Dam Removal Underway in Watertown, Connecticut

Deconstruction of the Heminway Pond Dam, Watertown, CT on July 16, 2018.

As dams age and decay, they can become public safety hazards, presenting a failure risk and flooding danger. According to American Rivers, “more than 90,000 dams in the country are no longer serving the purpose that they were built to provide decades or centuries ago.” Dam removal has increasingly become the best option for property owners who can no longer afford the rising cost of maintenance and repair work required to maintain these complex structures.

Dams can also cause environmental issues such as blocking the movement of fish and other aquatic species, inundating river habitat, impairing water quality, and altering the flow necessary to sustain river life. Removing nonfunctional, outdated dams can bring a river back to its natural state and significantly increase biodiversity for the surrounding watershed.

A view from the site of the Heminway Pond Dam removal on July 19, 2018.

Currently, work is underway in Watertown, Connecticut to remove the Heminway Pond Dam, which restricts fish passage in Steele Brook, creates a pond with increased water temperatures and high bacterial levels due to high geese populations, and encourages deposition of iron precipitate in the stream channel just downstream of the dam.

Princeton Hydro designed the engineering plans, managed permitting and is now overseeing construction for the removal project. The removal of the Heminway Pond Dam is identified as an integral component in addressing water quality impairment between the dam and Echo Lake Road.

CT DEEP recently published this piece encapsulating the Heminway Pond Dam removal project:

REMOVAL OF HEMINWAY POND DAM ON STEELE BROOK IN WATERTOWN UNDERWAY

Upstream at rock-filled breach in Heminway Pond Dam and shallow, dewatered impoundment on Steele Brook in Watertown (7-18-18)

After almost 15 years of discussion and planning with the Town of Watertown and other partners, removal of Heminway Pond Dam on Steele Brook in Watertown finally got underway in early July.  Though no longer functional, the dam and pond were originally constructed to supply water for a former thread/string mill.  The Town acquired the dam and pond from the Siemon Company, the most recent owner, in 2007 with an eye towards removing the dam, restoring the river and converting the dewatered impoundment area into a passive recreation area, including an extension of the Steele Brook Greenway.  With these goals in mind, the Town approached CT DEEP for help with removal of the dam.

As it turns out, CT DEEP, has also had a strong interest in seeing this dam removed.  It is anticipated that dam removal will improve the hydrology in this section of Steele Brook and eliminate a water quality impairment which manifests itself during hot weather and low flow conditions, as an orange-colored plume of water (due to iron precipitate) immediately downstream of the dam that impacts aquatic life.  Dam removal would also benefit fisheries by restoring stream connectivity and habitat.

Working towards these mutual goals, CT DEEP was able to provide federal CWA 319 nonpoint source grant funding to USDA NRCS to develop a watershed-based plan for Steele Brook to address nonpoint source impairments that includes a dam removal feasibility analysis for Heminway Pond Dam.  Based on the recommendations in this plan, CT DEEP subsequently provided additional 319 grant funds to the Town of Watertown to hire a consultant to develop a dam removal design package, and assist with permitting and preparation.

With the Town of Watertown as a strong and vested partner, CT DEEP is now helping this project over the finish line by providing a combination of 319 and SEP funds to accomplish the actual dam removal and restoration of Steele Brook.  Dayton Construction Company is performing the construction and Princeton Hydro is the consultant overseeing the project on behalf of the Town.  The Northwest Conservation District is also assisting with the project.  It is anticipated that the majority of the work will be completed by this Fall.  U.S. EPA, ACOE and CT DEEP have all played active roles with regard to permitting the project.

 

A view of the first notch during the Heminway Pond Dam removal on July 17, 2018.

Princeton Hydro has designed, permitted, and overseen the reconstruction, repair, and removal of dozens of small and large dams in the Northeast. Click here to read about a recent dam removal project the firm completed on the Moosup River. And, to learn more about our dam and barrier engineering services, visit: bit.ly/DamBarrier.

UPDATE: The Columbia Dam Is Coming Down

It’s happening! The Columbia Dam on the Paulins Kill in Northern New Jersey is finally coming down thanks to a successful collaboration between The Nature Conservancy, American Rivers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, NJDEP Division of Fish and Wildlife Service, and Princeton Hydro. The first cut on the main dam wall was made just two weeks ago, and the water has started flowing downstream as the concrete is slowly being removed by the contractors RiverLogic Solutions and SumCo Eco-Contracting.

“In New Jersey, successful dam removal projects are often the result of partnerships between nonprofit organizations, federal and state agencies, consultants, and others working together toward the common goal of river restoration,” exclaimed Dr. Laura Craig, Director of River Restoration, American Rivers. “The first day of dam demolition is always a joyous occasion for project partners, but I was especially happy to see the river flowing through the breached Columbia Dam for the first time after working so intensely on this project for the last few years.”

Princeton Hydro has been involved with the engineering and restoration design from the beginning, so we’re very excited to report on this major update.  Our team of engineers and ecologists studied the feasibility of removal as requested by American Rivers in partnership with the New Jersey chapter of The Nature Conservancy.  We investigated, designed, and prepared the necessary permits for the removal of this dam. And, now we’ve been subsequently been hired to provide construction administration services during the removal process, which means we get to see the dam come down firsthand, piece by piece!

“It is truly amazing and exciting to finally see the main and remnant dams come down, as I have been involved in this restoration effort since the feasibility stage,” said Kelly Klein, Senior Project Manager, Princeton Hydro. “I am so honored to be part of this dynamic team and to collaborate with our project partners during every stage of this dam removal.”

Geoff Goll, Princeton Hydro and Beth Styler Barry, The Nature Conservancy on site August 3, 2018. Photo credit: Laura Craig, American Rivers

“On Friday, August 3rd 2018, we began demolition of the 300 foot-long, 18 foot-high Columbia Dam. The Paulins Kill will run freely to meet the Delaware River for the first time in 109 years,” said New Jersey Nature Conservancy’s Beth Styler Barry. “The benefits of reconnecting these two freshwater ecosystems will be immediate and impact creatures that live in and near the stream, as well as people who come out to paddle, fish or enjoy the wildlife. Dam Removal projects are exciting, ecologically important and also a challenge, this project is a good example of partners coming together to get a great restoration project done.”

Because this is a big deal, we want to keep *YOU* updated on what’s happening from the field. Moving forward, we’ll post weekly blogs with scenes from the site.  Here’s a snapshot of what’s been happening over the last last two weeks:

August 1, 2018. Photo credit: Casey Schrading, Princeton Hydro

In order to make the first saw cut into the dam, Princeton Hydro and RiverLogic Solutions first identified the locations of the drill holes. These drill holes are used to feed the diamond wire through the dam for saw cutting.

August 1, 2018. Photo credit: Casey Schrading, Princeton Hydro

The crew placed the saw cutter machine on the staging area on top of the apron and prepared for the cut.

August 3, 2018. Photo credit: Princeton Hydro

In order to create a notch in the dam, the crew supplemented the saw cutting with hammering.

August 3, 2018. Photo Credit: The Nature Conservancy, Columbia Dam Volunteer Drone Team

August 3, 2018. Photo credit: Erik Sildorff, Delaware Riverkeeper Network

August 7, 2018. Photo credit: Casey Schrading, Princeton Hydro

Since the high water level was now higher than the bottom of the breach, water is able to flow in and over the notched section.

August 14, 2018. Photo credit: RiverLogic Solutions

Because of high flows of water from recent storm events, the dam breach is being widened to allow for larger flows of water to move downstream during high flow events. 

Additionally, a few weeks ago we reported on the lowering of the water levels and removal of the remnant dam downstream (below).

PHOTOS: Columbia Dam Removal

Since then, the remnant dam has been completed removed and the area has been stabilized.

July 23, 2018. Photo credit: Casey Schrading, Princeton Hydro

Now, the water can freely flow through this section of the Paulins Kill.

And, in case you missed it, we celebrated the commencement of the Columbia Dam removal with NJDEP’s Commissioner Catherine McCabe and our project partners. Full story below:

Celebrating the Columbia Dam Removal

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, visitbit.ly/DamBarrier.

Celebrating the Columbia Dam Removal

A view of the Columbia Dam at the beginning of the removal process.

On a bright, sunny day in Warren County, Princeton Hydro celebrated the Columbia Dam Removal Project with New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) Commissioner Catherine McCabe, The New Jersey Nature Conservancy (event organizer), American Rivers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), NJDEP Division of Fish and Wildlife Service, RiverLogic Solutions, and SumCo Eco-Contracting.

Beth Styler-Barry, River Restoration Manager, New Jersey Nature Conservancy

Overlooking the soon-to-be removed, century-old, hydroelectric Columbia Dam, key stakeholders, including Princeton Hydro’s President Geoffrey Goll, P.E. and New Jersey Nature Conservancy’s Director Barbara Brummer, remarked on the success of the project, collaborative team efforts, and future benefits to the Paulins Kill habitat.

NJ Nature Conservancy’s River Restoration Manager, Beth Styler-Barry thanked project funders including NJDEP’s Office of Natural Resource Restoration, USFWS’s Fish Passage Program, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Bring Back The Natives program, Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program, New Jersey Corporate Wetlands Restoration Partnership, Leavens Foundation, Tom’s of Maine, and Nature Conservancy members and donors.

“We made a commitment early-on to a 10-year monitoring and measurement plan. The removal of Columbia Dam is an opportunity to gain new knowledge and generate data that builds the case for this type of restoration. We’ll be looking at everything from mussels to temperature to geomorphological changes to increasing our targeted efficiencies. We’re also going to use images taken from repeated drone flyovers to look closely at changes in topography,” said Styler-Barry.

NJDEP Commissioner Catherine McCabe with NJ Division of Fish & Wildlife and NJDEP officials.

NJDEP Commissioner Catherine McCabe added, “The Columbia Dam is ranked in the top 5% of the nearly 14,000 dams that were assessed for priority. It will give us one of the most bangs for our buck in terms of fish and native species that we’ll be able to bring back up here.” She added, “This is exactly what Natural Resources Damages funds should be used for, and we are thrilled to see it come to fruition.”

Geoffrey Goll, P.E., President, Princeton Hydro

Back in the day, this dam structure was a marvel of engineering. Because concrete was very expensive during the time of construction, a patented, innovative “ransom hollow” design was used, which means it has a hollow center with series of doorways underneath the dam, explained Geoffrey Goll, P.E., President of Princeton Hydro. However, sustainability and climate change are very important issues today and must be taken into consideration for the life-cycle of a dam.

“Removal is a logical step in the history of this dam. Dam removals are the most impactful restorations. They provide the most ecological uplift and improvement for rivers,” Goll stated.

For Princeton Hydro, this project involved every discipline we have in the firm: civil engineering, fishery biology, wetland science, hydraulics, geotechnical engineering, and regulatory work. We were contracted by American Rivers to investigate, design, and permit for the removal of this dam for the New Jersey Nature Conservancy. Our team of engineers and ecologists studied the feasibility of removal by collecting sediment samples, performed bioassay tests, and conducted a hydraulic analysis of upstream and downstream conditions. Currently, we are providing construction administration services during the removal process. This project is a great example of our ability to complete multi-disciplinary projects in-house.

Project partners ready for the first hammer with the celebratory dynamite and sledge hammers.

At the end of the press conference, project partners celebrated the anticipation of the “first hammer” in the near future with an imitation dynamite siren and plastic sledge hammers. It was truly a keystone moment for everyone involved in this project.

The remnant dam downstream has already been removed and the main dam is due to be removed very soon. Check out our previous story with a series of photos documenting this first-step in the overall dam removal process: bit.ly/ColumbiaDamRemoval. Stay tuned for photos during the main dam removal process too.

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, visitbit.ly/DamBarrier.

PHOTOS: Columbia Dam Removal

VIDEO: “Columbia Lake Dam when the water level was 18 inches to 2 feet lower”
Video courtesy of Matt Hencheck

In Northwest New Jersey on the Paulins Kill, an important tributary to the Delaware River, the century-old hydroelectric Columbia Dam is actively being removed. Princeton Hydro was contracted by American Rivers to investigate, design, and apply for permits for the removal of this dam for the New Jersey chapter of The Nature Conservancy. Our team of engineers and ecologists studied the feasibility of removal by collecting sediment samples, performing bioassay tests, and conducting a hydraulic analysis of upstream and downstream conditions. We’re excited to report that the Columbia Dam removal has officially commenced!

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection started draining water from Columbia Lake a few weeks ago, which was the first step in removing the dam. Princeton Hydro has subsequently been contracted by The Nature Conservancy to provide construction administration services.  Photos below show the water at lowered levels at the impoundments.

“Dewatering Impoundment” Photo by Princeton Hydro

“An aerial drone snapshot when water levels were down about 5 feet at the upper impoundment” Photo courtesy of the New Jersey Chapter of The Nature Conservancy

Last week, the first hammer hit the wall of a downstream dam remnant, officially starting the removal process.

“The first hammer”  Photo courtesy of Dale Bentz, RiverLogic Solutions

The dam removal process will last a few weeks, as the contractor actively knocks down the thick concrete wall.

“Pressure and time”  Photo courtesy of Dale Bentz, RiverLogic Solutions

“Halfway there”  Photo courtesy of Dale Bentz, RiverLogic Solutions

Once the dam is removed, there is a high probability that populations of American Shad and River Herring will be restored. It may also enhance American Eel migration. As a coldwater fishery, this reach also has significant potential for trout species, as well as Smallmouth Bass.

(Top) Before: Photo of the Columbia Dam before construction. (Bottom) After: Princeton Hydro’s rendering of what the river will look like once the dam is removed.

“It is very exciting to be a part of such a monumental effort for the restoration of the Paulins Kill. This river, once a major migration route for diadromous fish like American Shad, will once again be a nursery for this Delaware River icon,” said Geoffrey Goll, PE, President and co-founder of Princeton Hydro. “The removal of these dams will also restore the functions and values of a riparian corridor and floodplain, eliminate costs to the taxpayer for the maintenance of a dam and lake, and provide additional riverine recreational opportunities. I expect to see the same resilience and positive impact to the Delaware River as the recent barrier removals on another major NJ tributary, the Musconetcong River. It is a win-win for NJ, and with The Nature Conservancy at the helm and expert guidance from American Rivers, it has been an experience of a career.”

This project could not have been possible without the hard work and dedication of the following partner organizations: The Nature Conservancy of New Jersey, American Rivers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, RiverLogic Solutions, NJDEP Division of Fish and Wildlife Service, and SumCo EcoContracting.

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, visitbit.ly/DamBarrier.


This video from 2016 features the Nature Conservancy’s New Jersey State Director Barbara Brummer, Ph.D. speaking on the Columbia Dam removal. Video credit: NJ Herald.

Dam Removal on the Moosup River

Moosup River

The Moosup River is a beautiful 30-mile-long, trout river flowing through Connecticut and Rhode Island, eventually emptying into the Quinebaug River.

Several dams, most originally built in the 1800s or early 1900s, impeded the river’s natural flow, impaired habitat, fragmented the river system, and prevented fish from swimming upstream to their native spawning grounds.

In 2013, American Rivers, CTDEEP Fisheries, and Natural Resources Conservation Service began collaborating on the removal of multiple dams and remnant dams as part of a larger project to restore connectivity to the Moosup River in the Town of Plainfield. Princeton Hydro and RiverLogic Solutions were contracted to provide design-build and permitting services.

As part of this larger multi-year effort, five dams are planned for removal from the Moosup River. The most downstream barrier, the Hale Factory Dam was removed in 2014. The remnants of the toppled Griswold Rubber Dam were removed in 2015. In 2017, the removal of Brunswick Mill Dam #1 was completed. And, two more dams, downstream of New Brunswick Mill Dam #1, are currently under consideration for removal. When fully completed, the Moosup River Dam Removal Project will reconnect fish habitats along 6.9 miles of the Moosup River.

 

Hale Factory Dam

The Hale Factory Dam was constructed of a boulder core capped in a one-foot-thick concrete layer. The dam was partially breached as the concrete cap had deteriorated severely over the years, allowing flow to pass between boulders and allowing the normal pool elevation to drop substantially from its former design height.

The resource delineation conducted on site identified a vernal pool with an 18 inch culvert outlet that discharged 90 feet upstream of the dam. To preserve this ecological resource on the site, the vernal pool was not disturbed during the dam removal.

Princeton Hydro provided a field assessment, sediment characterization and analysis, final design and permit application package for the full removal of the Hale Factory Dam. Full removal of the dam entailed demolition and removal of the concrete, and re-use of the natural cobbles and boulders from the dam to create in-stream habitat features. Once completed, the river and its boulders appeared as if placed by nature itself, with the former dam’s presence indicated only by the age-old lichen covered field stone walls leading up to the banks.

 

Griswold Rubber Dam

The Griswold Rubber Dam was in a gravel-cobble reach of the river approximately 80 feet wide in the Village of Moosup and was adjacent to the 1992 expansion of the Griswold Rubber factory.  At one time, the dam stood approximately 10 feet high and 150 feet long. The dam was constructed of a large segmented concrete slab that had since toppled over and was lying nearly flat on the river bed in multiple sections. The dam structure, having failed, served no useful purpose. Despite being toppled, the dam still presented a deterrent to the effective movement of aquatic organisms at normal to low flows and was therefore worthy of complete removal to restore river connectivity.

Princeton Hydro conducted an initial field investigation with RiverLogic Solutions to gain insights regarding the construction approach. Princeton Hydro then followed-up with a more detailed assessment of river bed sediment, geomorphic conditions, the likely riverine response, construction access, and other design related issues that were incorporated into design plans and permit applications. The restoration design Princeton Hydro developed aimed to remove the partial barrier to fish passage with as little disturbance to surrounding infrastructure and resources as possible.

 

Brunswick Mill Dam #1

This dilapidated timber crib dam stood approximately 4-feet high and spanned the channel at approximately 130 feet. The timbers ranged from 1.5 to 2.5 feet in diameter and over 20 feet in length; 50 were integrated into the dam. The timber crib was filled with gravel and other debris, and the gravel substrate extended 50 feet upstream. The original dam was significantly higher, but the timber crib spillway deteriorated and gradually collapsed over time and only a portion of the structure remained.

For this project, Princeton Hydro completed sediment investigation, sampling and analysis; hydrologic and hydraulic analysis; and provided design and engineering for full removal of the dam. Princeton Hydro contracted with an archeologist / industrial historian, and together closely observed the dam deconstruction to observe and record how the timber crib had been assembled. Multiple types of iron pins and wooden pegs revealed how the dam had been repaired over the years – findings, old maps, and photos were incorporated into a historical report filed with the state historic preservation office. Princeton Hydro coordinated to have the old timbers salvaged for eventual re-use. Removing the Brunswick Mill Dam #1 was a continuation of the large scale Moosup River restoration effort and paved the way for the potential removal of two more dams downstream in the coming years.

“When a dam is breached and taken out, the tangible results are very quickly noticeable,” said Paul Woodworth, Princeton Hydro Fluvial Geomorphologist. “The return of migratory fish is a very strong indicator of the ecological benefits of dam removal – sometimes after a removal you can see fish immediately swimming upstream. Removing dams also improves safety in nearby communities, reestablishes the natural flow of sediment, improves water quality, provides new recreation opportunities, and restores habitats for fish and wildlife.”

Click here to read more about Princeton Hydro’s engineering services for the restoration and removal of dams.

New Video Celebrates 50th Anniversary of Wild & Scenic Rivers Act

Credit: NPS.gov

Communities across the nation are preparing to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. This landmark legislation passed by Congress in October 1968 safeguards the free-flowing character of rivers by precluding them from being dammed, while allowing the public to enjoy them. It encourages river management and promotes public participation in protecting streams.

As part of the celebration, the National Park Service released a new video highlighting a handful of ‘Wild and Scenic’ designated rivers in the Northeast – the Farmington, Sudbury, Assabet, Concord, and Musconetcong Rivers – along with the organizations and community volunteers who work together to protect and care for these rivers.

Princeton Hydro is proud to work with two of the river stewards featured in the video: Musconetcong Watershed Association (MWA) and Farmington River Watershed Association (FRWA).

The Musconetcong River:

Designated ‘Wild and Scenic’ in 2006, the Musconetcong River is a 45.7-mile-long tributary of the Delaware River in northwestern New Jersey.

Princeton Hydro has been working with MWA in the areas of river restoration, dam removal, and engineering consulting since 2003 when the efforts to remove the Gruendyke Mill Dam in Hackettstown, NJ began. To date, Princeton Hydro has worked with MWA to remove five dams on the Musconetcong River, the most recent being the Hughesville Dam.

As noted in the video, the removal of these dams, especially the Hughesville dam, was a major milestone in restoring migratory fish passage along the Musconetcong. Only a year after the completion of the dam removal, American shad returned to the “Musky” for the first time in 250 years.

“The direction the river is moving bodes well for its recovery,” said Princeton Hydro President Geoff Goll, P.E., who was interviewed in the 50th anniversary video. “This multidisciplinary approach using ecology and engineering, paired with a dynamic stakeholder partnership, lead to a successful river restoration, where native fish populations returned within a year. ”

The Farmington River:

The Upper Farmington River, designated as ‘Wild and Scenic’ in 1994, stretches 14-miles through Connecticut starting above Riverton through the New Hardford/Canton town line. The river is important for outdoor recreation and provides critical habitat for countless wildlife.

Credit: FWRA.orgBack in 2012, Princeton Hydro worked with the FRWA and its project partners to remove the Spoonville Dam. Built in 1899 on the site of a natural 25-foot drop in the riverbed, the dam was originally a hydropower facility. The hurricanes and flood of 1955 breached the dam, opening a 45-foot gap and scattering massive dam fragments in the riverbed downstream. The remnant of the main dam persisted for decades as a 128-foot long, 25-foot high obstacle in the channel. The river poured through the breach in a steep chute that stopped American shad from proceeding further upstream to spawn.

The project was completed, from initial site investigation through engineering assessment and final design, in just six months. The dam removal helped to restore historic fish migrations in the Farmington River (including the American shad) and increase recreation opportunities.

Wild & Scenic Rivers Act:

Credit: NPS.govAs of December 2014 (the last designation), the National ‘Wild and Scenic’ System protects 12,734 miles of 208 rivers in 40 states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico; this is a little more than one-quarter of 1% of the nation’s rivers. By comparison, more than 75,000 large dams across the country have modified at least 600,000 miles, or about 17%, of American rivers.

In honor of the 50th anniversary of the Act and in an effort to designate many more miles of river as ‘Wild and Scenic,’ four federal agencies and four nonprofit groups are coordinating nationwide events and outreach. Managing agencies are the Bureau of Land ManagementFish and Wildlife ServiceForest Service, and National Park Service, along with American RiversAmerican WhitewaterRiver Network and River Management Society. Go here for more info: www.wildandscenicrivers50.us.

The Return of the American Shad to the Musconetcong River

PHOTO/New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife biologist Pat Hamilton holds a shad near the Warren Glen Dam

After a 250+ year absence, American shad have returned to the Musconetcong River in Hunterdon and Warren counties. This milestone in the ecological recovery of the river is the result of the removal of dams on the lower Musconetcong several years ago, followed by the removal of the Hughesville Dam in Warren County last year.

Removing the dams opened nearly six miles of the Musconetcong to migratory fish, such as American shad, that spend much of their lives in the ocean but return to rivers and their tributaries to spawn. The shad’s return is a good sign of the overall ecological health and diversity of the river.

Princeton Hydro was proud to partner with the Musconetcong Watershed Association and so many other incredible organizations who came together on the Hughesville Dam Removal project. To date, Princeton Hydro has investigated, designed and permitted five dam removals on the Musconetcong.

The next Musconetcong dam targeted for removal is the 32-foot high Warren Glen Dam, less than a mile farther upstream. It is the largest dam in the river; by comparison, the Hughesville Dam was 15-feet tall.

Princeton Hydro President Geoff Goll, P.E. published this commentary piece titled, “The Return of the American Shad to the Musconetcong River:”

Update (June 15, 2017)NJDEP issued press release on the finding of American shad on the Musky. Bob Shin, NJDEP Commissioner, stated, “[t]he return of shad, a benchmark species indicative of the overall ecological health and diversity of a waterway, is an exciting milestone…. This achievement is the direct result of an ongoing partnership among state and federal agencies, nonprofit groups, and dam owners – all committed to making this beautiful waterway free-flowing again.

On June 7, 2017, Princeton Hydro celebrated along with the Musconetcong Watershed Association (and an excellent story of the MWA, human history of the river, and the efforts to preserve the history and ecology can be found here) and other project partners, the discovery of American shad on the Musconetcong River in NJ, over 250 years after they were blocked from this major tributary of the Delaware River – On September 8, 2016, then Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell, held a press conference to celebrate the initial breach of the Hughesville Dam on the Musconetcong River (time lapse of removal is here). The press conference was held as the Department of the Interior via of the US Fish and Wildlife Service provided the funding to remove this obsolete structure through their Hurricane Sandy Recovery funding and the Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration program. In addition to the Honorable Sally Jewell, NJDEP Commissioner Bob Martin, and US Army Corp of Engineers, Philadelphia District Commander Lt. Colonel Michael Bliss, were also on hand to speak about the importance of the Hughesville Dam removal and dam removal in general. To have such dignitaries at the highest levels of our Federal and State government speak at a project our firm designed was truly an honor and privilege. It was a great day to celebrate the next obsolete dam on the Musconetcong River to fall to the progress of river restoration. However, this would pale in comparison to the news we received on Wednesday, June 7, 2017, when the NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife confirmed the presence of the American shad (Alosa sapidissima) above the Hughesville Dam!

Ms. Patricia Hamilton, Fisheries Biologist of NJ Fish And Wildlife, reported that they “spotted small schools of American Shad (at most 6 at a time) and captured 4 several hundred yards downstream of the Warren Glen Dam”, five miles from the confluence of the Delaware River. This is the first documentation of American shad on this river in over 250 years! So, what is the big deal you may ask.

The American shad is the Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern United States’ salmon; it is actually a clupeid, a forage type fish closely related to herrings and sardines. Like herrings and sardines, they are a very oily fish, high in omega-3 fats, and low in contamination. It is also a fairly large clupeid, reaching three to eight pounds as adults. Like the salmon, American shad are anadromous, meaning they live the major part of their lives in the ocean and spawn up the coasts’ rivers. The American shad is not a spectacularly looking fish to say the least, and in fact, looks like a “generic” illustration of a fish, unlike the sleek and sexy salmon. It doesn’t even jump. However, this fish is a long distance and endurance swimmer, who’s migration from its hatching in rivers of the East Coast to its primary habitat in the Atlantic Ocean up in the Gulf of Maine, makes it one of the Earth’s great travelers. It can swim nearly 20,000 kilometers in its first five years of life and can dive to depths of up to 375 meters. And like all of its clupeid kindred, it is both a key prey species for many large fish and cetaceans in the Atlantic’s pelagic zone (open ocean) and an important commercial fish. But it is the existence of over-fishing, pollution and dams that had brought this species to its knees in many of the major eastern US rivers.

While the Delaware River shad and herring species have rebounded somewhat from low populations in the mid-1900s with the advent of the US Clean Water Act, they continue to struggle to regain their numbers, and in fact, there is now a moratorium on catching river herring in the Delaware River, and NJ has a moratorium on the harvesting of shad and herring on its tributaries to the Delaware River and Atlantic Ocean. As far as tributary access is concerned, the largest tributaries to the Delaware, the Schuylkill and Lehigh Rivers, are still blocked by dams to their mouths with very little efficiency of fish ladders provided; with their dams having very little success in gaining support for the removal of their blockages. So, any gains in additional spawning habitat for such anadromous species is viewed as a significant victory. The opening of the Musconetcong River to migrating fish will be a large contributor to the rebound of American shad, and other river herring species.

As one of the original 13 colonies, NJ was an integral partner in the start of the United States and early industrial revolution. It has been documented through our research during the dam removal regulatory permit application process on this waterway that the Musconetcong River has been dammed just about all the way to its confluence with the Delaware River since the mid-1700s, and likely much earlier. So, before there was anyone who understood the importance of unimpeded rivers for fish migration, this particular route was cut-off in its entirety, and then remained so for well over 250 years. So, it is understandable that there was no reason to assume that anadromous fish, such as shad, would resume the use of the river in a short period of time; however, there existed the right habitat for them, should they be afforded access…and the hope of the partners working on this river. There were doubters, to be sure, but “lo and behold”, we now know these mighty fish took advantage of an opening almost immediately.

Now, I am not stating that American shad immediately realized that the Hughesville Dam was gone and took a B-line from the Delaware River to the highest unimpeded location. First, other dams downstream of the Hughesville Dam had been removed over the past several years. These dams included the Finesville Dam (for an excellent video of the story of this dam removal, check out this video by the US Fish and Wildlife Service), removed in 2011 and the Reigelsville Dam remnants (there were two additional remnants found when the first foundation was removed) soon after the Finesville Dam was removed. So, it is likely that American Shad had started moving up the river to the base of the Hughesville Dam between 2011 and 2016. Still the response by American shad is nothing short of spectacular. For the over 250 years this species has not been able to use this river, at all, and now, within a span less than six years of dam removal activities, this fish is raring to comeback and, hopefully, spawn and increase their numbers.

And the efforts are not nearly complete for the Musconetcong River. The finding of the American shad five miles upstream from the Delaware River shows that this river can and, now, does support this fish. This generic looking fish, yet awesome product of evolution should only fuel the fire of continued restoration efforts, proof-positive that the labor and funds spent here, in this river, gets results. Such funds and labor (an staggering amount of time, blood, sweat, and tears) are required in order to get the river restoration work done. These projects have received the majority of their backing from the federal government, through grant programs, natural resource damage funds, and direct Congressional authorized funds. Without support from Washington, D.C.,, and Trenton, none of this work would be possible. And to get these funds, required work by the many team partners to prepare applications, meet with federal agencies, and educate the public through open and transparent meetings and communication. This was an impressive effort by the residents of this watershed, professionals who provided their expertise, and the state and federal employees who have dedicated their lives to this kind of work.

The Musconetcong River, with its recovering ecosystem, and its human and non-human inhabitants continue to amaze me in how we should all strive to strike balance between man and nature; and all this is being accomplished in the most densely populated state in the nation.

The finding of American shad gives me reason to cheer, and is why I do what I do. This is it, the return of a species that at one time we had no assurance would return, has returned. This is hope for us, after all.

Read more about Princeton Hydro’s river restoration and dam/barrier services on our website. Please contact us anytime if you have a project you’d like to discuss.

Earth Day Donation Drive:

“Follow Us” to Raise Money for American Rivers

In celebration of Earth Day, help Princeton Hydro donate to American Rivers!

For every new follower we collect on any of our social media channels between now and Earth Day (April 22, 2017), we’ll donate $.50 to American Rivers, an organization dedicated to protecting our precious water resources. Donations help to restore dammed rivers, protect wild rivers and revitalize river communities.

Support American Rivers by following our social media channels and spreading the word. You can find us on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram.

 

 

The Plight of Aging Dams, and One Solution

As dams age, the danger to life and property around them increases. If they were to suddenly fail and flood downstream communities and infrastructure, there would be serious loss of property and life. More and more, dam removal has become the best option for property owners who no longer want or can no longer afford the rising cost of maintenance and repair work required to maintain such a complex structure.

The Courier-Post recently published this Commentary piece titled, “The Plight of Aging Dams, and One Solution”, which was written by Princeton Hydro’s Vice President and Principal Engineer Geoffrey M. Goll:

Many of our nation’s dams, while originally intended to provide benefits for mills, water supply and energy generation, are severely aged and unmaintained. Nearly 20,000 of the dams on the Army Corps of Engineers’ National Inventory of Dams – which doesn’t even include many dams that are not inventoried or known about – were built in the 1960s. With expected lifespans of 50 years, these dams have reached their limit. And by 2020, 70 percent of all dams will be over 50 years old. Like roads and bridges, dams also require upkeep, maintenance and eventually removal or rehabilitation.

As dams age, the danger to life and property around them increases. If they were to suddenly fail and flood downstream communities and infrastructure, there would be loss of property and life. The Association of State Dam Safety Officials, the professional organization for dam safety engineering professionals and regulators, estimates there would need to be a $21 billion investment to repair just 2,000 deficient, high-hazard dams. More and more, the removal of dams has become an option for owners who no longer want or no longer can afford the rising cost of maintenance and repair work required to maintain such a complex structure.

For dams like this, removal benefits local economies, and eliminates threats to people and property in local communities. There are also many byproduct benefits, including restoring fish migration routes, improving water quality, restoring floodplain functions and values, and increasing biodiversity.

On Sept. 8, we had the honor of meeting the Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell during a visit of our Hughesville Dam removal project on the Musconetcong River, located in northwestern New Jersey. This project exemplifies the successes that can be achieved through public-private partnerships, including local communities, state and federal agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and private commercial entities. This is the fifth dam removed on the Musconetcong River by a coalition of stakeholders, led by the Musconetcong Watershed Association. The Department of the Interior (specifically, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) provided funding to remove this very old, out-of-compliance dam.

The success of these partnerships is due to the unique strengths that each organization brings to the table. This project achieved the removal of a flood and safety hazard, and will restore additional river miles for migratory fish, improve water quality by removing the heat sink of the reservoir, and provide additional safe passage for recreation along the river.

It is easy to see why Secretary Jewell chose this site to visit, but the old and outdated dam at Hughesville is far from alone. Across the nation, we need to remove dams like this at a much larger scale – aging dams that no longer are of value to us, but increase the danger to those who live downstream. If we can build on this momentum and start to address the issue of dam safety compliance on a national scale, we can address these threats to American’s safety and strengthen local economies.

Princeton Hydro’s Earth Day Photo Contest

The contest is now closed, and we have a winner!

A very big congratulations to Corie French and her stunning sunset photo. She wins a $50 gift card to Bambeco.com, a ton of bragging rights, and Princeton Hydro will donate $100 to American Rivers in her name. Way to go, Corie!

Thanks so much to everyone who participated in the contest by submitting your photos and liking/commenting on your favorites!

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Contest Details and Original Contest Post:
Contest Alert!
Princeton Hydro is hosting a photo contest in honor of Earth Day. We want to see pictures of how you celebrate Mother Earth.
Here’s what you need to do to participate:
  • Grab your camera
  • Get outside and snap some shots of whatever you do to enjoy this lovely planet we live on
  • Choose the photo you feel best depicts “How you Celebrate Mother Earth”, and email it to: pHydroPhotoContest@gmail.com along with your name and a photo caption anytime between 4/9 – 4/21 (contest closes on 4/21 at midnight EST)
  • We’ll post your photo to the Princeton Hydro Facebook page, and then it’s your job to garner as many “Likes” for your photo as possible!
  • The photo that collects the most “Likes” within the contest timeframe wins a $50 gift card to Bambeco.com, a sustainable homegoods store, and Princeton Hydro will donate $100 to AmericanRivers.org in the winner’s name
  • “Likes” will be tallied and the winner will be announced on Earth Day, Friday, April 22
Get outside and get snapping!
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