Bridgeport and the new administration of Mayor Joe Ganim appear to be the biggest beneficiaries of $54.2 million in federal funds awarded Thursday to Connecticut to help Fairfield and New Haven counties better prepare for coastal flooding and climate change.

Ganim, who was at the White House in connection with a meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, was pulled aside and told the city was receiving about $38 million for flood control in the city’s south end, said his spokesman, Av Harris.

The grant was awarded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Rockefeller Foundation as part of the $1 billion National Disaster Resilience Competition for states and communities affected by major disasters between 2011 and 2013. Ganim’s predecessor, Bill Finch, was a strong backer of the application.

“Climate change is real and we must think more seriously about how to plan for it,” said Julián Castro, the HUD secretary who recently visited Hartford, New Haven and Bridgeport.

Connecticut’s entry on behalf of the state was put together by the Connecticut Institute for Resilience and Climate Adaptation, a joint center run by UConn and the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, the Office of Policy and Management and other departments. It had asked for nearly $115 million for resiliency work in Bridgeport and New Haven and for resiliency planning in the Connecticut coastal counties most damaged by Storm Sandy.

HUD only mentioned Bridgeport in its announcement, but the state also is receiving planning funds for floodplain design guidelines and further work on the “Connecticut Connections Coastal Resilience Plan” in Fairfield and New Haven counties.

The HUD announcement upstaged plans for a press conference Friday at noon by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, and the U.S. representative whose districts include Bridgeport and New Haven, Jim Himes of the 4th District and Rosa L. DeLauro of the 3rd District.

A number of Bridgeport’s coastal neighborhoods have suffered repeated flooding, most notably during Sandy and the earlier Tropical Storm Irene. Finch, who lost a Democratic primary last summer, had been active in looking for means to remediate flooded areas, which included moving some housing projects. The new Barnum train station was partly designed to provide a transportation hub for those residents that might be moved to other areas of the city.

But it will be the new Ganim administration that will have to work with the institute and the Malloy administration on formal plans in keeping with the parameters of the application.

“These initiatives transcend administrations,” April Capone, who is handling the application process as part of her intergovernmental affairs duties at the Office of Policy and Management, said in November. “Yes, we did have a mayor who was very progressive. This does not hinge on one elected official.”

The new mayor was excited to receive the grant, Harris said.

HUD said the state’s coastal resilience plan is focused on “reconnecting and protecting economically-isolated coastal neighborhoods through investments in mixed green and gray infrastructure that protect against flooding while strengthening their connectivity to existing transportation nodes.”

Connecticut was among 40 finalist states, cities and counties applying for the funding. Thirteen received awards. New York and New Jersey were already promised at least $181 million. In the end, New York state ($176 million) and New York City ($38.5 million) got $214 million; New Jersey got only $15 million; and Louisiana and New Orleans got the most, nearly $234 million.

Springfield, Mass., received $17 million.

Washington correspondent Ana Radelat contributed to this story.

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Mark PazniokasCapitol Bureau Chief

Mark is the Capitol Bureau Chief and a co-founder of CT Mirror. He is a frequent contributor to WNPR, a former state politics writer for The Hartford Courant and Journal Inquirer, and contributor for The New York Times.

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Jan Ellen SpiegelEnergy & Environment Reporter

Jan Ellen is CT Mirror's regular freelance Environment and Energy Reporter. As a freelance reporter, her stories have also appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, Yale Climate Connections, and elsewhere. She is a former editor at The Hartford Courant, where she handled national politics including coverage of the controversial 2000 and 2004 presidential elections. She was an editor at the Gazette in Colorado Springs and spent more than 20 years as a TV and radio producer at CBS News and CNN in New York and in the Boston broadcast market. In 2013 she was the recipient of a Knight Journalism Fellowship at MIT on energy and climate. She graduated from the University of Michigan and attended Boston University’s graduate film program.

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