Smithtown Scouts to help with Nissequogue River cleanup

Nissequogue River State Park in 2007.

Nissequogue River State Park in 2007. (Credit: Newsday File / Karen Wiles Stabile)

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A group of Smithtown Boy Scout troops plan to help a Suffolk County lawmaker Saturday clean parts of the Nissequogue River, to increase its rate of flow and help prevent flooding in nearby neighborhoods.

A total of about 30 scouts -- from Smithtown Troops 3 and 349, and Troop 214 in Hauppauge -- have volunteered for Legis. John Kennedy Jr.'s "Clean the Stream" project, part of an effort to improve and restore sufficient flow in the northeast branch of the river, Kennedy (R-Nesconset) said.

They plan to collect garbage, downed branches and other obstructions that impact the river, said Thomas Kotak, 19, of Hauppauge, an intern in Kennedy's office who helped coordinate the project. The Scouts are also expected to dig out areas of the river made shallow by garbage and silt deposits, said Kotak, a former Troop 349 Eagle Scout.

Kotak recently surveyed a culvert and said "there was a lot of pooled water. . . . It wasn't moving any more with the stream."

Russell Giannotti, Scoutmaster of Troop 3, said the Scouts "like to provide community service without a pat on the back. They do it because . . . they want to help others."

Kennedy said that since 2006, more than $1 million in county and town funding has been spent to improve the river. "The area has been ravaged by the weather, and it's important . . . [to] restore it to its previous ecological capacity," he said.

The river and its watershed also have benefited from $1.5 million that Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) secured in a 2005 highway bill as an earmark for Smithtown, said Bishop's spokesman, Oliver Longwell.

Suffolk County officials plan to file a letter of intent Friday seeking $1.5 million in federal money to rebuild poorly designed culverts in the Village of the Branch, which will improve stormwater flow, and to begin 7,500 feet of additional silt remediation work, Kennedy said.Smithtown Supervisor Patrick Vecchio said streams are occassionally impeded by debris. "We've even taken shopping carts out," he said. "When these streams are impeded, they raise the level of the groundwater . . . which impacts houses."

Richard Kitt, an environmental analyst for the Smithtown Department of Environment and Waterways, said in a statement that he has noticed an increase in multiple fish species, snapping turtles, dragonflies, tadpoles and bullfrogs in areas where stream cleaning has taken place.

"This suggests environmental factors have improved and can only improve further due to stream cleaning/clearing efforts," he said in a statement.

Kennedy commended Smithtown's Department of Environment and Waterways, which is supplying a small boat to carry debris and tools, and the Scouts.

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