Sea Level Rise Climate Adaptation

Bliss Street, Chalker Beach, flooding during astronomical high tide October 2015.
Bliss Street, Chalker Beach, flooding during astronomical high tide October 2015.

Sea Level Rise Climate Adaptation Committee

The Sea Level Rise Climate Adaptation Committee, appointed in April 2014 to study the likely impacts of climate change and sea level rise (SLR) on Old Saybrook's coast, concluded its work in December 2015 and issued its Report of Findings to the Board of Selectmen. The report examines how climate change and SLR may affect Old Saybrook's environment, the social and cultural character of the town and the local economy. While the committee made many recommendations, its major recommendation was that the Town should engage a consulting firm that has experience with coastal resilience planning to conduct a thorough investigation of the Town's vulnerability to SLR, especially to infrastructure identified in the 2014 Natural Hazards Mitigation Plan, and to make plans to adapt to, mitigate against or retreat from SLR.

While there is considerable debate within the scientific community around the magnitude and speed of SLR, there is consensus that it is occurring and could worsen in the future. During the year and a half that the committee met, forecasts of future SLR became greater as models that better factor in continental ice melt were developed. As the committee states in the report - we can hope that the forecasts of SLR are wrong but hope is not a strategy.

There already are areas in town that are dealing with SLR. Flooding of low-lying roads in Chalker Beach now occurs during monthly astronomical high tides and town beaches essentially disappear as they become almost totally covered with water. This type of nuisance flooding is expected to increase in frequency and scope as sea levels become higher. Of greater concern is the degree of flooding that could happen with storm surges caused by coastal storms when the surges occur on top of higher sea levels. Flooding will be deeper and will extend farther inland than historically has been the case.

To learn more about the committee's work and its recommendations, download and read a copy of its Report of Findings.

Committee Members were:

  • Larry K. Ritzhaupt, Chairman
  • Robert L. Yust, Vice-Chairman
  • Michael R. Momparler, Secretary and Community Lead
  • John W. Donnelly
  • Janice P. Holland, Environment Lead
  • William O. Webster
  • Thomas A. Gezo, Economy Lead
  • Douglas R. McCracken
  • Stephen Tagliatela
  • Jerry P. Brophy


Old Saybrook applied for and received notice in early January, 2016 that it had been awarded a $125,000 planning grant from the Connecticut Department of Housing. The grant was supported through a "Community Development Block Grant - Disaster Recovery" program to fund development of an Old Saybrook coastal resilience study and infrastructure evaluation that will help plan for SLR and to prepare the next update to the Town's Natural Hazards Mitigation Plan.

The Town and the US Geological Survey have installed a tide gage and weather station located at Harbor One Marina at Saybrook Point. The station will monitor and record water levels and weather data (air temperature, barometric pressure, wind speed and direction, relative humidity and precipitation) and send these data via a satellite link to the Internet. Near real-time data from the station can be accessed here. Over the long term data from the gage will help scientists measure changes in sea level in the Old Saybrook area.