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.

NJ Audubon undertakes $470G study of climate change impact on wetlands

Princeton Hydro is proud to be a partner on this incredible project

If you’ve ever gone birdwatching at any east coast wildlife refuge, then you probably understand the value of coastal impoundments. These man-made wetland habitats are contained by embankments and have gates that allow managers to manipulate water levels. In addition to being valuable, these structures are also very vulnerable to sea level rise and extreme weather.

Through a $470,000 federal grant, the New Jersey Audubon is implementing an initiative to study the vulnerability of these impoundments to climate change induced environmental impacts. Funded by the U.S. Department of the Interior via the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Coastal Impoundment Vulnerability and Resilience Project (CIVRP) aims to map and catalog all state, federal, and privately owned coastal impoundments from Virginia to Maine. The project is a cooperative effort of a diverse team of partners including researchers from New Jersey Audubon, National Wildlife Federation, Conservation Management Institute (Virginia Tech), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Princeton Hydro.

The CIVRP will ultimately reduce climate vulnerability and enhance the natural ecosystem function of these precious and treasured wetland habitats. Read the full article from MyCentralJersey.

Princeton Hydro specializes in the restoration, creation and enhancement of tidal and freshwater wetlands. Contact us to learn more, and read about some of our award-winning wetland-related projects here.

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.

Success Spotlight: Strawbridge Lake

The Princeton Hydro team recently completed a spadderdock removal project at Strawbridge Lake, a 33-acre lake considered to be one of the most valuable open space assets in Moorestown, New Jersey.

Spadderdock is an invasive aquatic plant found in lakes and ponds throughout the Eastern US. It can grow quickly and reach large populations totally covering the water surface and shading the bottom so that nothing else can grow. Spadderdock can eliminate important, native plant species and clog waterways.

Princeton Hydro utilized its Truxor DM 5045, an eco-friendly amphibious machine, to dig up the plants at their roots and remove them from the lake. Check out the below before and after photos to see the dramatic transformation. Special kudos to our Senior Scientist J.P. Bell for a job well done! Read more about pesticide-free #lakemanagement solutions!

Pesticide-Free Lake Management Solutions

Blue Water Solutions for Green Water Problems

Managing your lakes and ponds without the use of pesticides

 

Proper lake and pond restoration is contingent with having a well prepared management plan. If you don’t start there, you’re just guessing as to which solutions will solve your problem. Successful, sustainable lake and pond management requires identifying and correcting the cause of eutrophication as opposed to simply reacting to the symptoms (algae and weed growth) of eutrophication. As such, Princeton Hydro collects and analyzes data to identify the problem causers and uses these scientific findings to develop a customized management plan for your specific lake or pond. A successful management plan should include a combination of biological, mechanical and source control solutions.  Here are some examples:


Biological Control:

Floating Wetland Islands (FWIs) are a great example of an effective biological control solution. They have the potential to provide multiple ecological benefits. Highly adaptable, FWIs can be sized, configured and planted to fit the needs of nearly any lake, pond or reservoir.

BROOKS LAKE FWI

Often described as self-sustaining, Floating Wetland Islands:

  • Help assimilate and remove excess nutrients that could fuel algae growth
  • Provide habitat for fish and other aquatic organisms
  • Help mitigate wave and wind erosion impacts
  • Provide an aesthetic element
  • Can be part of a holistic lake/pond management strategy

Read an article on Floating Wetland Islands written by our Aquatics Director Fred Lubnow.

Mechanical Control:

Another way to combat algae and invasive weed growth is via mechanical removal. One of the mechanical controls Princeton Hydro employs is the TruxorDM5000, an eco-friendly, multi-purpose amphibious machine that provides an effective, non-pesticide approach to controlling invasive weeds and problematic algae growth.

The TruxorDM5000: TRUXOR

  • Is capable of operating in shallow ponds and lakes where the access and/or operation of conventional harvesting or hydroraking equipment is limited
  • Is highly portable and maneuverable, yet very powerful
  • Can cut and harvest weeds and collect mat algae in near-shore areas with water depths less than three feet
  • Includes various attachments that allow the machine to easily collect and remove a variety of debris
  • Can be outfitted for sediment removal/dredging

Check out the Truxor in action here! 

Source Control:

Because phosphorus is typically the nutrient that fuels algae and weed growth, excessive phosphorus loading leads to problematic algal blooms and can stimulate excessive weed growth. One of the most sustainable means of controlling nuisance weed and algae proliferation is to control phosphorus inputs or reduce the availability of phosphorus for biological uptake and assimilation. The measures that decrease the amount or availability of phosphorus in a lake or pond are defined as “source control” strategies.

Deerfield Lake, PA – PhosLockTM treatment Through data collection and analysis, we can properly identify the primary sources of phosphorus loading to a lake and pond, whether those sources are internal or external.  Our team of lake managers, aquatic ecologists and water resource engineers use those data to develop a management plan that quantifies, prioritizes and correctly addresses problem sources of phosphorus.

PhosLockTM and alum are often utilized as environmentally-safe and controlled means to limit phosphorus availably. Although PhosLockTM works similar to alum, it does not have some of the inherent secondary environmental limitations associated with alum. PhosLockTM is a patented product that has a high affinity to bind to and permanently remove from the water column both soluble reactive and particulate forms of phosphorus. This makes it a very effective pond and lake management tool.

Read more about controlling harmful algae blooms.

These are just a few of the examples of non-pesticide lake and pond management strategies that Princeton Hydro regularly utilizes. Properly managing your lakes and ponds starts with developing the right plan and involves a holistic approach to ensure continued success. For more ideas or for help putting together a customized, comprehensive management plan, please contact us! 

Really, it’s the least we could do.

Originally posted August 27, 2010 at phfieldnotes.blogspot.com.

There has been a growing number of people realizing that sustainable stormwater design can fill another very important function: habitat creation. In many regions where open space it at a premium and the creation of green space in urban areas has become paramount, using stormwater management facilities – large and small – to provide precious habitat opportunities is making more and more sense. In fact, some would argue (us included) that it’s a no-brainer.

Beyond planting with natives, maintaining naturalized stormwater facilities reduces reliance on fossil fuels, improves air quality, maximizes pollution reduction, and can provide increased infiltration. Sadly, the push back to naturalization can be fierce. Concerns that anything but closely cropped lawn will harbor threats to human health and well-being are far-ranging – we’ve heard it all: rats, snakes, pollen (gasp!), and perverts. Yes; perverts.

Sadly, the sterilization of our environment has led to the widespread collapse of ecosystems and left us engaged in an endless war with invasive species. Humanity’s lack of understanding that we rely on a healthy environment for our own health and well-being is quickly sending us down a slippery slope; once we lower our species diversity and richness, it won’t recover in this millennium.

The least we could do is offer up our stormwater spaces to buck the trend.

Lauren Kovacs, LEED AP
Environmental Designer