Town Takes Responsibility, but no Action, on Flooding Fix For Old Lyme’s Private Beaches

Purple overlay shows wetlands area surrounding Swan Brook (Credit: Google Map Data/ Old Lyme GIS)


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OLD LYME — For years the Swan Brook outlet has clogged, causing flooding in the surrounding private communities of Miami Beach and Hawk’s Nest.

The town installed the two 36-inch drainage pipes and the outlet in the 1940s and has maintained the drainage system over the years. According to Town Attorney Jack Collins, that means the town’s taxpayers are responsible for fixing the problem, which has grown significantly worse with the deterioration of an 80-year-old wooden crib holding the pipes.

At a meeting of the Board of Selectmen on Monday afternoon, First Selectmen Tim Griswold sketched out possible solutions.

“There are three choices: You do nothing until you find a nice grant source, you do a town appropriation or you wait to see if the infrastructure money might have some funds available,” said Griswold.

“This has been an ongoing problem for years,” said Griswold.

In 2018, the town’s Flood and Erosion Control Board discussed the possibility of rerouting Swan Brook. But because the crib is on private property, later in 2019 the board questioned whether the town was responsible for solving the problem, and recommended then-First Selectman Bonnie Reemsnyder bring the two beach associations together to find a solution.

At Monday’s meeting, Mark Mongillo, president of Miami Beach Association, emphasized the urgency of the problem, which he said leads to flooding of residential yards, parking lots and low-lying areas when the pipes are clogged.

“I do encourage the board to visit the site. Take a look at how dilapidated it is… Those pipes are blocked, no water can get through,” he said. “I’m asking the board to take a field trip and do what’s morally and ethically correct because it’s difficult living when flooded.” 

Griswold said that the town had talked to engineers at Docko about rebuilding the crib using 25-foot sections of galvanized steel.

“The back-of-the-envelope estimate was about $150,000 to construct the sheet metal,” he said. 

Mongillo emphasized the need for a solution, however it is funded. Mongillo said that he and a representative of Hawk’s Nest had already asked the town in a letter for federal ARPA funds to solve the problem.

“But from our perspective, we don’t care where the town gets the funds from. It has to be fixed. It’s a liability. It’s flooding people’s properties and I’m sure that if anyone here lived in that area, and you had to wake up to ankle- or knee-deep water everyday, you wouldn’t like that very much,” he said. 

Mongillo said that in 1987 the town studied the option of straightening Swan Brook, which he considered a potential long term solution. According to Mongillo, a Docko engineer told him that idea made sense and would improve the situation. 

“Once that second pipe is open and the crib is rebuilt and redesigned in the proper way, that gives us time to look at maybe a longer term solution of maybe straightening Swan Brook. Unfortunately Swan Brook starts north of 156 and gets a lot of stuff and Miami beach is the recipient of everything that’s coming down,” he said. 

Griswold said the board needed another session with the Docko engineers to decide on a way forward with the project.