Smithtown, NY - December 20, 2013 - U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today urged the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to approve Suffolk County’s application for hazard mitigation grants that would help support the Northeast Branch Nissequogue River Restoration Project. The project will mitigate recurring groundwater flooding that impacts residents and businesses around Miller’s Pond and the Northeast Branch of the Nissequogue River. Over 900 homes have been identified as having experienced damaged related to the flood hazard in this area. Schumer today pushed for funding through FEMA’s hazard mitigation grant to improve the storm water infrastructure. Schumer also urged the New York State Office of Emergency Management to include this project in their final list of Hazard Mitigation Grant (HMGP) projects submitted to FEMA by late January.
“The cheapest way to deal with flood damage is to prevent it in the first place. Nearly one-thousand homes have been impacted by the recurring flooding of Nissequogue River and this restoration project is vital in ensuring this problem be put to an end,” said Schumer. “Hazard mitigation funds will make sure that local taxpayers aren’t on the hook for these much-needed flood-protection measures and that’s why I am urging FEMA to approve Suffolk’s application for these grants.”
“I applaud Senator Schumer for his commitment to Smithtown and working to secure the much needed funding to permanently end the chronic flooding in the vicinity of the Nissequogue River,” said Suffolk County Legislator John M. Kennedy, Jr. “Working with the Village of the Branch, and the Smithtown Town Board, we’ve started the remediation process which produced measurable results. Now it’s time for FEMA to approve funding for this much-needed project and deliver long-term relief to the residents of the Town and Village.”
"We in the Village of the Branch thank the Senator for his support on this critical issue which has been affecting many of our residents for years -- rendering basements sometimes inhabitable and causing undue stress and expense as homeowners are forced to keep pumps running on a continuous basis," said Mark Delaney, Deputy Mayor of Village of The Branch.
FEMA’s hazard mitigation grant program can provide additional funding under Section 406 of the Stafford Act, the federal disaster law that supplies aid to states and localities to implement long-term resiliency measures after a major disaster. The purpose of these grants is to reduce the loss of life and property due to natural disasters and to enable mitigation measures to be implemented during the immediate recovery from a disaster. Normally, without these grants, FEMA will only provide enough funds for a locality to rebuild using the same specifications as the original structure.
The Northeast Branch of the Nissequogue River is one of the most widely recognized areas affected by shallow groundwater flooding in Suffolk County. According to a 1980 Suffolk County study, the Northeast Branch is a series of ponds and streams that brings water to New Mill Pond for discharge to the Long Island Sound via the Nissequogue River. The 1980 study entitled, “Drainage Improvements including Groundwater Relief,” suggested that groundwater levels were found to be quite high in the area. The study explains that in the 1960s, a development boom took place when water levels were low as a result of severe drought. During the drought, groundwater levels dropped Island-side as much as five to ten feet. In the Northeast Branch, where groundwater levels are typically among the highest on Long Island, the drop exceeded ten feet in places. Between the late 1960s through the 1970s, certain areas began to experience groundwater-related flooding problems and high levels of precipitation in 1978 and 1979 resulted in hundreds of homes affected by groundwater flooding. When precipitation returns to normal conditions, flooding continues in this area.
According to project proposal, the Northeast Branch of the Nissequogue River serves to drain stormwater and groundwater from its watershed. The waterway’s ability to efficiently convey excess groundwater to downstream waters depends on the condition of the stream. Over the past 30 years, the Northeast Branch has been subjected to high silt and sediment loads and the bottom profile of the waterway has become blocked by sediment and debris which has led to flow restrictions, decreased hydraulic capacity of culverts and streams and has further degraded the stream’s capacity to convey groundwater away from the area.
The Northeast Branch has a recurring groundwater flooding problem. At least 268 homes are known to have experienced damages related to the flood hazard and another 662 are identified as likely to have experienced damages relating to the flood hazard. Damages associated with this flooding include residents’ costs to clean up including pumping out basements, clean mold, replace walls, and replace dehumidifiers.
According to the project proposal, the Northeast Branch Nissequogue River Restoration Project is estimated to cost $1.1 million. The project will address flooding problems by restoring the capacity of the Northeast Branch and improving stormwater infrastructure so that it may efficiently convey excess groundwater from its watershed and therefore, provide relief from the shallow groundwater hazard. The proposed project consists of implementation of stormwater management measures. The proposed project includes streambed restoration, and silt removal. Two existing culverts will be demolished and replaced with modern culvert structures design to a 100-year storm event and upland stormwater improvements will be implemented to reduce flow of sediment to waterway, including installation of new or the replacement of old catch basins with sediment filters.