An undated Google view of the Village of the Branch...

An undated Google view of the Village of the Branch sign in Smithtown. Credit: Google

Two of Long Island’s smallest villages overcame fiscal limitations and found ways to pay for projects designed to protect fragile waterways, officials said.

Officials in Old Field and the Village of the Branch were rewarded earlier this month when their efforts were recognized by the Suffolk County Planning Commission.

“Villages do a lot of great work, and a lot of times it’s under the radar screen,” said David Calone, former chairman of the planning commission, which bestowed its annual Village Innovation Award to Old Field and the Branch.

“Here you have two villages stepping up to address regional needs. These are small villages that are tackling issues of regional impact.”

Officials in Old Field, a village with about 1,100 residents on the North Shore in Brookhaven Town, built a stormwater runoff system that uses natural filtration devices such as native grasses and catch basins to reduce pollutants entering Conscience Bay and the Long Island Sound. The system cost about $320,000, said Erin Brosnan, habitat restoration ecologist for GEI Consultants in Huntington Station, which designed the project.

Old Field Mayor Michael Levine said grants from the nonprofit National Fish and Wildlife Foundation helped the village pay for the work despite limited finances.

“Any village could do what we did, but it takes money,” Levine said. “We’re all operating on a shoestring budget these days.”

“Up in Old Field, we’re surrounded by water on two sides,” Levine said. “It makes you feel you’re doing a good thing to address the environment.”

The Branch, a village of 550 homes that includes part of the downtown Smithtown business district, plans to begin a $1 million project next year to improve water flow on a branch of the Nissequogue River by removing silt from the river bottom, Mayor Mark Delaney said. The work will be almost completely funded by a county grant, he said.

The project was launched to protect homes where basements often are flooded when the river is choked by excessive sediment.

“It just shows our commitment to groundwater and water in general and our willingness to alleviate the problem,” Delaney said in an interview.

Calone, who resigned last week to seek the Democratic nomination for the seat in Congress held by Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), said both villages received plaques earlier this month.

“Villages really contribute to our regional economy and our environment,” Calone said. “I want villages to know what other villages are doing so they can replicate innovative ideas in their villages.”

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