Town gets $1.3 million FEMA grant to replace Saugatuck Bridge

By:  Anne Amato
CT News

The town has been awarded a $1,302,225 Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grant to replace the Saugatuck Bridge, First Selectman Jim Marpe announced Tuesday.

Following the recent announcement of the Pre-Disaster Mitigation grant from FEMA to fully replace the wooden bridge on Harbor Road leading to the town’s Saugatuck Island community, Congressman Jim Himes (CT-4), Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), issued the following statement Tuesday morning:

“During Hurricane Sandy, rising waters limited access to and from the Saugatuck Island community. This joint effort by FEMA and the State will replace the wooden bridge to the island with one that can serve ambulances and first responders during the event of a future storm,” Himes, Blumenthal and Murphy said. “Hurricane Sandy devastated much of our coastal communities. We are pleased to support such federal and state projects to better prepare for serious weather and ensure the safety of our people and sustainability of our region.”

“The Town of Westport is very appreciative that this FEMA Pre-Disaster Mitigation grant has been awarded,” Marpe said. “This grant will ensure that our emergency responders have access to the island in the immediate aftermath of any future disaster and that the residents of Saugatuck Shores are assured of on-going safe passage to and from their homes.”

Marpe continued, “While it went through several iterations with FEMA, we are very pleased with the positive outcome. We appreciate the support Senators Blumenthal and Murphy and Congressman Himes and their staff members provided in keeping the application moving through the necessary approval process.”

Fire Chief and Emergency Management Director Andy Kingsbury and Town Engineer Peter Ratkiewich led the town’s efforts to apply for this grant on behalf of the Saugatuck Island Taxing District. The application process began almost immediately after Superstorm Sandy.

“During high tides, and especially during severe storms like Sandy and Irene, our emergency vehicles can’t use either entrance into Saugatuck Island,” Kingsbury said. “In the case of a fire and strong winds, which occurred so devastatingly in New York during Sandy, many homes and residents would be at risk. This funding for a new bridge will make sure we can access the community during all times to keep our people and property safe.”

Because of the environmental sensitivity of the Saugatuck Island area, there remains an extensive design and permitting process that must occur prior to commencing construction. Consequently, the completion of the new bridge may take up to two years. Nevertheless, this grant award is a very important step toward the goal of replacing the 50-year old bridge, town officials said.

The current bridge to Saugatuck Island is a timber-and-pile structure. It is not load-rated for emergency vehicles and it was dislodged during Hurricane Sandy, making it completely impassable by any vehicle. The only other entrance to the neighborhood is a low road along the canal bank that is regularly submerged by high tides and during storms.

This grant funding from FEMA will provide 75 percent of the total cost of removing the old bridge and re-construction of the bridge which will be rated for emergency vehicle and heavy equipment loads.