Suffolk County legislators presented Smithtown officials with a nearly $300,000 check on Tuesday to reimburse the town for groundwater improvement projects designed to mitigate flooding.
Legis. John Kennedy, R-Nesconset, and Legis. Lynne Nowick, R-St. James, handed a check for $292,534 to Supervisor Patrick Vecchio to pay for dredging the Nissequogue River. It's part of a three-phase project designed to reduce flooding for nearly 5,000 local homeowners and to prevent further environmental damage that started in 2005.
"Today's payment shows that Suffolk County has kept its promise to share the load with the town of Smithtown in Smithtown's long-term, multi-tiered battle with a chronically elevated water table that has caused immeasurable property damage and ongoing hardship for town residents over the past five years," Kennedy said.
Crews began work on Phase I in 2010, costing $500,000 to date, to remove silt from the Nissequogue River from the Village of the Branch to where it crosses Route 347. This was followed by Phase II, removing silt in the river from Route 347 south to the Bow Drive culvert and footbridge in Hauppauge. Phase II has cost approximately $448,000.
Suffolk County paid for its half of the project through the Quarter-Cent-Sales-Tax Drinking Water Protection Program, a public fund established by public referendum to contribute part of the county's sales tax proceeds toward environmental protection programs.
Smithtown Engineering Department Director Ted Sanford worked with Steven Hyman, the vice president and director of civil engineering for H2M architects, and Will Bowman, a senior scientist for Land Use Ecological Services, in developing and overseeing the project.
Bowman said the first challenge was sorting out what sand and other material in the Nissequogue River had been dumped there by stormwater runoff and what was natural stream bed.
"We went down the entire stream channel digging small sediment cores and trying to differentiate between road sands and the native environment," Bowman said.
Machines were then brought in to remove silt from areas where it had accumulated, restoring the Nissequogue River to its normal path and depth.
Hyman said the project was able to "lower the groundwater without having a negative impact on the natural habitat."
Planning has started for Phase III of the project, which is aimed at improving the drainage infrastructure across Route 347. The New York State Department of Transportation has made several improvement to the area over the past year, including and prevent potential flooding.
There are several smaller projects underway in connection with the Nissequogue River dredging to improve roadway drainage and other local groundwater issues.
New York State Parks Department started dredging Nissequogue River State Park Marina in December 2011 to allow for better navigation by boaters on the south side of the marina.
Kennedy and the Town of Smithtown are partnering in order to improve roadway drainage in the Loft Road, Croft Road and Link neighborhood of Smithtown off Old Willet's Path, to prevent groundwater from building up and contamination of habitat in
Also, Village of the Branch officials are working with Kennedy on a plan to solve similar high watertable issues in the northeast section of the village. A grant for $400,000 has been secured from the Quarter-Center fund for this project.
Village officials and Kennedy also plan to apply for $1.5 million in aid from FEMA this spring to move forward with removing silt from an additional 7,500 feet of the Nissequogue River.