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.

Four Ways Climate Change Could Affect Your Lake

The Local Effects of Climate Change Observed Through our Community Lakes

Climate change is an enormous concept that can be hard to wrap your head around. It comes in the form of melting ice caps, stronger storms and more extreme seasonal temperatures. If you’re an avid angler, photographer, swimmer, boater or nature enthusiast, it’s likely that because of climate change you’ll bear witness to astonishing shifts in nature throughout the greater portion of your lifetime. This is especially true with respect to lakes.

2015-07-07-10-01-20Lakes are living laboratories through which we can observe the local effects of climate change in our own communities. Lake ecosystems are defined by a combination of various abiotic and biotic factors. Changes in hydrology, water chemistry, biology or physical properties of a lake can have cascading consequences that may rapidly alter the overall properties of a lake. Most of the time the results are negative and the impacts severe. Recognizing and monitoring the changes that are taking place locally brings the problems of climate change closer to home, which can help raise awareness and inspire environmentally-minded action.

Princeton Hydro has put together a list of four inter-related, climate change induced environmental impacts that can affect lakes and lake communities:

1. Higher temperatures = shifts in flora and fauna populations

The survival of many lake organisms is dependent on the existence of set temperature ranges and ample oxygen levels. The amount of dissolved oxygen (DO) present in a lake is a result of oxygen diffusion from the atmosphere and its production by algae and aquatic plants via photosynthesis. An inverse relationship exists between water temperature and DO concentrations. Due to the physical properties of water, warmer water holds less DO than cooler water.

This is not good news for many flora and fauna, such as fish that can only survive and reproduce in waters of specific temperatures and DO levels. Lower oxygen levels can reduce their ability to feed, spawn and survive. Populations of cold water fishes, such as brown trout and salmon, will be jeopardized by climate change (Kernan, 2015).

358-001-carp-from-churchvilleAlso consider the effects of changing DO levels on fishes that can tolerate these challenging conditions. They will thrive where others struggle, taking advantage of their superior fitness by expanding their area of colonization, increasing population size, and/or becoming a more dominant species in the ecosystem. A big fish in a little pond, you might say. Carp is a common example of a thermo-tolerant fish that can quickly colonize and dominate a lake’s fishery, in the process causing tremendous ecological impact (Kernan, 2010).

2. Less water availability = increased salinity

Just as fish and other aquatic organisms require specific ranges of temperature and dissolved oxygen to exist, they must also live in waters of specific salinity. Droughts are occurring worldwide in greater frequency and intensity. The lack of rain reduces inflow and higher temperatures promote increased evaporation. Diminishing inflow and dropping lake levels are affecting some lakes by concentrating dissolved minerals and increasing their salinity.

Studies of zooplankton, crustaceans and benthic insects have provided evidence of the consequences of elevated salinity levels on organismal health, reproduction and mortality (Hall and Burns, 2002; Herbst, 2013; Schallenberg et al., 2003). While salinity is not directly related to the fitness or survival rate of all aquatic organisms, an increase in salinity does tend to be stressful for many.

3. Nutrient concentrations = increased frequency of harmful algal blooms

Phosphorus is a major nutrient in determining lake health. Too little phosphorus can restrict biological growth, whereas an excess can promote unbounded proliferation of algae and aquatic plants.

before_strawbridgelake2If lake or pond water becomes anoxic at the sediment-water interface (meaning the water has very low or completely zero DO), phosphorus will be released from the sediment. Also some invasive plant species can actually “pump” phosphorus from the sediments and release this excess into the water column (termed luxurious uptake). This internally released and recycled sedimentary phosphorus can greatly influence lake productivity and increase the frequency, magnitude and duration of algae blooms. Rising water temperatures, declining DO and the proliferation of invasive plants are all outcomes of climate change and can lead to increases in a lake’s phosphorus concentrations and the subsequent growth and development of algae and aquatic plants.

Rising water temperatures significantly facilitate and support the development of cyanobacteria (bluegreen algae) blooms. These blooms are also fueled by increasing internal and external phosphorus loading. At very high densities, cyanobacteria may attain harmful algae bloom (HAB) proportions. Elevated concentrations of cyanotoxins may then be produced, and these compounds seriously impact the health of humans, pets and livestock.

rain-garden-imagePhosphorus loading in our local waterways also comes from nonpoint sources, especially stormwater runoff. Climate change is recognized to increase the frequency and magnitude of storm events. Larger storms intensify the mobilization and transport of pollutants from the watershed’s surrounding lakes, thus leading to an increase in nonpoint source loading. Additionally, larger storms cause erosion and instability of streams, again adding to the influx of more phosphorus to our lakes. Shifts in our regular behaviors with regards to fertilizer usage, gardening practices and community clean-ups, as well as the implementation of green-infrastructure stormwater management measures can help decrease storm-related phosphorus loading and lessen the occurrence of HABs.

4. Cumulative effects = invasive species

A lake ecosystem stressed by agents such as disturbance or eutrophication can be even more susceptible to invasive species colonization, a concept coined “invasibility” (Kernan, 2015).

For example, imagine that cold water fish species A has experienced a 50% population decrease as a result of warming water temperatures over ten years. Consequently, the fish’s main prey, species B, has also undergone rapid changes in its population structure. Inversely, it has boomed without its major predator to keep it in check. Following this pattern, the next species level down – species B’s prey, species C – has decreased in population due to intense predation by species B, and so on. Although the ecosystem can potentially achieve equilibrium, it remains in a very unstable and ecologically stressful state for a prolonged period of time. This leads to major changes in the biotic assemblage of the lake and trickle-down changes that affect its recreational use, water quality and aesthetics.

• • •

Although your favorite lake may not experience all or some of these challenges, it is crucial to be aware of the many ways that climate change impacts the Earth. We can’t foresee exactly how much will change, but we can prepare ourselves to adapt to and aid our planet. How to start? Get directly involved in the management of your lake and pond. Decrease nutrient loading and conserve water. Act locally, but think globally. Get out and spread enthusiasm for appreciating and protecting lake ecosystems. Also, check out these tips for improving your lake’s water quality.


References

  1. Hall, Catherine J., and Carolyn W. Burns. “Mortality and Growth Responses of Daphnia Carinata to Increases in Temperature and Salinity.” Freshwater Biology 47.3 (2002): 451-58. Wiley. Web. 17 Oct. 2016.
  1. Herbst, David B. “Defining Salinity Limits on the Survival and Growth of Benthic Insects for the Conservation Management of Saline Walker Lake, Nevada, USA.” Journal of Insect Conservation 17.5 (2013): 877-83. 23 Apr. 2013. Web. 17 Oct. 2016.
  1. Kernan, M. “Climate Change and the Impact of Invasive Species on Aquatic Ecosystems.” Aquatic Ecosystem Health & Management (2015): 321-33. Taylor & Francis Online. Web. 17 Oct. 2016.
  1. Kernan, M. R., R. W. Battarbee, and Brian Moss. “Interaction of Climate Change and Eutrophication.” Climate Change Impacts on Freshwater Ecosystems. 1st ed. Chichester, West Sussex, UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010. 119-51. ResearchGate. Web. 17 Oct. 2016.
  1. Schallenberg, Marc, Catherine J. Hall, and Carolyn W. Burns. “Consequences of Climate-induced Salinity Increases on Zooplankton Abundance and Diversity in Coastal Lakes”Marine Ecology Progress Series 251 (2003): 181-89. Inter-Research Science Center. Inter-Research. Web. 17

Stormwater Projects in Action

Improving Barnegat Bay through Green Infrastructure and Stormwater Management

FREE BROCHURE DOWNLOAD

American Littoral Society, Ocean County Soil Conservation District and Princeton Hydro recently held a Stormwater Projects in Action workshop. The workshop focused on a number of 319(h) funded projects designed by Princeton Hydro and implemented by American Littoral Society in the Long Swamp Creek/Lower Toms River sub-watersheds of Barnegat Bay. Those projects exemplified how green infrastructure techniques could be used to retrofit, upgrade and compliment standard stormwater management methods. This included the restoration of healthy soils and the construction/installation of bioretention basins, rain gardens, porous pavement, and sub-surface Manufactured Treatment Devices (MTDs).

Event participants learned about the problems affecting Barnegat Bay due to over-development and improper stormwater management. They were presented with examples of the types of green infrastructure solutions that can be implemented in any setting in order to achieve cleaner water and less flooding.

A brochure detailing each of the projects and providing an in-depth look at the incredible work being done to save Barnegat Bay was distributed to event attendees. You can download your free copy here:

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Princeton Hydro President Dr. Stephen Souza gave two presentations at the event. The first presentation explored the Matrix Scoring Tool that Princeton Hydro’s Senior Environmental Scientist Paul Cooper along with Dr. Souza developed to quantitatively evaluate the relative benefit of conducting one stormwater project versus another in a particular area. The 2nd presentation provided an overview of the five stormwater improvement projects that Princeton Hydro conducted as part of the $1,000,000 319(h) grant secured for American Littoral Society. If you’re interested in receiving a copy of either presentation, submit a comment below or email us.

Clean water is fundamental to all life.

 

 

Princeton Hydro’s Conservation Spotlight

AMERICAN LITTORAL SOCIETY: SAVING BARNEGAT BAY

This Conservation Spotlight explores and celebrates
the American Littoral Society’s efforts to save Barnegat Bay

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Barnegat Bay stretches 42-miles, primarily along the inner-coast of Ocean County, New Jersey. The “Bay” is nationally recognized as a unique estuarine ecosystem with a variety of different habitats that many species depend on for survival. Due to numerous factors, but especially the development of its watershed and resulting high levels of nitrogen loading from stormwater runoff, the Bay has suffered serious ecological decline.

In an effort to save the Bay, the American Littoral Society developed a multi-faceted Clean Water Project plan, which focuses heavily on one of the Bay’s key issues: eutrophication due to excessive nitrogen loading. In partnership with Princeton Hydro, the Ocean County Soil District and others, American Littoral Society began work to decrease the volume of stormwater runoff and associated pollutants flowing into and damaging the Bay.

Screen Shot 2016-08-22 at 11.58.17 AMIn 2013, American Littoral Society, with assistance provided by Princeton Hydro, successfully secured $1,000,000 in 319(h) implementation funding through the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. American Littoral Society then developed an innovative basin ranking matrix. The matrix, created by Princeton Hydro, provides a non-biased, quantitative means of identifying and ranking stormwater management projects having the greatest potential to decrease pollutant loading to the Bay.

With funding secured and a prioritization methodology in place, American Littoral Society then began its work to retrofit antiquated, inefficient stormwater basins throughout the Barnegat Bay watershed. The goal was to reduce runoff through upgraded stormwater management systems emphasizing the application of green infrastructure techniques.

American Littoral Society and Princeton Hydro along with key partners implemented a variety of green infrastructure projects to treat stormwater at its source while delivering environmental, social and economic benefits to Barnegat Bay. Completed projects include:

  • 2 Years After Planting was Completed: Laurel Commons, Carnation Basin RetrofitConversion of standard, grassed detention basins into naturalized bio-retention basins, as exemplified by the Laurel Commons Carnation Circle Basin, which now serves as a paradigm for the cost-effective retrofitting of aged, traditional detention basins
  • At Toms River High School North, the installation of tree boxes,
  • At the Toms River Board of Education offices, the replacement of conventional paving with permeable pavement,
  • At multiple sites, the construction of rain gardens,
  • At Toms River High School North, the construction/installation of stormwater management Manufactured Treatment Devices (MTDs)
  • At the Toms River Community Medical Center (RWJ Barnabas Health), the construction of a bio-retention/infiltration basin

Education and outreach have also been key factors in improving the condition of the Bay, including training seminars for engineers, planners and code officials on basin conversion and management of green infrastructure; educational materials and signage; and public involvement in volunteer clean-ups, lawn fertilizer usage reduction, and rain garden and basin planting.  

Through its work with key partners, like Princeton Hydro, and countless volunteers, the American Littoral Society has made notable progress in Barnegat Bay, but much more needs to be done to restore and protect this unique ecosystem. Join the cause to help save Barnegat Bay; contact the American Littoral Society to find out how you can make a difference. 

For a detailed review of each project and an in-depth look at the incredible work being done to save Barnegat Bay, go here and download our brochure.

About the American Littoral Society: The American Littoral Society, founded in 1961, promotes the study and conservation of marine life and habitat, protects the coast from harm, and empowers others to do the same.

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