avalonia Land Conservancy. With tidal wetlands, coastal grassland and a rocky intertidal area, the area has much to offer visitors. The preserve has been the focus of many efforts involving the land trust, CT Dept of Energy and Environmental Protection, Mystic Aquarium and Connecticut Sea Grant. Superstorm Sandy (2012) had significant impacts to the site with both physical (seawall damage) and ecological impacts. Work by Avalonia, Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and Mystic Aquarium have focused on restoration and management of the tidal wetland with extensive regrading, Phragmites australiscontrol work and planting of native marsh vegetation. Other significant site work includes grassland management to control invasive plants in upland areas.

Landward of the tidal wetland, numerous questions have arisen with the upland habitats. The Beal Family maintained several beautiful, large gardens as a condition of their land donation. Mrs. Beal recently passed away, so Avalonia needed to determine how to manage a large area of the property bordering the wetlands. Given the proximity of the formal gardens to the marsh, projections of sea level rise of approximately 20 inches by 2050, and observations indicating that the marsh is migrating landward in parts of the Preserve, the creation of a marsh migration buffer seems to be the most prudent approach. With a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Long Island Sound Futures Fund, we are moving forward with the creation of such a buffer.

Land Trust Steward, Beth Sullivan, led the clearing of the formal gardens by having local garden clubs, neighbors and friends come in and remove plants which included everything from fennel to canna lilies. More volunteers pulled roots and cleared as much as possible. Then we covered the gardens with black plastic, letting it “solarize” over the summer months. After much planning and determining what plants would work best, we planted the new buffer on Oct 19th. A hardy crew of volunteers rolled up the plastic, raked and leveled the gardens and then sowed seeds with a mix of native coastal grass species. We were also fortunate to obtain seeds for several native species that had been collected several years ago by the New England Wildflower Society as part of their Seeds of Successprogram. Seeds of native species that were collected locally include switch grass and little bluestem as well as herbaceous perennials such as tall goldenrod. Other donations included milkweed seeds and root balls of joe pye weed from local gardens.

people walking with plastic uncovering ground
Removal of the plastic sheeting that was used to solarize the area over the summer months. Photo by J. Benson Oct 19, 2018

spreading mulch over dirt and seed
Seeded area is covered with a thin layer of straw for the winter months. Photo by J. Benson Oct 19, 2018

 

So now we can wait out the winter months and hope for a fruitful spring. While marsh migration with sea level rise is very slow, we are hoping to develop a coastal grassland/meadow that will be an ecologically productive habitat.

By Juliana Barrett

Well Water: Protecting Your Well

faucet with running water
Photo: Kara Bonsack

There are a number of steps that a homeowner can take to help protect their private well.

  • Water should be diverted away from the wellhead to prevent the pooling and potential introduction of contaminated water  into the well.
  • Keep the well in good repair.  A faulty well can allow surface water to reach groundwater without filtering through the soil.
  • Use care when applying pesticides and fertilizers to lawns and gardens near the well (better yet, avoid use entirely if possible).  These products contain chemicals and/or nutrients that can contaminate well water.
  • Abandoned wells should be sealed.  They are a prime entryway for contaminants.

Article by Karen Filchak, Retired Extension Educator

Home Water Systems: Wells

water well Distric La Serra
Photo: Wikimedia

In Connecticut, approximately 15% of residents receive their drinking water from private wells. In rural areas of the state, that percentage increases to greater than 90%.

An owner of a private well is also a manager of the well.  As manager of the well, the homeowner is responsible for making sure that the water is safe to drink and the well is  not damaged or compromised.   Public water systems are required to regularly test water and meet federally set water quality standards.  Private wells are not required to test and meet standards except following installation and at time of sale of the property.

It is important to have a basic understanding of factors affecting well water, what to test for andwhere to have well water tested.  Practices to reduce the risk of contamination of well water are also important to the safety of drinking water.

Many homeowners are unaware of the recommendation to routinely test their private well.  A basic series of tests is recommended annually. Other tests should be conducted based on potential sources of contaminants that may affect the well. This would be based on the potential presence of naturally occurring contaminants or those introduced by human activities/land uses.

It is recommended that homeowners use a testing laboratory that is EPA certified to test. The EPA has certified laboratories to assure that the labs have the proper equipment to test for the contaminants that they advertise.  Not all environmental laboratories test for everything.  It is a good consumer practice to compare two or three labs to determine which best suits the consumer’s needs.

If the water tests indicate that there is a problem, information is available to help the homeowner understand what the problem is and what options are available to address the problem if needed.

There are a number of steps that homeowners can take that can help to protect the quality of water in the private well.

Article by Karen Filchak, Retired Extension Educator

Climate Corps Course Shapes Career Choice for UConn Student

The UConn Climate Corps is an undergraduate classroom and service learning opportunity. The program consists of a 3 credit course (Fall semester) on the local impacts of climate change, followed by a 3 credit independent study (Spring semester) during which students work with Extension faculty to assist Connecticut communities in adapting to climate change.  In Spring of 2018 the Corps worked with the municipalities of Hartford, Westbrook, and Old Lyme. 

The Climate Corps is a collaboration of the Environmental Studies, Environmental Sciences, and Environmental Engineeringprograms, the Connecticut Sea Grant Program, and the UConn Center for Land Use Education and Research (CLEAR)

A student in the 2017-18 class and shared her thoughts with Extension Educators Bruce Hyde and Juliana Barrett.

Bruce and students
Student teams led by Bruce Hyde and other CLEAR faculty will work with Connecticut towns as part of the UConn Climate Corps.

Also I just wanted to say thank you for all the hard work you two put in to make this class/independent study possible. I had an amazing experience with it and met a lot of great people. I actually just accepted a really great post-graduation job offer from Homesite Insurance in Boston as a Catastrophe Risk Analyst, and half of my interview was spent talking about this independent study. I’ll be doing natural hazard risk modeling and identifying at-risk areas for certain natural disasters as a result of weather patterns, geographic locations, and climate change, which is something this independent study really prepared me for/got me interested in. This wouldn’t have been possible without you two and the Climate Corps class, so thank you so much!! Climate Corps had a huge influence on me, and for a while I wasn’t super excited about the sorts of jobs I’d be qualified to do with a Geoscience degree (consulting and cleaning up hazardous waste spills somehow didn’t appeal to me), but having this experience opened so many doors for me and exposed me to so many different things I could do. I’m really excited to start my new job because I’ve been able to combine a career with something I find super interesting, and I really have you two to thank for that.

I recommended Climate Corps to a bunch of people and I think one of my friends is signed up for it next year, so please keep doing this, it’s a great experience for us students (and I’m sure also for the towns we work with)! Thank you again!