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Grant aids Smithtown project to reduce basement, septic system flooding along Nissequogue River

The Branch Drive culvert where there has been

The Branch Drive culvert where there has been groundwater flooding, as well as undersized concrete culverts, seen here on Thursday, Nov. 6, 2014. Credit: Steve Pfost

Efforts to reduce chronic groundwater buildup along part of the Nissequogue River watershed in Smithtown got a nearly $1 million boost from the state in a move officials said will ease basement flooding and improve water quality.

A $955,208 state grant will be supplemented by about $318,000 from Suffolk County to remove built-up sediments and replace undersized concrete culverts installed in the 1950s in the Northeast Branch of the Nissequogue River, said Legis. John M. Kennedy Jr. (R-Nesconset).

Kennedy said the award addresses a flooding issue that has plagued the Village of the Branch and southern Hauppauge area for about 70 years.

"This project was born out of the public health issues" after heavy rains, he said. "Flooded septic systems make use of a shower, a toilet or a washer machine impossible."

The Northeast Branch is a tributary that runs from Townline Road in Hauppauge, under Route 347 in Smithtown and Route 111 in the Village of the Branch, to join the main portion of the Nissequogue River in the county's Blydenburgh Park.

The project is among $39.5 million in grants awarded through the state's Water Quality Improvement Program -- a competitive grant program -- for 134 local and regional efforts to improve water quality, reduce runoff and restore water bodies, according to a news release from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's office.

Long Island will receive $6.39 million for a dozen projects, including restoring Udall's Mill Pond aquatic habitat in Great Neck, monitoring water quality of the Carmans River and restoring Upper Yaphank Lake in the Town of Brookhaven.

The Smithtown project focuses on a 5,400-foot segment of the Northeast Branch between Clearbrook Drive and Miller's Pond. It calls for replacing three culverts at Branch Drive and at Terrace Lane river crossings, as well as removing as much as two feet of sediment from areas downstream of Route 111.

Village of the Branch Mayor Mark Delaney called the project "a huge win for the residents."

"We have a few elderly residents who are afraid to go out of town, because if the pumps fail their basements are flooded," he said. "This affects their quality of life."

Groundwater levels naturally fluctuate, but when it becomes high enough to reach septic systems, waste goes directly into the groundwater, officials said.

Smithtown officials said the project builds on a dredging project north and south of Route 347 completed in 2011.

"This is a very important next step for the residents of Smithtown and the environmental health of the Nissequogue River by increasing the Northeast Branch's ability to drain more effectively," town assistant civil engineer Laura Feitner said.

Kennedy said county officials hope to release a request for proposals for the project by early spring 2015.

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