Conservation Spotlight: Reducing Flood Risk and Restoring Wetlands in Jamaica Bay

Located in Queens, New York on the northern shore of Jamaica Bay, Spring Creek South contains approximately 237 acres of undeveloped land, including wetlands and 2.4 miles of coastline. The site is bounded by the Howard Beach residential neighborhood in Queens, a commercial area along Cross Bay Boulevard, the Belt Parkway, and Jamaica Bay. The northwest section of Spring Creek South is part of the National Park Service’s Gateway National Recreation Area, and is largely comprised of small patches of degraded tidal marsh and disturbed and degraded upland ecosystems.

On October 29, 2012, Hurricane Sandy drove a catastrophic storm surge into the New Jersey and New York coastlines. Spring Creek South and the surrounding community of Howard Beach experienced record flooding and damage to property and critical infrastructure. Storm tides caused damage and erosion along the shoreline and in the salt marsh area, degrading important habitat and leaving the site vulnerable to invasive species.

Hurricane Sandy Aftermath at Howard Beach, taken 10/30/2012 by Pam Andrade

The New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services (NYSDHSES) was awarded funding from FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program to restore Spring Creek South. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) New York District, serving as project administrator, contracted Princeton Hydro to provide ecosystem restoration services. The goal of the project is to reduce future flood risk exposure while also protecting, restoring, and improving the quality and function of ecological systems; improving stormwater management and water quality; and enhancing the park’s visitor experience.

To achieve this goal, the project team is using an integrated approach that involves utilizing green infrastructure to create a natural barrier for the community and reduce the risks of coastal storms. Project activities include berm construction and the restoration of tidal marsh, creation of freshwater wetland forest, and creation of maritime shrub, forest, and grassland habitats, as well as stabilization of the existing shoreline.

On December 31, 2018, we completed Phase One of the project, which entails engineering design and preliminary permitting. More specifically, we’ve provided conceptual planning; analysis of subsurface soils for geotechnical properties and hazardous waste; coastal and freshwater wetland delineations; biological benchmarking analysis; and the development of sea level rise curves and two-dimensional hydrologic and hydraulic coastal modeling. As part of the hydrology study, we analyzed what the site could be expected to look like in 50 years due to climate changes and sea level rise. Our engineering design was also brought to 65% completion.

We also obtained permits, prepared the Environmental Assessment (EA), and oversaw the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process. The EA received a “Finding of No Significant Impact” (FONSI) from FEMA, which means the environmental analysis and interagency review concluded that the project has no significant impacts on the quality of the environment.

Due to the complex nature of this project and its location, we are coordinating with a variety of different entities, including the local Howard Beach Community Board, the FAA (proximity to JFK International Airport), Port Authority, USACE, NOAA Fisheries, USFWS, USEPA, NYSDEC, NYC DEP, the National Park Service, HDR Engineering and WSP Engineering.

Phase Two of the project is the construction phase, which is expected to take about two years to complete. A key part of the Spring Creek South construction activities is the restoration of approximately 40 acres of tidal marsh, which is anticipated to improve water quality locally by stabilizing sediment, reducing erosion, and filtering dissolved particulate materials. The project team will restore existing coastline areas and install a salt marsh along the shoreline. Planted with native flora, like Spartina alterniflora, a perennial deciduous grass found in intertidal wetlands, the coastal salt marsh will help to stabilize sediment. Additionally, removing invasive species like Phragmites australis from the area and replacing it with native plant species will increase the ability for native vegetation to colonize the site, improve vegetative diversity, and reduce fire risk in the park.

A forested wetland area and berm will also be created in order to provide the surrounding communities with natural shields and buffers to future storms. The berm, with an elevation of 19 feet (NAVD88), will help to manage the risk of storm surge flooding caused by coastal storms. The forested wetland area will also provide improved stormwater runoff storage, naturally filter stormwater, and, via flap gates, direct its flow toward Jamaica Bay, away from residential and commercial properties.

These measures will help to dissipate wind and wave energy, increase shoreline resilience, improve stormwater management at the site, and create habitat that increases the ecological value and biodiversity at the site, while providing resilience benefits. Restoration activities will benefit vulnerable and rare ecological communities by producing localized environmental enhancements, including improving water quality and creating and restoring habitat. The project also increases opportunities for recreational uses such as wildlife viewing/photography, fishing, and nature study.

Princeton Hydro specializes in the planning, design, permitting, implementing, and maintenance of wetland rehabilitation projects. To learn more about some of our ecosystem restoration and enhancement services, visit: bit.ly/PHwetland.

 

“2018 Land Ethics Award of Merit” awarded to Mullica River Wetland Mitigation Project

At the 18th Annual Land Ethics Symposium, which is presented by Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve, Princeton Hydro and GreenVest, LLC were honored with the “2018 Land Ethics Award of Merit” for our restoration work at the Mullica River Wetland Mitigation Site.

We teamed up to restore the natural wetland hydrology on a 34-acre parcel of land which was heavily impaired and intensely manipulated for cranberry production over the last century. The area was home to a network of earthen berms surrounding cranberry cultivating bogs, where water onsite was managed through a series of ditches and water control structures set into the berms. The cranberry operation was bordered mostly by an Atlantic white cedar dominated swamp.

“Thank you to Bowman’s Hill for honoring this successful wetland restoration project,” said Mark Gallagher, Vice President of Princeton Hydro. “Through our partnership with GreenVest, we transformed a degraded cranberry bog into thriving emergent and forested wetlands, and restored historic headwater stream channels. These restored wetlands are providing invaluable habitat to a variety of threatened and endangered species in New Jersey, including the Pine Barrens Treefrog and Barred Owl.” 

 

While this site was degraded, it still contained four state listed species, including the state-endangered Timber Rattlesnake and the Pine Barrens Tree Frog, making it a priority site for restoration. The presence of these species influenced the design as it included provisions to incorporate habitat elements for these species.

Through the implementation of restoration activities focused on removing the site’s agricultural infrastructure, Princeton Hydro and GreenVest were able to restore a natural wetland system on the site. In addition, the restoration project reconnected the site to its floodplain and re-established a natural stream channel. The expansive, flat and wide floodplain wetland complex of the Alquatka Branch of the Mullica RIver provides floodplain connectivity for relatively frequent storm events and allows for a sustainable floodplain wetland complex in the former cranberry bog cells.

The completed project incorporated a balance of both ecological and human health and safety benefits. Additionally, the project involved innovative restoration techniques that required building consensus among local watershed protection groups and state and regional regulators, including New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and the New Jersey Pinelands Commission. In the end, the project restored 34 acres of a highly functioning forested wetland/upland complex and reestablished 1,600+ linear feet of historic headwater stream channels.

Princeton Hydro would like to thank Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve for both the award and for a organizing another successful Land Ethics Symposium. The conference focused on ways to create low-maintenance, economical and ecologically balanced landscapes using native plants and restoration techniques. Princeton Hydro was a proud “Friends Sponsor” of the event.

 

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.