Princeton Hydro Supports Creation of Stormwater Utilities in New Jersey

For Immediate Release: May 15, 2018

PRESS STATEMENT 

On behalf of Princeton Hydro, LLC, a leading water resources engineering and natural resource management small business firm in New Jersey, we support the passing of New Jersey’s stormwater utility creation bill, S-1073. If S-1073 is administered in a responsible manner, we believe that it will enhance water quality and reduce flooding impacts in New Jersey.

Since our inception, Princeton Hydro has been a leader in innovative, cost-effective, and environmentally sound stormwater management. Long before the term “green infrastructure” was part of the design community’s lexicon, our engineers were integrating stormwater management with natural systems to fulfill such diverse objectives as flood control, water quality protection, and pollutant reduction. Our staff has developed regional nonpoint source pollutant budgets for over 100 waterways. The preparation of stormwater management plans and design of stormwater management systems for pollutant reduction is an integral part of many of our projects.

We have seen the benefits of allowing for stormwater utilities firsthand. In Maryland, the recently implemented watershed restoration program and MS4 efforts that require stormwater utility fees have provided a job creating-industry boom that benefits engineers, contractors, and local DPWs. At the same time, Maryland’s program is improving the water quality in the Chesapeake Bay, and stimulating the tourism and the crabbing/fishing industry.

New Jersey has the very same issues with our water resources as Maryland. Just like the Chesapeake Bay, our Barnegat Bay, Raritan Bay, and Lake Hopatcong have serious issues with stormwater runoff that is degrading our water quality and quality of life.  Our stormwater infrastructure is old and falling apart, and all stormwater utilities need continual maintenance to save money in the long run.

It is important to point out that this current bill is not a mandatory requirement, and would simply provide a mechanism for various levels of government (county, municipality, etc.) to collect a stormwater utility fee in order to recover runoff management costs.

This bill (S-1073) should not be reviewed only in the context of cost, as this bill meets all three elements of the  triple-bottom line of sustainability; social, environmental, and financial. Allowing stormwater utilities in New Jersey will create jobs, help reduce flood impacts, enhance water quality, improve our fisheries, and preserve our water-based tourism economy. 40 states have already implemented stormwater utilities, and we believe that it is time for New Jersey to join the ranks.

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NYSFOLA Awards Dr. Stephen Souza with Highest Honor at 2018 Annual Conference

The New York State Federation of Lake Associations (NYSFOLA) Board of Directors awarded Dr. Stephen Souza, Founder, Princeton Hydro with its ‘Lake Tear of the Clouds’ Award. This award, named after the highest lake in the state, is NYSFOLA’s highest honor. It is only given to a person who has shown the highest dedication to New York’s lakes and watersheds, assisted NYSFOLA in its mission, and produced exceptional performance in his or her field of endeavor.

In bestowing this award to Dr. Souza, NYSFOLA recognizes his accomplishments and efforts in the management and restoration of lakes throughout the State of New York and his support of the initiatives promoted by NYSFOLA. The award was presented at the NYSFOLA’s 35th annual conference, which was held on May 4th and 5th at the Fort William Henry Hotel in Lake George.

During his acceptance speech, Dr. Souza said, “I am truly humbled and appreciative to have even been considered worthy of this award.  In accepting the ‘Lake Tear of Clouds’ Award, I want to extend my deepest thanks to NYSFOLA, the NYSFOLA Board of Directors, Nancy Mueller (NYSFOLA Manager), and all of you here tonight.  It is people like yourselves, who advocate for clean lakes, that have made my career so rewarding. I would be remiss if I also did not take the time to thank my wife Maria and my family for their support over the years and of course the dedicated lake scientists that I have the pleasure to work with day in and day out at Princeton Hydro. That of course includes Dr. Fred Lubnow, who I have had the pleasure of working side-by-side with since 1992, Chris Mikolajczyk and Mike Hartshorne, both of whom are here tonight, and the rest of my Princeton Hydro colleagues.”

Dr. Souza first attended the NYSFOLA conference in 1985, and has been working to assess, restore and protect watersheds throughout the state of New York for over 35 years. Some of the notable projects managed by Dr. Souza over that time include projects conducted at Honeoye Lake, Sodus Bay, Greenwood Lake and Sleepy Hollow Lake. He is currently working with New York State Department of Environmental Conservation on a major statewide harmful algae bloom (HAB) management effort.

“We thank you for your longtime support of NYSFOLA and our member lake association, Steve,” said Nancy J. Mueller, Manager. “And, we congratulate Princeton Hydro on its 20th anniversary.”

ABOUT NYSFOLA

The New York State Federation of Lake Associations, Inc. was founded in 1983 by a coalition of lake associations concerned about water quality, invasive species, and other issues facing New York’s lakes. Today, more than 200 lake associations across the state are members of the only statewide voice for lakes and lake associations. NYSFOLA also has corporate members and individual members who support our efforts.

Conservation Spotlight: Restoring Fish Passage on the Noroton River

For thousands of years, river herring swam from the Atlantic Ocean through the Long Island Sound and up the Noroton River to spawn each spring. Then, they returned to the ocean until the next spawning season.

Back in the 1920s, President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s administration began connecting the country through a massive interstate highway system. As part of the infrastructure plan, hundreds of thousands of culverts were built across the U.S. with the intention of moving water quickly and efficiently. While that goal was met, many migratory fish and other aquatic organisms could not overcome the culverts’ high-velocity flows, shallow water depths, and perched outlets. This infrastructure prevented them from reaching their native migratory destinations.

By the late 1950s, Interstate 95 cut through Connecticut’s coastal rivers, and culverts were installed to convey river flows. Alewives, American Shad, Blueback Herring, and other native fish species were unable to navigate the culverts. Their populations dwindled to the point where Connecticut, along with Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and North Carolina, instituted moratoriums on catching and keeping the valued forage fish.

Along the Noroton River, three parallel concrete culverts, each 300-feet long, 13-feet wide and 7-feet in height were installed, completely blocking upstream fish passage.  In order to restore important fish populations and revitalize the Noroton River, Save the Sound launched a project that reopened approximately seven miles of the river, allowing migratory fish populations to safely and easily travel through the culverts to reach their original spawning habitat upstream.

The project is a collaboration among Save the Sound, Darien Land Trust, Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (CTDEEP), Connecticut Department of Transportation, Princeton Hydro, and other partners. For the project, Princeton Hydro lead design engineering and guided the construction of the following elements to restore upstream fish passage:

  • The installation of a concrete weir at the upstream end of the culvert to increase water depths in one culvert during low-flow periods;
  • The installation of concrete baffles to reduce flow velocities and create resting places for fish, and;
  • The installation of a naturalized, step-pool, rock ramp at the downstream end of the project to allow fish to ascend into the culvert gradually, overcoming the two-foot vertical drop present under existing conditions. The rock ramp consists of a grouted riverstone base with large grouted boulders arranged to make steps, with low-flow passage channels, between a series of pools approximately 1-foot deep that create resting places for upstream migrating fish.

Reopening river passage for migratory species will improve not only the health of the Noroton River itself, but will also benefit the overall ecosystem of Long Island Sound. Over the last decade, fish passage projects around the sound’s Connecticut and New York shores have dramatically increased freshwater spawning habitat for the foundational species whose return is restoring a more vibrant food web to the Long Island Sound.

Construction of the baffles and rock ramp were completed in time for the 2018 migratory season. Construction of the concrete weir is on temporary hold for low-flow conditions. On April 26, 2018, project partners gathered for a project celebration and the release of migratory fish by CTDEEP at an upstream location.

“It’s fascinating to feel the change in the flow patterns against your legs as you walk through the baffled culvert knowing that it will now facilitate fish passage through this restored reach,” said Princeton Hydro’s New England Regional Office Director and Water Resources and Fisheries Engineer Laura Wildman, P.E. “It is a very attractive and natural-looking fishway, and we’re proud to have created a design that fits so well into the surrounding landscape.”

Princeton Hydro has designed, permitted, and overseen the reconstruction, repair, and removal of a dozens of small and large dams in the Northeast.  To learn more about our fish passage and dam removal engineering services, visit: bit.ly/DamBarrier.

Princeton Hydro’s Cory Speroff Achieves Chesapeake Bay Landscape Professional Status

Princeton Hydro is proud to announce that Cory Speroff, MLA, ASLA, CBLP, Landscape Designer for the firm, has earned the Chesapeake Bay Landscape Professional (CBLP) designation.

The achievement of the CBLP Level 1 designation demonstrates an advanced level of professionalism and knowledge of sustainable landscaping practices for a healthier Chesapeake Bay and beyond. In order to qualify for the certification, candidates must pass a comprehensive exam that assesses an individual’s understanding of sustainable practices in the design, installation, and maintenance of landscapes. Achieving the CBLP designation illustrates an in-depth knowledge of sustainable landscape best practices and stormwater best management practices.

“Completing the CBLP certification program was a valuable experience,” said Cory Speroff. “Growing up, I spent a lot of time on the Chesapeake Bay, and even more time in its expansive watershed. It’s very fulfilling to know that I can take the knowledge I’ve learned back to Princeton Hydro and not only make positive impacts for our clients, but also impact the health of a system that so many people use for work and recreation.”

In order to earn the CBLP certification, participants must earn and report 20 continuing education units (CEUs) every two years in the areas of sustainable landscape and stormwater design, installation and maintenance topics; climate change issues; native plants and native plant communities; ecological plant design; or other related subject matters. In addition, newly-certified CBLPs must complete and document at least 6 hours of hands-on practice.

As a landscape designer for Princeton Hydro, Cory is responsible for the creation of designs, renderings, graphics, planting lists, planting plans, and construction documents associated with various aspects of environmental restoration and stormwater management. Cory is a Temple University’s Master of Landscape Architecture Program graduate. The program gave him unique exposure to a traditional landscape architecture education infused with ecological restoration, a combination that facilitated the exploration of how to achieve the most socioeconomic value from a space while also achieving high environmental function, which leads to informed and creative design solutions.

For more information about the CBLP-certification, visit cblpro.org. For more information about Princeton Hydro’s services, visit PrincetonHydro.com.

ABOUT PRINCETON HYDRO
Princeton Hydro was formed in 1998 with the specific mission of providing integrated ecological and engineering consulting services. Offering expertise in aquatic and terrestrial ecology, water resources engineering, and geotechnical investigations, the firm provides a full suite of environmental services.

Upcoming Environmental Education Opportunities

Throughout May and June, Princeton Hydro is participating in a variety of events focused on conserving, restoring, and protecting our precious water resources.

May 7 – May 11: NJWEA 103rd John J. Lagrosa Conference & Exposition

The New Jersey Water Environment Association Conference is the largest water-focused environment exposition in the Northeast drawing participants from throughout the country for four days of workshops, educational sessions, networking events, exhibitor booths and more.

Princeton Hydro Founder Dr. Stephen Souza is giving a presentation on ”Increased Storm Resiliency through the Application of Green Infrastructure BMPs.”

See the conference program.

May 18: Restoration Ecology One-Day Course

This Rutgers Office of Continuing Professional Education course, led by Dr. Stephen Souza, explores the use of mitigation and sustainable design techniques to reduce stormwater impacts and increase storm resiliency.

Designed for those involved in the recovery of impacted river, lake, riparian, wetland and coastal environments, the course will draw heavily upon real-world examples of restoration ecology in practice, and will cover topics, including green infrastructure stormwater techniques; FEMA’s national flood insurance program community rating system (the course is approved for certified Floodplain Manager credits); reconnecting streams to their floodplains; stream daylighting; and more. The course will take place at Duke Farms.

Get more info and register.

June 4 – 6: Association of State Dam Safety Officials Northeast Regional Conference

The conference program will focus on issues of importance to dam owners, government officials and engineers in the northeast region with applicability to the greater dam and levee safety community as well.  Both general and concurrent technical sessions, timely panel discussions, an informative exhibit show, and networking opportunities with colleagues from across the region highlight this event.

Princeton Hydro is giving two presentations:

Get more info and register.

June 6: Camden Environmental Summit

The Camden Environmental Summit provides an opportunity for community groups, nonprofit organizations, environmental leaders, and government officials to come together to explore equitable and creative solutions to climate change in the Camden region. Educational breakout sessions include topics like stormwater management, climate resilience, brownfields redevelopment, illegal dumping and improving the overall health of the watershed.

Get more info and register.

June 8: Sustainable Raritan River Summit

The 10th Annual Sustainable Raritan River Conference and Awards Ceremony is titled “Micro to Macro: The Future of the Raritan.” Conference participants will explore emerging contaminants affecting the Raritan and discuss watershed planning efforts that address threats to achieving a fishable and swimmable status for the Raritan River, basin and bay.

The annual conference typically draws 200+ attendees from state, local and federal government, non-profit organizations, businesses, philanthropic organizations, academia, and individuals committed to a more sustainable Raritan.

Get more info and register.

 

Stay tuned for more!

New York Hosts Harmful Algal Blooms Summit

Photo: Veronica Volk, Great Lakes Today

Photo credit: Veronica Volk, Great Lakes Today

The Western New York Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) Summit, the last of four Statewide HABs summits, was held last month in Rochester, NY. The summits kicked off Governor Cuomo’s $65 million initiative to protect the NY State’s lakes, ponds and reservoirs, and those that rely on these waterbodies for recreation and drinking water, from the ecological and health impacts associated with HABs.

“Protecting New York’s natural resources is key to ensuring residents have access to safe water, and through this collaborative summit, we are addressing the growing threat of harmful algal blooms,” said Governor Cuomo in a recent press release.

Tim Schneider, Owasco Lake Watershed Inspection Program

Photo: Tim Schneider, Owasco Lake Watershed Inspection Program

Each regional summit involved a day-long session of expert presentations and panel discussions on a variety of HAB related topics, and culminated in an evening session, which was open to the public and provided community members an opportunity to learn more about the Governor’s initiative and pose questions to NYSDEC about HABs and the management of HABs. The evening sessions were available to view via a live online stream as well.

For each summit, the Governor invited regional experts to participate along with NYSDEC and Department of Health experts. The experts were brought together to initiate the development of tailored HAB action plans. Although the focus was placed on the management of Governor Cuomo’s 12 priority waterbodies, the goal was to identify HAB management plans applicable for all of the State’s waterbodies, large or small. The discussions that evolved through the four summits set the stage to inform decisions related to preventing and properly responding to HABs across the state.

Participating by the invitation of Governor Cuomo and the NYSDEC in last month’s Western New York Summit were:

  • Dr. Steve Souza, Princeton Hydro
  • Art DeGaetano, Cornell University
  • Christopher Gobler, SUNY Stony Brook
  • Dave Matthews, Upstate Freshwater Institute
  • Greg Boyer, SUNY ESF
  • Nelson Hairston, Cornell University
  • Sally Flis, The Fertilizer Institute
  • Tim Davis, Bowling Greene State University, Ohio

During the Western New York Summit, Dr. Souza, Princeton Hydro co-founder, provided insight on the causes of HABs and, in particular, discussed the management techniques that have been successfully implemented by Princeton Hydro to combat the onset and mitigate the impacts of HABs.

About Governor Cuomo’s Harmful Algal Blooms program:
Governor Cuomo’s program builds on New York’s $2.5 billion Clean Water Infrastructure Act investments in clean water infrastructure and water quality protection. The Harmful Algal Blooms initiative is supported with funds from both the Clean Water Infrastructure Act and the $300 million Environmental Protection Fund. Through the Governor’s leadership, New York has developed the most comprehensive HABs outreach and monitoring programs in the country, led by DEC sampling of ambient waters across the state and DOH sampling at regulated beaches and public water systems.

2018 NYSFOLA Annual Conference

The New York State Federation of Lake Associations (NYSFOLA) will host its 35th Annual Conference May 4-5 at the Fort William Henry Conference Center in Lake George.

This year’s conference, which is titled, “Protecting Our Lakes for 35 Years – Our Past, Present and Future,” will feature a diverse exhibitor hall, networking opportunities, a silent auction and a variety of educational sessions. Princeton Hydro is exhibiting and giving five presentations:

  • Nutrient Inactivation: A Pennsylvania Case Study by Dr. Fred Lubnow, Director of Aquatic Programs
  • You Have Your Lake Data, Now What? Creating a Watershed Plan by Chris Mikolajczyk, Senior Aquatic Scientist
  • One Watershed, Many Lakes: A Strategic Plan for the Kettle Lakes of Southern Onondaga and Northern Cortland Counties by Michael Hartshorne, Senior Limnologist
  • Proactive Management of Harmful Algal Blooms by Dr. Stephen Souza, Founder
  • Hydrilla Control in Harveys Lake, PA by Dr. Fred Lubnow

Environmental professionals, students, recreation enthusiasts, lakeside residents and community members are all invited to come together to explore a variety of topics related to managing and protecting watersheds. Additional educational session topics include, Citizen Science Water Quality Monitoring, Managing Water Chestnut and Other Invasives, Severe Weather Events Emergency Preparedness, and much more. Click here to view the complete agenda.

If you’re attending the conference, be sure to visit the Princeton Hydro booth to discuss the latest advancements in pond, lake and watershed management. If you’re interested in participating, you can register here. Registration closes on April 27th.

Stay tuned for a conference recap and photos!

ABOUT NYSFOLA
NYSFOLA was founded in 1983 by a coalition of lake associations concerned about water quality, invasive species, and other issues facing New York’s lakes. Today, more than 200 lake associations across the state are members of the only statewide voice for lakes and lake associations. NYSFOLA also has corporate members and individual members who support our efforts.

2018 Watershed Congress Synopsis

The Delaware Riverkeeper Network hosted its annual Watershed Congress event, which is focused on bringing environmental enthusiasts together in an effort to advance the best available information and techniques for protecting and restoring watersheds. The one-day conference combines science, policy, and practical applications into one program that consists of an engaging keynote discussion, exhibits, poster sessions and 21 concurrent presentations covering a broad range of watershed topics.

Princeton Hydro gave two presentations during the event:

Ecology/Management of Cyanotoxin Producing Blue-Green Algae in the Schuylkill River 

Dr. Fred Lubnow, Director of Aquatic Programs, presented on the basic ecology of nuisance blue-green algae and how to monitor, manage and prevent cyanotoxins particularly in potable water supplies.

As identified in the Schuylkill River Watershed Source Water Protection Plan, approximately 1.5 million people depend on the Schuylkill River watershed as a source of potable water. Elevated nutrient (nitrogen and phosphorus) loading can stimulate the growth of nuisance algal blooms in the river, and higher phosphorus concentrations can cause blue-green algae blooms (also known as cyanobacteria). Cyanobacteria produce cyanotoxins, which can cause serious health implications for humans, pets and livestock. Drinking water contaminated by very high cyanotoxin concentrations can actually be lethal.

Fred’s presentation covered the ecology and management of blue-green algae in a riverine ecosystem in order to prevent the potential impacts of cyanotoxins on potable supplies of water. He provided management actions within the context of USEPA’s recommended drinking water health advisories for select cyanotoxins. Participants also received general recommendations on what they can do to minimize their contribution to potential cyanotoxin-producing blue-green algal blooms in the Schuylkill River.

Click here to download a complete copy of Fred’s presentation!

If it’s a BMP, Will it Protect Water Quality?

Michele Adams of Meliora Design and Princeton Hydro’s Senior Project Manager, Dr. Clay Emerson, PE, CFM, taught an interactive presentation and group discussion on stormwater Best Management Practices (BMPs) and issues.

The presentation covered a variety of stormwater management topics and techniques, including the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s Interim Final BMP 6.4.11 Draft Slow Release Concept, which allows for slow release when infiltration is not feasible. They also discussed evolving standards for bioretention/rain garden soils, the lack of requirements for construction oversight, inspection of stormwater BMPs, and the challenges of long-term stormwater BMP maintenance and performance.

Stormwater management has evolved from its peak-flow based infancy into a more comprehensive approach that addresses volume and water quality in addition to peak flow rate. The number of built examples of different types of stormwater management and green infrastructure has greatly increased in Pennsylvania. However, experience suggests that under the current state of practice, many stormwater management designs are not able to meet the goal of water quality protection.

The main goal of the session was to provide participants with the information they need to understand and ask the right questions in order to protect their watersheds as development occurs.

About the Watershed Congress

The Watershed Congress advances the best available information and techniques for protecting and restoring watersheds. The focus on networking across disciplines means that the Congress melds science, policy and practical applications into one program. Every year, a growing and changing group of individuals attends to gain new knowledge, acquire tools, and practice techniques that will allow them to take active roles in the stewardship of their natural resources. View selected presentations from previous Watershed Congresses.

 

Princeton Hydro Celebrates 20 Years of Science, Engineering, and Design

Princeton Hydro, LLC celebrates two decades of business and
unveils its new look!

Today, Princeton Hydro, LLC is proud to celebrate 20 years since its inception. Princeton Hydro has grown from a small four-person idea operating out of a living room to a 53-person qualified small business with five office locations in the Northeast region. Last year, the firm generated $7.5 million in revenue, as it continues to grow its market share and breadth of ecological and engineering services.

“We are committed to changing the world we live in for the better.  In everything we do, we strive to improve our ecosystem and our quality of life. This firm was originally built upon the ideal of creating a workplace of innovation and passion in the areas of science and engineering,” said Geoffrey Goll, Princeton Hydro’s current President and co-founder. “And, we did not do it alone; the people that were brought aboard helped grow us to what we are today, and will continue to increase our reputation of honesty, integrity, and creativity.”

Two decades ago, Mark Gallagher; Geoffrey Goll, P.E.;  Dr. Stephen Souza; and Dr. Fred Lubnow, along with several staff decided it was time to leave the corporate culture to start a new company focused on the management and restoration of water resources. All four had been employed by a small business named Coastal Environmental Services when it was bought out by the large engineering firm Post Buckley Schuh and Jernigan (PBSJ) in 1996.  None of the “fab four” really fit the “big company” mold, and so the highly regarded wetland scientist, top-notch professional engineer, and well-respected aquatic ecologists formed Princeton Hydro; a company with a mission true to their environmental roots and consistent with their moral compass.

“It’s hard to believe that it has been 20 years since our humble beginning in a small office, a former dance studio lined with mirrors, above a gym in Lambertville. I am proud, yet, still somewhat amazed at how the firm evolved into a well-respected firm of over 50 employees with offices in four states,” stated Mark Gallagher, Vice President and co-founder. “All this from a few important decisions made over breakfast at a Denny’s on Route 1 in 1998 that established a vision for this company. Since that breakfast, we have had the opportunity to implement this vision and to steward the development of Princeton Hydro.”  

After moving from their home office to Lambertville, New Jersey in the same building as the original River Horse Brewing Company location, the company began to grow. At times they struggled to make ends meet, but by supporting each other and celebrating their accomplishments, the team pushed forward. Eventually, they grew so much that they moved down the road to their own office space in Ringoes, and then branched off with offices in southern New Jersey, Eastern Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Maryland.

The firm and its people have won dozens of awards since its founding; the most recent honor includes the 2018 “Land Ethics Award of Merit” presented by Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve to Princeton Hydro and GreenVest, LLC for their restoration work at the Mullica River Wetland Mitigation Site.

“Over the years we remained true to our goal of doing right by the environment. Princeton Hydro has grown from a humble start-up to a well-recognized and respected leader in the management and restoration of our water, wetlands and natural resources,” said former President and co-founder Dr. Stephen Souza. “Thank you to all that have supported us and have helped us grow. Here’s to another successful 20 years!”

Importantly, it is at this point in the company’s history, the firm’s future is no longer solely dependent on its four founders as its future now relies heavily on the firm’s leadership team and staff to continue the firm’s growth into its next 20 years.  The Princeton Hydro team has the skill sets necessary to conduct highly comprehensive assessments; develop and design appropriate, sustainable solutions; and successfully bring those solutions to fruition. All of our ecological investigations are backed by detailed engineering analyses, and all of our engineering solutions fully account for the ecological and environmental attributes and features of the project site.

“I can’t believe 20 years have passed since the establishment of our firm. This is an absolute testament to Princeton Hydro‘s core principle of bringing together the best, most innovative people to preserve and restore a variety of ecosystems throughout the Mid-Atlantic region,” said Dr. Fred Lubnow, Director of Aquatic Programs and co-founder. “It has been a pleasure to work with Steve, Mark, Geoff and all of the staff at Princeton Hydro over the last 20 years. I’m looking forward to many more!”

As part of Princeton Hydro’s 20th anniversary celebration, the firm unveiled a refreshed brand which includes a new logo, 20th anniversary logo, colors, and style. As we transition into this new look, we’ll be updating our online presence and external communications over the next few months.  This new style matches the evolution of our company since our original “pH” concept was designed in 1998.

Understanding and Addressing Invasive Species

Photo from: New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, water chestnut bed at Beacon

Spring is officially here! Tulips will soon be emerging from the ground, buds blossoming on trees and, unfortunately, invasive plant species will begin their annual growing cycle. No type of habitat or region of the globe is immune to the threat of invasive species (“invasives”). Invasives create major impacts on ecosystems throughout the world, and freshwater ecosystems and estuaries are especially vulnerable because the establishment of such species in these habitats is difficult to contain and reverse.

This blog provides an introduction to invasive aquatic species, including information that will help you prevent the spread of invasives in the waterways of your community.

Defining Invasive Species

Invasive species can be defined as non-native occurring in an ecosystem that is outside its actual natural or native distributional range. Although the colonization of an ecosystem by non-native species can occur naturally, it is more often a function of human intervention, both deliberate and accidental. For aquatic ecosystems some species have become established as a result of the aquarium trade, fish culture practices and/or transport of plants and animals in the bilge and ballast water of trans-oceanic shipping vessels.

One of the primary reasons invasives are able to thrive, spread rapidly, and outcompete native species is that the environmental checks and predators that control these species in their natural settings are lacking in the ecosystems and habitat in which they become introduced. The subsequent damages they cause occur on many ecological levels including competition for food or habitat (feeding, refuge and/or spawning), direct predation and consumption of native species, introduction of disease or parasites, and other forms of disruption that lead to the replacement of the native species with the invasive species. As a result, invasives very often cause serious harm to the environment, the economy, and even human health. A prominent example is the Emerald Ash Borer, a non-native, invasive beetle that is responsible for the widespread death of ash trees.

As noted above, there are a large number of aquatic invasive species. Some of the more commonly occurring non-native aquatic plant species that impact East Coast lakes, ponds and reservoirs include:

Understanding How Invasives Spread

Either intentionally or unintentionally, people have helped spread invasives around the globe. This is not a recent phenomenon but rather something that has been occurring for centuries. “Intentional introductions,” the deliberate transfer of nuisance species into a new environment, can involve a person pouring their home aquarium into a lake or deliberate actions intended to improve the conditions for various human activities, for example, in agriculture, or to achieve aesthetics not naturally available.

Photo by: Tom Britt/CC Flickr, zebra Mussels adhered to a boat propeller“Unintentional introductions” involve the accidental transfer of invasives, which can happen in many ways, including aquatic species attached to the hull of boats or contained in bilge and ballast water. A high-profile example is the introduction of zebra mussels to North America. Native to Central Asia and parts of Europe, zebra mussels accidentally arrived in the Great Lakes and Hudson River via cargo ships traveling between the regions. The occurrence, density, and distribution of Zebra mussels occurred at an alarming rate, with the species spreading to 20 states in the United States and to Ontario and Quebec in Canada. Due to their reproductive fecundity and filter-feeding ability, they are considered the most devastating aquatic invasive species to invade North American fresh waters. They alter and diminish the plankton communities of the lakes that they colonize leading to a number of cascading trophic impacts that have especially negative consequences on fisheries. Zebra mussel infestations have also been linked to increased cyanobacteria (bluegreen algae) blooms and the occurrence of harmful algae blooms (HABs) that impact drinking water quality, recreational use, and the health of humans, pets, and livestock.

Additionally, higher than average temperatures and changes in rain and snow patterns caused by climate change further enable some invasive plant species to move into new areas. This is exemplified by the increased northly spread of hydrilla (Hydrilla verticillate), a tropical invasive plant species that has migrated since its introduction in Florida in the 1950s to lakes, rivers, and reservoirs throughout the U.S.

Regardless of how any of these invasive species first became established, the thousands of terrestrial and aquatic invasive species introduced into the U.S. have caused major ecological, recreational and economic impacts.

Measuring the Impacts of Invasives

After habitat loss, invasive, non-native species are the second largest threat to biodiversity. According to The Nature Conservancy, “Invasive species have contributed directly to the decline of 42% of the threatened and endangered species in the United States. The annual cost to the nation’s economy is estimated at $120 billion a year, with over 100 million acres (an area roughly the size of California) suffering from invasive plant infestations. Invasive species are a global problem — with the annual cost of impacts and control efforts equaling 5% of the world’s economy.”

Of the $120 billion, about $100 million per year is spent on aquatic invasive plant control to address such deleterious issues as:

  • Human health (West Nile Virus, Zika Virus)
  • Water quality impacts (Canada geese)
  • Potable water supplies (Zebra mussel)
  • Commercial fisheries (Snake head, lamprey, Eurasian ruffe, round goby)
  • Recreational activities (Eurasian watermilfoil, water chestnut, hydrilla)
  • Biodiversity (Purple loosestrife, common reed, Japanese knotweed)

Invasive species can change the food web in an ecosystem by destroying or replacing native food sources. As the National Wildlife Federation explains, “The invasive species may provide little to no food value for native wildlife. Invasive species can also alter the abundance or diversity of species that are important habitat for native wildlife. Additionally, some invasive species are capable of changing the conditions in an ecosystem, such as changing soil chemistry…”

Addressing Invasives

Our native biodiversity is an irreplaceable and valuable treasure. Through a combination of prevention, early detection, eradication, restoration, research and outreach, we can help protect our native heritage from damage by invasive species.

What Can We Do?

  • Reduce the spread
  • Routinely monitor
  • Document and report
  • Spread the word

Reducing the Spread:
The best way to fight invasive species is to prevent them from occurring in the first place. There are a variety of simple things each of us can do to help stop the introduction and spread of invasives.

  • Plant native plants on your property and remove any invasive plants. Before you plant anything, verify with your local nursery and check out this online resource for help in identifying invasive plants.
  • Thoroughly wash your gear and watercraft before and after your trip. Invasives come in many forms – plants, fungi and animals – and even those of microscopic size can cause major damage.
  • Don’t release aquarium fish and plants, live bait or other exotic animals into the wild. If you plan to own an exotic pet, do your research to make sure you can commit to looking after it. Look into alternatives to live bait.

Monitoring:
The Lake Hopatcong Foundation Water Chestnut prevention brochureInvasive plant monitoring is one of the most valuable site­-level activities people can support. Contact your local watershed organizations to inquire about watershed monitoring volunteer opportunities. For example, the Lake Hopatcong “Water Scouts” program was established to seek out and remove any instances of the invasive water chestnut species.

If you are a lake or watershed manager, the best way to begin an invasive plant monitoring project is with an expert invasive plant survey to determine which invasives are most likely to be problematic in your watershed and identify the watershed’s most vulnerable areas. Contact us to learn more.

 

Documenting and Reporting:
It’s important to learn to identify invasive species in your area and report any sightings to your county extension agent or local land manager. For example, in New Jersey there is the Invasive Species Strike Team that tracks the spread of terrestrial and aquatic invasives and works with local communities in the management of these species. Additionally, consider developing a stewardship plan for your community to help preserve its natural resources. Princeton Hydro’s team of natural resource scientists can help you get the ball rolling by preparing stewardship plans focused on controlling invasive species and protecting the long-term health of open spaces, forests habitats, wetlands, and water-quality in your community.

Spreading the word:
Many people still don’t understand the serious implications of invasive species. Education is a crucial step in stopping the spread of invasives, which is why it’s so important to talk with your neighbors, friends and family about the hazards and ecological/economic impacts of invasive species.

Also consider talking with your community lake or watershed manager about hosting an educational workshop where experts can share their knowledge about invasives specific to your area and how best to address them. Princeton Hydro’s Director of Aquatic Programs Dr. Fred Lubnow recently gave a presentation to the Lake Hopatcong Foundation titled, “Invasive Species in Watershed Management.” View it here.

 

We encourage you to share this article and spread your invasive species knowledge so that together we can help stop the introduction and spread of invasive species.