2018 NJ Land Conservation Rally

Last week, the New Jersey Conservation Foundation held its 22nd Annual NJ Land Conservation Rally, a one-day educational conference inviting people to come together around the theme of “preserving open space and farmland in New Jersey.” The conference included 26 training workshops, five roundtable discussions, exhibitors, and a thought-provoking, inspirational keynote address.

“The Nature of Americans” Keynote Address

The keynote was given by David Case, co-author of “The Nature of Americans National Report: Disconnection and Recommendations for Reconnection,” an unprecedented national study of Americans’ relationship to nature. The study, which included 12,000 adults, children between 8 and 12, and parents, reveals an alarming disconnection to nature, but also uncovers widespread opportunities for reconnecting and provides actionable recommendations to open the outdoors for all.

One key finding of the study was that many people reported having meaningful social experiences in nature, but that many people feel “authentic” nature is too far away, expensive, and inaccessible. However, connecting with nature, along with family or friends, can be as simple as going on a walk in the neighborhood or planting flowers together. As David emphasized in his presentation, if used effectively, the findings from this study can push everyone towards a better relationship with nature, which will in turn create a better tomorrow for future generations.

Scroll down to learn more about David. 

Princeton Hydro, a proud sponsor of the rally, gave two presentations during the conference: “Recognizing The Power of Dam Removal To Reconnect & Restore Our Ecosystem” and “Nonprofit Social Media Hacks.”

“Recognizing The Power of Dam Removal To Reconnect & Restore Our Ecosystem”

This presentation, which was given by The Nature Conservancy’s River Restoration Manager Beth Styler Barry and Princeton Hydro’s Director of Engineering Services Mary Paist-Goldman, P.E., posed a critical and complicated question to workshop participants: As the dams in our country age, should we continue to repair and maintain the dams or should we remove them?

The decision for dam owners and communities often comes down to several factors: current use, cost, and the potential environmental impacts and/or ecological benefits of removal. Dam removal can help restore the river and reconnect the floodplain, yet it’s often a complicated process. Beth and Mary, who are experts in dam removal and restoration, shared with workshop participants the most effective ways to approach a comprehensive, all-inclusive dam removal in New Jersey, with particular emphasis on the Musconetcong Watershed. The presentation reflected the presenters’ deep understanding of how to best restore complexity and dynamic function to river systems while incorporating the community’s concerns.

Scroll down learn more about the presenters.

Nonprofit Social Media Hacks”

Designed for social media beginners and experts alike, this presentation, by NJ Land Rally Planning Committee member Lindsay McNamara and Princeton Hydro’s Communication Strategist Dana Patterson, covered cross-channel techniques to help organizations increase engagement, event attendance, and social buzz.

The 30 participants attending the workshop received recommendations on thorough, but free social media management tools, and learned how to efficiently measure social media analytics on a regular basis, utilize apps for creating polished graphics and content for social media, develop strategies for curating content from supporters and volunteers, and the no-hassle way to add Instagram takeovers to a communications calendar.

For a free presentation download, click here! And, scroll down to learn more about the presenters.

Presenter Bios:

Learn more about Keynote Speaker David Case:
Dave launched DJ Case & Associates in 1986 based on the premise that there is a need to apply the art and science of communication disciplines to the critically important science of natural resource conservation and environmental protection. Since that time, he has worked with nearly every state and federal natural resources agency in the U.S. Dave’s early-career work as a biologist and then media personality opened his eyes to the importance of communication disciplines to achieving conservation goals. He worked for the National Park Service on a remote, forested island in Lake Michigan as part of his master’s work to study impacts of deer overabundance. But, controversy surrounding the management of the island’s deer herd gave Dave a crash course on the “people” side of wildlife management. He took a position with the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks and soon was appearing on weekly radio and TV programs, speaking to civic organizations and schools and learning both the art and science of communications. Dave holds a bachelor’s degree in forestry from Purdue University and a master’s degree in wildlife ecology from the University of Michigan.

Learn more about Mary Paist-Goldman, P.E. of Princeton Hydro:
Mary Paist-Goldman has nearly 20 years of experience in water resource engineering. She currently serves as Director of Engineering Services for Princeton Hydro. In her role, she coordinates all engineering services provided by the company. Her attention to detail and creative eye leads to out-of-the-box solutions to complex problems. She has expertise in the fields of stormwater management, regulatory compliance, stream restoration, dam removal, wetland mitigation, and wastewater management. She is a licensed Professional Engineer in four states.

Learn more about Beth Styler Barry of The Nature Conservancy:
Beth Styler Barry joined The Nature Conservancy in October 2016 as River Restoration Manager. She previously served as Executive Director of the Musconetcong Watershed Association, where she worked with landowners and private, state and federal partners on the removal of five dams and other restoration issues on the Musconetcong River. She is now working on the Columbia Dam Removal on the Paulins Kill and a wetlands restoration project in the Hyper Humus Wildlife Management Area. Beth has more than fifteen years’ experience in watershed education and protection issues including work with municipal, county, state and federal government partners.

Learn more about Dana Patterson of Princeton Hydro:
Dana Patterson is a passionate environmental communicator with a strong mix of diverse stakeholder engagement experience and values-based communication strategy. She recently earned her M.E.M. from Yale F&ES and has held a variety of digital media positions including Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, Yale Environment 360, and National Audubon Society. Dana has 5+ years of NGO experience empowering environmental justice communities and currently serves as Princeton Hydro’s Communications Strategist.

Learn more about Lindsay McNamara of the NJ Land Rally planning committee:
Lindsay McNamara is an environmentalist, a birder and blogger, and a member of the NJ Land Rally planning committee, Bergen County Audubon Society, and NJ Emerging Conservation Professionals. Over the last six years, Lindsay has served as a digital media specialist in the environmental nonprofit and higher education sectors. She holds a B.A. in Environmental Studies from the University of Delaware and is pursuing her M.A. in Public and Organizational Relations at Montclair State University.

This Month’s Events: March Update from Princeton Hydro

Princeton Hydro is proud to participate in a number of exciting conferences throughout March. The conferences, which take place in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Virginia, cover a wide variety of topics centered around protecting water resources.

March 2: New Jersey Conservation Rally

The 22nd Annual NJ Land Conservation Rally is a one-day educational conference about preserving open space and farmland in New Jersey. The event consists of training workshops, roundtable discussions, a keynote speech from David Case, author of “Nature of Americans,” exhibitors, and a farmers market.

Princeton Hydro, a proud sponsor of the rally, is giving two presentations:
  • “Recognizing The Power of Dam Removal To Reconnect & Restore Our Ecosystem”
    The Nature Conservancy ’s River Restoration Manager Beth Styler Barry and Princeton Hydro’sDirector of Engineering Services Mary Paist-Goldman , P.E. will present the most effective ways to approach a comprehensive, all-inclusive dam removal in New Jersey, with particular emphasis on the Musconetcong Watershed.
  • “Nonprofit Social Media Hacks”
    Rally Planning Committee member Lindsay McNamara and Communication Strategist for Princeton Hydro Dana Patterson present ways to punch up your social media presence. The course is designed for social media beginners and experts alike, and will cover cross-channel techniques to help increase engagement, event attendance, and social buzz around your organization.



March 4 – 6: Virginia Water Conference

Held by the Virginia Lakes and Watershed Associationand the Virginia Floodplain Management Association, the Virginia Water Conference will host 400 participants, and will include exhibits and breakout sessions on topics ranging from floodplain management to dam safety to water resource engineering.

Princeton Hydro’s Dr. Fred Lubnow, Director of Aquatic Programs, and Michael Hartshorne, Senior Limnologist, are conducting a Water Quality and Quantity breakout session titled,  “A Limnological Assessment of a 250-Acre Impoundment in Virginia for the Consideration of Nutrient Inactivation.”



March 7 – 8: PA Lake Management Society Conference

The Pennsylvania Lake Management Society is hosting its 28th annual conference during which lake professionals, students, recreation enthusiasts, lakeside residents and community members will come together to explore a variety of topics related to managing lakes and reservoirs. Visit the Princeton Hydro booth to discuss the latest advancements in pond, lake and watershed management.

The conference offers a collection of professional presentations, workshops and panel discussions. Princeton Hydro is giving two presentations during the conference:

  • “Continued Management of Hydrilla in Harveys Lake, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania”
    Lead by Michael Hartshorne, Senior Limnologist, and Scott Churm, Associate: Director of Aquatic Operations
  • “Conducting a Nutrient Inactivation Treatment for Internal Phosphorus Load Control for a Small Glacial Lake in Northern Pennsylvania”
    Lead by Dr. Fred Lubnow, Director of Aquatics Programs



March 10: Schuylkill Watershed Congress

The Watershed Congress is an annual event that seeks to advance the best available information and techniques for protecting and restoring watersheds by combining science, policy, and practical applications into one program.

The one-day conference offers a keynote discussion on Landscape-Scale Forest Loss in the Delaware Basin, 21 concurrent sessions covering a broad range of watershed topics, poster sessions and exhibits. Dr. Fred Lubnow‘s breakout session, titled “Ecology/Management of Cyanotoxin Producing Blue-Green Algae in the Schuylkill River,” reviews the basic ecology of nuisance blue-green algae and how to monitor, manage and prevent cyanotoxins particularly in potable water supplies.



March 15: Land Ethics Symposium

The theme for this year’s 18th Annual Land Ethics Symposium, which is presented by Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve, is “Creative Approaches for Ecological Landscaping.” The conference will focus on ways to create low-maintenance, economical and ecologically balanced landscapes using native plants and restoration techniques.

Participants can take part in presentations, for which continuing education credits are available, on topics, including Installation and Management of Stormwater Basins, Landscaping for Carbon Storage and Resilience, and Watershed Restoration. The conference also offers a variety of networking events and an exhibitor hall. Princeton Hydro, a “Friends Sponsor” of the event, will have an exhibitor table. We hope to see you there!



March 19: SAME Philadelphia Post Small Business Conference

The Philadelphia Post is hosting its 12th Annual Small Business Conference and Industry Day, which aims to promote engagement between agency, industry, and small businesses. The program consists of networking events, small business exhibits, a variety of speakers and much more.

The Society of American Military Engineers (SAME) gives leaders from the A/E/C, environmental, and facility management industries the opportunity to come together with federal agencies in order to showcase best practices and highlight future opportunities for small businesses to work in the federal market. If you’re in attendance, please stop by the Princeton Hydro booth.




New Jersey, like other coastal states, has been losing coastal wetland habitats to a combination of subsidence, erosion and sea level rise. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection received a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Federation to address this issue and rejuvenate these critical habitats. Grantees were charged with providing increased resilience to natural infrastructure that will in turn increase the resiliency of coastal communities in the face of future storms like Hurricane Sandy.

As a consultant for GreenTrust Alliance, a land conservancy holding company, Princeton Hydro worked with several project partners, including NJDEP, the US Army Corps of Engineers, NJDOT, The Wetlands Institute, and The Nature Conservancy, to increase the marsh elevation to an optimal range where vegetation, and the wildlife that depends on it, can flourish. One of the techniques used for this project included the use of dredged material disposal placement, which involves using recycled sand and salt dredged from navigation channels to boost the elevation of the degraded marsh.

A media statement from NJDEP further explained the process, “sediments dredged from navigation channels and other areas are pumped onto eroding wetlands to raise their elevations enough to allow native marsh grasses to flourish or to create nesting habitats needed by some rare wildlife species. Healthy marshes with thick mats of native grasses can cushion the impact of storm surges, thereby reducing property damage.”


The salt marsh at the Fortescue project site is part of the Fortescue Wildlife Management Area. The specific goal of the project was to restore and enhance the interior high and low marsh, coastal dune and beach habitats.

To achieve these habitat enhancements, the Princeton Hydro project team first established biological benchmarks of each targeted habitat type and evaluated them to determine the upper and lower elevational tolerances for target communities and plant species. Approximately 33,300 cubic yards of dredged materials were used to restore a degraded salt marsh, restore an eroded dune, and replenish Fortescue Beach. The eroded dune was replaced with a dune designed to meet target flood elevations and protect the marsh behind it against future damage. The dune was constructed using dredged sand, and, to prevent sediment from entering the waterways, a Filtrexx containment material was used.


This project site is a tidal marsh complex located within a back-bay estuary proximal to Stone Harbor and Avalon. Princeton Hydro and project partners aimed to enhance the marsh in order to achieve the primary goal of restoring the natural function of the tidal marsh complex.

Two main activities were conducted in order to apply the dredged material to the impaired marsh plain: 1.) the placement of a thin layer of material over targeted areas of existing salt marsh to increase marsh elevations, 2.) the concentrated placement of material to fill expanding pools by elevating the substrate to the same elevation as the adjacent marsh. In total, dredged material was distributed among eight distinct placement areas throughout the property’s 51.2 acres.

These coastal wetland restoration activities will help to prevent the subsidence-based marsh loss by filling isolated pockets of open water and increasing marsh platform elevation. In addition, the beneficial reuse of dredged material facilitates routine and post-storm dredging and improves the navigability of waterways throughout the U.S.

Improving Water Quality & Reducing Habitat Loss with Floating Wetland Islands

Floating Wetland Islands (FWI), also known as floating treatment wetlands, are an effective alternative to large, watershed-based, natural wetlands. Often described as self-sustaining, FWIs provide numerous ecological benefits. They 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; and can be part of a holistic lake/pond management strategy. FWIs are also highly adaptable and can be sized, configured and planted to fit the needs of nearly any lakepond or reservoir.

Princeton Hydro Senior Scientist Katie Walston recently completed the Floating Island International (FII) Floating Wetland Master Seminar. The seminar provided participants with an in-depth look at the various technologies and products FII offers. Through hands-on examples, course participants learned how to utilize wetland islands for fisheries enhancement, stormwater management, shoreline preservation, wastewater treatment and more.

“The Master Seminar was truly valuable both personally and professionally,” said Katie. “I learned a tremendous amount and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. It’s very fulfilling knowing that I can take the knowledge I’ve learned back to Princeton Hydro and make positive impacts for our clients.”

FII was launched by inventor and outdoorsman Bruce Kania who was driven by the desire to reverse the decline of wetland habitats by developing a new and natural stewardship tool that could clean water and, in the process, improve life for all living creatures. He found that the answer lies in Biomimicry: duplicating nature’s processes in a sustainable, efficient and powerful way to achieve impeccable environmental stewardship for the benefit of all life.

Bruce brought together a team of engineers and plant specialists and created BioHaven® floating islands. These islands biomimic natural floating islands to create a “concentrated” wetland effect. Independent laboratory tests show removal rates far in excess of previously published data: 20 times more nitrate, 10 times more phosphate and 11 times more ammonia, using unplanted islands. They are also extremely effective at reducing total suspended solids and dissolved organic carbon in waterways.

Due to population growth, industrialization and climate change, wetlands are at risk of rapidly declining in quantity and quality due. However, every floating wetland island launched by FII provides an effective strategy for mitigating and adapting to the impacts of over development and climate change.

The unique design of BioHaven® floating islands means that 250 square feet of island translates to an acre’s worth of wetland surface area. These versatile floating islands can be launched in either shallow or deep water, and can be securely anchored or tethered to ensure that they remain in a specific location. They are almost infinitely customizable, and can be configured in a variety of ways.

In addition to ongoing prototype development, FII offers licensing opportunities to businesses and production facilities worldwide. FII continues to research and develop collaborative pilot projects to quantify BioHaven® floating islands’ efficacy.

Many thanks to Bruce and Anne Kania for hosting the Floating Wetland Master Seminar and inspiring action through their knowledge, passion and ongoing endeavors.


Princeton Hydro Founder Invited to Speak at EPA’s Harmful Algal Blooms Workshop

Princeton Hydro Founder Dr. Steve Souza was an invited speaker at the USEPA Region 2 Freshwater Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) and Public Drinking Water Systems workshop last week in Manhattan. The objective of the workshop was to share information about the monitoring and assessment of freshwater HABs and the efforts to minimize their effect on public drinking water and the recreational uses of lakes.

Steve’s presentation focused on the proactive management of HABs, providing useful tips for and real-world examples of how to address HABs before they manifest, and, if a HAB does manifest, how to prevent it from further exacerbating water quality and cyanotoxin problems.

The workshop was well attended with 80 people on site and 40 others participating via webinar link. Steve was joined by nine other invited speakers, most of whom were representing the USEPA, NYSDEC and NJDEP, who gave presentations on a variety of HABs related topics, including the optimization of water treatment operations to minimize cyanotoxin risks surveillance and assessment of HABs, and communicating HABs risks in recreational lakes and drinking water reservoirs.

If you’re interested in learning more about HABs, you can view a complete copy of Steve’s presentation, titled Proactive Management of Harmful Algae Blooms in Drinking Water and Recreational Waterbodies, by clicking the image below. Please contact us anytime to discuss how Princeton Hydro’s Invasive Weed and Algae Management Services can be of service to you.

The USEPA Region 2 serves New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and eight tribal nations. Get more info on key issues and initiatives in USEPA Region 2.



Princeton Hydro Dam Removal Work Featured at Brazilian Workshop

As Brazil is in the midst of a dam-building boom, scientists and engineers gathered at a workshop in Brazil to discuss, “Dam Removal & Optimizing Hydro Locations to Benefit Species Diversity in Brazil.”

Laura Wildman, P.E., Water Resources and Fisheries Engineer and Director of Princeton Hydro’s New England Regional Office, was invited to speak at the workshop. Her presentation focused on why we remove dams in the U.S. (the key drivers), how we analyze them for removal, and what we are learning through a wide diversity of completed case studies.

“It was fascinating to discuss a topic, such as the removal of dams, right as Brazil is focusing on building more hydro capacity,” said Laura. “Hopefully it is a sign that the hydro industry in Brazil, along with all the great Brazilian fisheries researchers, are quite forward thinking and are determined to maintain their country’s rich species diversity while also enhancing their energy options.”

The workshop, hosted by CEMIG and held at UFMG, involved many universities, including our workshop host Paulo Pompeu from UFLA, Dr. Paul Kemp from University of Southhampton, Dr. Jesse O’Hanley of Kent Business School, and many others.

The gathering inspired a lot of interesting dialogue around dam removal, optimizing locations for new hydro facilities, and how to best sustain connectivity and species diversity. Laura’s presentation entitled “Dam removal in the United States” along with the other conference presentations will be available on the CEMIG website soon or check back here on the Princeton Hydro blog for presentation links.

Princeton Hydro Founder Receives Lake Management Achievement Award

We’re thrilled to announce that Princeton Hydro Founder Dr. Stephen J Souza received the North American Lake Management Society’s “2017 Lake Management Success Stories Award” for his work with Lake Mohawk.

While accepting his award Dr. Souza stated, “this would not have been possible had it not been for the foresight of the Lake Mohawk Country Club and the support we have received over the years from the Lake Board, the current General Manager Barbara Wortman, Steve Waehler and the Lake Committee, Ernie Hofer and Gene DePerz of the Lake Mohawk Preservation Foundation, and of course the late Fran Smith.”

Steve went on to thank his staff at Princeton Hydro, especially Chris Mikolajczyk and Dr. Fred Lubnow, for their efforts over the years “collecting and analyzing a variety of lake data and implementing the innovative restoration practices responsible for the lake’s water quality improvements.”

Since 1990, Dr. Souza has worked with the Lake Mohawk Country Club and the Lake Mohawk Preservation Foundation to develop and implement successful lake management strategies to restore and protect the health of the lake and its surrounding watershed.

The NALMS award recognizes an individual or team with notable accomplishment of lake and reservoir management efforts that demonstrate improvements in lake/reservoir condition or watershed management in a cost-effective manner.

Many thanks to Lake Mohawk for the continued partnership and steadfast commitment to water quality. And, thanks to NALMS for bestowing Dr. Souza with this great honor.

Click here to see the complete 2017 awards recap from NALMS.

American Littoral Society and Princeton Hydro Receive “Project of the Year” Award

The American Littoral Society and Princeton Hydro accepted the “Project of the Year” Award at last night's The American Society of Civil Engineers Central New Jersey Branch Annual Dinner. The team received the award for their work on the Barnegat Bay Green Infrastructure Project. Photo from left to right: Tim Dillingham, American Littoral Society Executive Director; Helen Henderson American Littoral Society Ocean Planning Manager for the Mid-Atlantic region; Dr. Stephen J. Souza, Princeton Hydro Founder.

The American Littoral Society and Princeton Hydro accepted the “Project of the Year” Award at the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Annual Dinner. The team received the award for their work on the Barnegat Bay Green Infrastructure Project.

”This was a terrific project conducted for a terrific client – the American Littoral Society,” said Princeton Hydro Founder Dr. Stephen Souza. “It also would not have been possible without a very supportive and engaged stakeholder group.”

The Barnegat Bay Project focused on reducing the amount of pollution entering the Bay’s waterways by retrofitting outdated stormwater management systems and implementing green infrastructure on previously developed sites.

“The project showcases the combined skill-sets of Princeton Hydro,” said Dr. Souza. “This was a truly collaborative effort involving the company’s aquatic ecologists, wetland ecologists, water resource engineers and landscape architect. We all worked closely to develop and implement green infrastructure solutions that measurably decrease pollutant loading to Barnegat Bay and correct localized flooding problems.”

Learn more about the award-winning project here: https://goo.gl/uQ3DfV. Big congratulations to the entire Littoral Society team for winning this prestigious award! And, many thanks to ASCE Central Jersey Branch for the recognition.

Green Infrastructure Planting Projects

The Princeton Hydro team has been busy this summer installing over 1700 plants at three of the company’s green infrastructure stormwater management project sites.

First, team members finalized the planting of two rain gardens located at Clawson Park in East Amwell, NJ. They also installed plants in a renovated detention basin located at the West Amwell Municipal Building. Finally, together with members of the American Littoral Society team, the team finalized the planting of an expanded rain garden and a newly constructed bio-infiltration planter box at Toms River High School North, Toms River, NJ. All three projects are 319(h) funded projects.

Everyone dug-in, got their hands dirty and the payoff to all of this planting is less runoff and less pollutant loading to our streams and rivers!

Read more about Princeton Hydro’s green infrastructure projects here.

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.