October 24, 2018

Hartford region moves closer to levee system repairs

HBJ File Photo
HBJ File Photo
The Connecticut River.

Connecticut moved a step closer Tuesday to receiving federal funding to rehabilitate the Connecticut River levee systems in Hartford and East Hartford.

President Donald J. Trump signed a sweeping law that directs the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to address numerous water resource projects nationwide, including an expedited study on repairing the aging levee systems in Connecticut.

The U.S Senate and House of Representatives had already voted to pass the America's Water Infrastructure Act of 2018, but Trump's signature Tuesday moves Hartford and East Hartford closer to gaining eligibility for federal funding to repair the decades-old flood control system. The measure passed by near unanimous vote.

The Army's engineers unit built Connecticut's levee systems in the late 1930s in the wake of catastrophic flooding caused by hurricanes, said U.S. Rep. John B. Larson, who fought for the feasibility report in Washington, D.C.

Larson said the engineers have identified repairs needed to strengthen the aging levee system to prevent the risk of flooding. Failure to improve the levees, he says, would jeopardize the I-84/I-91 interchange, in addition to commercial, institutional and residential properties along the river.

"These levee systems keep the communities of Hartford and East Hartford safe and protect critical infrastructure for the region," Larson said. "Extreme weather events that increase in likelihood due to climate change are more reason to take this threat seriously."

The 53-page bill will authorize federal funding for water infrastructure projects, upgrade wastewater, drinking and irrigation systems, and expand the nation's water storage capacity, among other projects and programs.

It also negates $4 billion set aside in water resource development projects that Congress deemed unnecessary for construction for various reasons.

Congress typically reevaluates the bill every two years to approve new water projects at levees, harbors, and dams and to provide direction to the Army's engineers, Larson said.

A CNN report contributed to this story

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