After years of delay, dredging of the Nissequogue River to relieve high groundwater that has caused flooding in a section of Smithtown will begin Wednesday, weather permitting, town officials said.
Homes most affected by the chronic flooding are south of Route 347 between Terry and Mount Pleasant roads. Work will be done on 1,200 feet of a Nissequogue tributary north of the highway. The process will remove about 450 cubic yards of sand.
The Department of Environmental Conservation took three years to approve the permit allowing removal of silt, according to town engineer Ted Sanford. The town applied to dredge 12,000 feet, but was rejected by the DEC and Suffolk County, which owned some of that land. Suffolk later joined an amended proposal.
Despite Sanford's opinion that dredging several feet was optimal, the DEC permit allows for 15 inches - the accumulation of several decades of road runoff - so as not to disturb flora and endangered fish. That news relayed at a public town meeting last week incited homeowners.
"They try to save the fish instead of our kids," Umit Ayazoglu said, adding his three children can't play in his Hallock Avenue backyard because of a compromised cesspool and soggy lawn.
"We are constrained by other governments," Supervisor Patrick Vecchio said, adding the town board was "very disappointed" with the county and DEC for rejecting Sanford's plan.
DEC regional director Peter Scully said the delays were due to a "wildly unrealistic" proposal that would "pretty much obliterate the Northeast Branch of the Nissequogue River."
A DEC spokesman said the removal of 15 inches should return the high water table in that area to normal.
Two other areas also plagued with groundwater problems are getting fixes. The Charles Court area in Ronkonkoma and the area around Nichols and Gibbs Pond roads.