Meet the Princeton Hydro Leadership Team

The members of our Leadership Team provide a depth of industry and operating experience that is fundamental to the success of Princeton Hydro. They are a group of passionate individuals who help to drive our people, culture, and strategy, and are committed to the firm’s mission of “changing our ecosystems, quality of life, and communities for the better.”

Today, we’re putting the spotlight our each member of our Leadership Team and asking them to share with us, in one sentence, what they enjoy most about their work.

Let’s meet them!


Scott Churm

As our Director of Field Operations and Field Office Manager, Scott and his team are responsible for providing pond and lake management and invasive species control services. Scott is an expert in species identification and determination of appropriate treatment response and adaptive management techniques. He is a licensed pesticide applicator in five states and has managed the treatment of nuisance aquatic and terrestrial plants at hundreds of sites totaling more than 1,000 acres. His experience also includes the design, installation and maintenance of aeration systems, the implementation of water quality and biological sampling programs, erosion control plans, and shoreline aquascaping projects.

“What I enjoy the most about working at Princeton Hydro is the ability to work outside the box to find new and better ways of doing what we do.”

 


Laura Craig, PhD

Laura, our Director of Natural Resources, is an aquatic ecologist and restoration practitioner with specific expertise in aquatic ecology, river restoration theory and practice (especially dam removal), nutrient dynamics, and climate adaptation. She is a big picture thinker with extensive experience in science communication, strategic planning, metrics and evaluation, project and budget management, policy, fundraising, and public engagement. Laura is passionate about identifying and improving how we manage existing and emerging threats to rivers.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to work on many different types of projects, especially those that improve ecosystem function and help us adapt to a changing climate.”

 


John Eichholz

As our Chief Financial Officer, John leads our financial operations and provides overall strategic direction across the firm. John has more than 25 years of experience in financial analysis, strategic planning, business operations, and marketing strategy. He has worked at an array of globally-recognized companies, including Dun & Bradstreet, American Express, MasterCard, and Barclays. He specializes in financial forecasting, enhancing marketing performance through analysis and competitive intelligence, and developing strategic frameworks on how to lead corporate-wide initiatives.

“I enjoy helping the firm improve its overall profitability and financial stability by analyzing trends, identifying financial opportunities, and providing all colleagues with the tools they need to move Princeton Hydro forward… by making the firm stronger financially, we can serve our customers better and improve the lives of our employees and their families.”


Clay Emerson, PhD, PE, CFM

Clay is our Director of Stormwater Management & Green Infrastructure. His expertise includes a substantial amount of critical overlap between engineering and environmental science. Hydrologic and hydraulic analysis, stormwater management and infiltration, nonpoint source pollution, watershed modeling, groundwater hydrology/modeling, and water quality and quantity monitoring are a few of the areas Clay specializes in. Additionally, Clay is an adjunct professor at Rowan University and he regularly teaches continuing education seminars and presents at events throughout the country.

“Problem solving has always been a passion of mine, and what I love most about my work is applying problem solving skills to help our clients resolve an issue or accomplish a goal.”

 


Karen Johnson

Karen, our Business Administrator, brings to the team over 35 years of experience in office and finance administration. Her background includes accounting systems, contracts, and reconciliations to file management and telephone system maintenance. Karen is also an active volunteer: she is the President of the Hillsborough High School Band Parents Association, where she fundraises and assists with coordination of over 100 band students and their families.

“What I enjoy most about my work is that there is something new every day … never a dull moment and always something new to learn!”

 


Fred Lubnow, PhD

As our Director of Aquatic Resources, Fred manages a variety of lake and watershed restoration projects. Fred has extensive experience in lake and watershed management, restoration ecology, community and ecosystem ecology, cyanobacteria biology, and the use of benthic macroinvertebrate and fish in-stream bioassessment protocols. He is a committed speaker and educator and has given countless presentations over the years for organizations throughout the country, including the New York State Federation of Lake Associations, North American Lake Management Society, the Cary Institute, and as an adjunct professor at DelVal University’s Environmental Studies program. Fred was recently featured in a Washington Post story about climate change and the impacts it’s had on Lake Hopatcong, specifically.

“I love how the entire staff of the company is absolutely committed to improving and protecting our natural resources.”

 


Samara McAuliffe

Samara brings over ten years of human resources and management experience to her position as our Employee Relations Manager. She has worked as a business partner and advisor in various sectors, from finance to retail. Her hands-on experience includes researching and resolution of complex human resources related issues, recruitment process management, HRIS implementation, representation at unemployment hearings, creation of EEOC position statements, leading and administering open enrollment initiatives, as well as management coaching and training.

“What I enjoy most about working in human resources at Princeton Hydro is supporting such a talented and dynamic group of creative minds.”

 


Dana Patterson

Dana is a passionate environmental communicator who brings to her position as our Marketing and Communications Manager a strong mix of diverse stakeholder engagement experience, coupled with values-based communication strategy. She specializes in branding, marketing, and digital media strategy, and strives to enhance the mission and values of Princeton Hydro. She earned her Master of Environmental Management from Yale University’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies where she focused on strategies for climate change and wildlife conservation communication. Dana is an active volunteer for a variety of organizations, including Society of American Military Engineers (SAME) New Jersey Post, which recently presented her with an award for her efforts.

“Storytelling! Princeton Hydro has designed some of the most innovative, resilient ecosystem restoration projects in the Northeast that no one knows about. I’m passionate about sharing our story and building our brand so we can continue to enhance urban, suburban, and rural spaces where both wildlife and people can thrive.”


Laura Wildman, PE

Laura is the Director of River Restoration and the Manager of our New England office. Considered one of the foremost experts in the U.S. on dam/barrier removal and alternative fish passage, Laura has been involved in 200+ dam removal projects throughout the country (primarily in the Northeast) and is also involved in river restoration efforts in Europe. Laura is passionate about reconnecting communities to rivers and restoring the balance between natural resource management and healthy river systems.

“My favorite part about my work are the people I work with, their passion, their laughter, their stories, their successes, their hobbies, their kids, their dogs, and their focus on restoring healthy, self-sustaining ecosystems for future generations.”


Kevin Yezdimer, PE

Kevin is a multidisciplinary professional civil engineer with degrees in both Geology and Civil Engineering. As our Chief Operating Officer and Director of Geosciences, Kevin combines his 15 years of experience as a design consultant and project manager with his proven ability to lead others. He works hand-in-hand with each of our practice areas, the administration, and the principals to propel our firm forward. He also works to ensure that the company culture remains driven towards excellence in innovative and integrated science and engineering.

“Princeton Hydro provides me with the opportunity to work closely with talented and passionate folks to provide unique, comprehensive, and value-added solutions to our diverse clientele’s ecosystem and environmental challenges in order to positively impact these communities who entrust us with this great responsibility.”


 

Click here to learn more about all of the passionate and talented individuals who make up the Princeton Hydro team!

Floating Wetland Islands: A Sustainable Solution for Lake Management

Nick Decker, PA State Parks Resource Manager, and Cory Speroff and Katie Walston of Princeton Hydro position a floating island of native plants in the lake at Frances Slocum State Park

Looking for a unique and creative way to manage nutrient runoff in freshwater lakes? Installing Floating Wetland Islands (FWI) is a low-cost, effective green infrastructure solution used to mitigate phosporus and nitrogen stormwater pollution often emanating from highly developed communities and/or argricultural lands.

FWIs are designed to mimic natural wetlands in a sustainable, efficient, and powerful way. They improve water quality by assimilating and removing excess nutrients that could fuel algae growth; provide valuable ecological habitat for a variety of beneficial species; help mitigate wave and wind erosion impacts; provide an aesthetic element; and add significant biodiversity enhancement within open freshwater environments.

“A pound of phosphorus can produce 1,100 lbs of algae each year. And, each 250-square foot island can remove 10 lbs of phosphorus annually.” explains Princeton Hydro Staff Scientist Katie Walston. “So, that’s 11,000 lbs of algae that is mitigated each year from each 250 square foot of FWI installed!”

This illustration, created by Staff Scientist Ivy Babson, conveys the functionality of a Floating Wetland Island

This illustration, created by Staff Scientist Ivy Babson, conveys the functionality of a Floating Wetland Island

Typically, FWIs consist of a constructed floating mat with vegetation planted directly into the material. Once the islands are anchored in the lake, the plants thrive and grow, extending their root systems through the mat and absorbing and removing excess nutrients from the water column such as phosphorus and nitrogen.

Native plants on the floating island designed by Princeton Hydro that will help reduce the phosphers and algae in the lake at Frances Slocum State ParkThe plants uptake a lot of nutrients, but the workhorse of the FWIs is the microbial community. The matrix used within the islands has a very high surface area and it promotes microbial growth, which performs the majority of the nutrient uptake. Additionally, the root growth from the plants continues to increase the surface area for the microbial biofilm to grow on. Both the plants and microbes acting together help optimize nutrient removal.

Princeton Hydro has designed and installed numerous FWIs in waterbodies large and small for the purpose of harmful algal bloom control, fisheries enhancement, stormwater management, shoreline preservation, wastewater treatment, and more. FWIs are also highly adaptable and can be sized, configured, and planted to fit the needs of nearly any lake, pond, or reservoir.

Greenwood Lake

Recently, the Princeton Hydro team completed a FWI installation in Belcher’s Creek, the main tributary of Greenwood Lake. The lake, a 1,920-acre waterbody located in  both Passaic County, New Jersey and Orange County, New York, is a highly valued ecological and recreational resource for both states and has a substantial impact on the local economies. In addition, the lake serves as a headwater supply of potable water that flows to the Monksville Reservoir and eventually into the Wanaque Reservoir, where it supplies over 3 million people and thousands of businesses with drinking water. 

Since the lake was negatively impacted by HABs during the 2019 summer season, Greenwood Lake Commission (GWLC) has made a stronger effort to eliminate HABs and any factors that contribute to cyanobacteria blooms for 2020 and into the future. Factors being addressed include pollutant loading in the watershed, especially that of Belcher’s Creek. The installation of FWIs in Belcher’s Creek will immediately address nutrients in the water before it enters Greenwood Lake and help decrease total phosphorus loading. In turn this will help reduce HABs, improve water quality throughout the Greenwood Lake watershed, and create important habitat for beneficial aquatic, insect, bird and wildlife species.

“In addition to the direct environmental benefits of FWIs, the planting events themselves, which involve individuals from the local lake communities, have long-lasting positive impacts,” said Dr. Jack Szczepanski, Princeton Hydro Senior Project Manager, Aquatics Resources. “When community members come together to help plant FWIs, it gives them a deepened sense of ownership and strengthens their connection to the lake. This, in turn, encourages continued stewardship of the watershed and creates a broader awareness of how human behaviors impact the lake and its water quality. And, real water quality improvements begin at the watershed level with how people treat their land.”

The project was partially funded by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s (NJDEP) Water Quality Restoration Grants for Nonpoint Source Pollution Program under Section 319(h) of the federal Clean Water Act. As part of the statewide HAB response strategy, the NJDEP made $13.5 million in funding available for local projects that improve water quality and help prevent, mitigate and manage HABs in the state’s lakes and ponds. The GWLC was awarded one of the NJDEPs matching grants, which provided $2 in funding for every $1 invested by the grant applicant. For this project, the GWLC purchased the FWIs and NJDEP provided the 2:1 cash match in order for the GWLC to implement additional HAB prevention and mitigation strategies in critical locations throughout the watershed.

Check out the photos from last month’s installation:

Here are a few more examples of FWI design and installation projects we’ve completed:

Frances Slocum Lake

Officials with the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Luzerne Conservation District, Nanticoke Conservation Club, and students at Rock Solid Academy in Shavertown teamed up with Princeton Hydro to install two floating islands on the lake. They were planted natives to the area, including Green Bulrush, Broadleaf Arrowhead, Blue Flag Iris, Shallow Sedge, and Spotted Joe-Pye.

Princeton Hydro also installed solar-powered aeration systems in the middle of the FWIs. Aeration systems provide additional water quality improvements, help prevent water around the islands from stratifying, promotes “through-column” mixing, and helps to minimize the occurrence of phytoplankton blooms. The use of solar-powered aeration, whether installed on a FWI or along the shoreline, creates a sustainable, cost-effective, zero-energy water treatment solution, and eliminates the need to run direct-wired electrical lines to remote locations. Learn more.

Princeton Hydro also installs solar-powered aeration systems on FWIs, creating a sustainable, cost-effective, holistic water treatment solution.
Harveys Lake

Princeton Hydro, along with project partners, installed five floating wetland islands in Harveys Lake in order to assimilate and reduce nutrients already in the lake. The islands were placed in areas with high concentrations of nutrients, placed 50 feet from the shoreline and tethered in place with steel cables and anchored. A 250-square-foot FWI is estimated to remove up to 10 pounds of nutrients per year, which is significant when it comes to algae. Learn more.

Volunteers install native plants in one of the FWIs installed in Harveys Lake. Photo by: Mark Moran, The Citizen’s Voice.
lake hopatcong

Through a nonpoint source pollution grant awarded by NJDEP to the Lake Hopatcong Commission, Jefferson Township was able to install FWIs in order to deliver better water quality to Ashley Cove and Lake Hopatcong. The primary goal of the project was to reduce high levels of algae-causing phosphorus present in the lake. In each FWI, indigenous plants, Milkweed and Hibiscus, among other vegetation, were planted along with peat and mulch. Learn more.

Casey Hurt, right, and Richard Ampomah maneuver one of two floating wetland islands in Ashley Cove.
Lake Holiday

Two interconnected sets of FWIs were installed in Lake Holiday in the tributary coves of Isaac’s and Yeider’s Creeks. The strategic placement of the islands eliminates interference with normal boat traffic. In order to minimize movement, the FWIs were secured to trees along the bank with coated cable and protective bands and anchored to the lake bottom with submerged concrete blocks. Learn more.

Senior Scientist Katie Walston installs goose netting around the vegetation in order to prevent geese and other unwanted species from feeding on the plants.

Over the coming weeks, our team will be in Asbury Park, New Jersey installing FWIs in Sunset Lake. Stay tuned for more! For additional information about floating wetland islands and water quality management, go here: bit.ly/pondlake.

6 Ways to Celebrate Lakes Appreciation Month

July is Lakes Appreciation Month – a great time of year to enjoy your community lakes and help protect them.

Lakes Appreciation Month was started by North American Lake Management Society (NALMS) to help bring attention to the countless benefits that lakes provide, to raise awareness of the many challenges facing our waterways, and to encourage people to get involved in protecting these precious resources.

“You work and play on them. You drink from them. But do you really appreciate them? Growing population, development, and invasive species stress your local lakes, ponds, and reservoirs. All life needs water; let’s not take it for granted!” – NALMS

Chemical pollutants, stormwater runoff, hydrocarbons, invasive aquatic species, and climate change are just a few of the the serious threats facing lakes and other freshwater habitats. So what can you do to to help?


We’ve put together six tips to help you celebrate Lakes Appreciation Month and get involved in protecting your favorite lakes:

1. Join the “Secchi Dip-In” contest

The “Secchi Dip-In” is an annual citizen science event where lake-goers and associations across North America use a simple Secchi disk to monitor the transparency or turbidity of their local waterway. Created and managed by NALMS, volunteers have been submitting information during the annual Dip-In since 1994. Get all the Dip-In details here.

2. Monitor and report algae blooms

With the BloomWatch App, you can help the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency understand where and when potential harmful algae blooms (HABs) occur. HABs have the potential to produce toxins that can have serious negative impacts on the health of humans, pets, and our ecosystems. Click here to learn more and download the app here. For more information on HABs, check out our recent blog.

3. Commit to keeping your lake clean

Commit to keeping your lake clean: Volunteers play a major role in maintaining the health and safety of community waterways. If you’re interested in helping to conserve and protect your water resources, you can start by cleaning up trash. Choose a waterbody in your community; determine a regular clean-up schedule; and stick to it! Cleaning your neighborhood storm drains really helps too; click here to find out how.

Photo: Santiago Mejia, The Chronicle
4. support your local lake

You can help support your favorite lake by joining or donating to a lake or watershed association. As an organized, collective group, lake associations work toward identifying and implementing strategies to protect water quality and ecological integrity. Lake associations monitor the condition of the lake, develop lake management plans, provide education about how to protect the lake, work with the government entities to improve fish habitat, and much more.

5. Get outside and enjoy (safely)

There are countless ways to enjoy and appreciate your community lakes. During Lakes Appreciation month, take photos that illustrate how you appreciate your community lakes, share them on social media using the hashtag: #LakesAppreciation, and hopefully you’ll inspire others to show their Lake Appreciation too.

6. ENTER the Lakes Appreciation Challenge

NALMS invites you to participate in its social media photo contest, titled “Show Your Lakes Appreciation Challenge.” To participate: Take a picture of yourself or someone you know enjoying or working on a lake or reservoir during July. And, upload the photo to Facebook, Instagram and/or Twitter using a descriptive caption and the #LakesAppreciation hashtag. Three winners will be determined via a raffle and announced via social media on Monday, August 3rd. Learn more.

fishing on lake

To ensure you’re staying safe while participating in Lakes Appreciation Month and all outdoor activities, please be sure to follow local regulations and the CDC’s recommended COVID-19 guidelines.

To learn more about NALMS and get more ideas on how to celebrate your local lakes, go here: https://www.nalms.org. If you’re interested in learning more about Princeton Hydro’s broad range of award-winning lake management services, go here: http://bit.ly/pondlake.

 

Understanding The Updated NJ Stormwater Rule

In March 2020, NJ Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) published the long-awaited revisions to the New Jersey Stormwater Management Rule (N.J.A.C. 7:8), which now requires the use of green infrastructure. But what do these updates actually mean for New Jersey’s stormwater infrastructure?

At Princeton Hydro, we recognize the benefit of green infrastructure and we’ve been incorporating it into our engineering designs since before the term was regularly used in the stormwater lexicon. We’ve been following the rule amendments very closely, so we’ve got the inside scoop on how to interpret these new updates. In this blog, we’ll break down the complexities and changes to help you understand what’s really going on.

What is Green Infrastructure?

So, let’s start with what green infrastructure actually is in a general sense. Many people think of green infrastructure solely as a way to classify certain stormwater best management practices, or BMPs, but in reality, it goes much deeper than that. Green infrastructure is an approach to engineering design that emphasizes the use of natural processes. Examples include green roofs, rain gardens, constructed wetlands, vegetated bioswales, and living shorelines. In general, approaching environmental management from this lens can help reduce costs and negative impacts to our ecosystems. The benefit to using green infrastructure over structural grey infrastructure is that these living BMPs are incredibly resilient. Being living systems, green infrastructure BMPs help decrease stormwater volume, as soil and vegetation naturally retain and evapotranspire water. Afterall, those natural processes have successfully worked for billions of years, so why not mimic them in our design?

In addition to effectively managing stormwater, green infrastructure has other added benefits such as reducing the heat island effect, reducing energy use, removing pollutants from the air, beautifying public spaces, and even increasing property value. Though the actual practice of green infrastructure may seem new and innovative, the concept has been around for decades.

What’s Changed?

So now, let’s get to the updated regulations. The biggest takeaway from this update is that green infrastructure is now required to meet the three performance criteria that NJDEP sets forth for stormwater management. The amendments to the rule give definitions of green infrastructure as it applies to stormwater management. The rule defines green infrastructure as follows:

“‘Green Infrastructure’ means a stormwater management measure that manages stormwater close to its source by:

  1. Treating stormwater runoff through infiltration into subsoil;

  2. Treating stormwater runoff through filtration by vegetation or soil; or

  3. Storing stormwater runoff for reuse.”

NJDEP evaluates stormwater management compliance through three basic performance metrics: (1) groundwater recharge, (2) water quality, and (3) peak flow control. While these metrics have remained relatively unchanged under the amended rule, the requirements for meeting them have been modified to include green infrastructure. The pre-existing rule required that major developments incorporate nonstructural stormwater management BMPs/strategies to the “maximum extent practicable” to meet their criteria. The amended rule not only gives specific suggestions for the kind of BMPs it’s looking for by adding a definition of green infrastructure, but it also makes those BMPs/strategies a requirement for compliance with the rule’s minimum standards.

The rule also includes tables outlining/summarizing the application of each type of stormwater BMP. One of the biggest changes here is that some of those BMPs have drainage area limitations, which could pose new challenges in the design process.

As stated above, the rule defines green infrastructure as, “a stormwater management measure that manages stormwater close to its source.” This is where those drainage area limitations come into play. Dry wells have a one acre drainage area limitation, which is not new, however, pervious pavement has a 3:1 ratio requirement, meaning that the water flowing over standard pavement, or impervious surfaces, should not be more than three times greater than the area of the pervious pavement.

Likewise, in the amended rule, BMPs like bioretention systems, have a drainage area limitation of 2.5 acres. The addition of this requirement will require designers to spread BMPs out throughout their site, instead of simply including one large structural BMP in a single location on the site. This approach decentralizes and distributes BMPs, enabling more stormwater to infiltrate into the ground, rather than runoff. Because this method more clostely mimics the natural water cycle, it is expected to foster better long-term performance of the BMPs.

This 2.5-acre drainage area limitation is going to effect stormwater design in that it will lead to BMP decentralization. So, project sites will likely have numerous smaller BMPs that will be distributed throughout the area, as opposed to having one large basin at the bottom of the site. This applies, in particular, to large scale commercial and residential projects, as the updated rule will discourage, and in most cases actually not allow, for the implementation of one large basin at the bottom of the site, which currently is common practice in large-scale development design.

Motor Vehicle Surfaces

Another update to the rule is that motor vehicle surfaces are now incorporated into the definition of major development, which was further clarified and defined as:

Any individual ‘development,’ as well as multiple developments that individually or collectively result in:

  1. The disturbance of one or more acres of land since February 2, 2004;

  2. The creation of one-quarter acre or more of “regulated impervious surface” since February 2, 2004;

  3. The creation of one-quarter acre or more of “regulated motor vehicle surface” since March 2,2021; or

  4. A combination of 2 and 3 above that totals an area of one-quarter acre or more. The same surface shall not be counted twice when determining if the combination area equals one quarter acre or more.

The amended rule requires these motor vehicle surfaces to have 80% total suspended solids (TSS) removal, in order to maintain water quality. These surfaces include standard pavement drive/parking areas and gravel and dirt drive/parking areas, according to the rule. However, the rule does not require water quality control for runoff from other impervious surfaces that are not traveled by automobiles, such as rooftops and sidewalks, or other paved walkway areas.

Revisions to BMP Manual

In addition to the changes made to the actual rule, NJDEP released an updated draft of Chapters 5, 12, 13, and Appendix D of the NJ Stormwater BMP Manual, which is currently open for public comment. Chapter 5 regards Stormwater Management and Quantity and Quality Standards and Computations and Chapter 12 regards Soil Testing Criteria. The biggest update to the manual is the addition of the recently finalized Chapter 13: Groundwater Table Hydraulic Impact Assessments for Infiltration BMPs, which requires design engineers to assess the hydraulic impact on the groundwater table to avoid adverse impacts such as surficial ponding, flooding of basements, interference with sewage disposal systems, and interference with the proper functioning of the BMP itself. The addition of this chapter will ensure that these issues are minimized, helping to improve the state’s stormwater management practices overall.

What does this all mean for New Jersey Municipalities?

New Jersey municipalities will need to comply with the new standards, as the NJ Stormwater Management Rule represents the minimum requirements for stormwater control ordinances. The law states that municipalities must update their ordinances by March 2, 2021. To make this transition a bit smoother, NJDEP has released a revised model ordinance in Appendix D of the NJ Stormwater BMP Manual to act as a sample for municipalities to follow when adopting these new regulations. Similar to before, municipalities do have the ability to require stricter stormwater performance metrics, but the criteria outlined in the rule are the minimum that must be met under the new regulations.

For more information on the updates to the stormwater regulations, you can check out an informational webinar (below) hosted by NJ-AWRA and The Watershed Institute. This webinar includes three presentations by New Jersey stormwater experts, including our Director of Stormwater Management & Green Infrastructure, Dr. Clay Emerson, PE, CFM.

Mitigating Harmful Algal Blooms at Lake Hopatcong: Largest Application of Phoslock in Northeast

To prevent harmful algal blooms (HABs) in New Jersey’s largest lake, a clay-based nutrient inactivating technology called Phoslock, is being applied in Lake Hopatcong this week. This is the largest Phoslock treatment to occur in the Northeastern U.S. The Phoslock treatment, which is happening in the southern end of the lake called Landing Channel, is expected to take approximately one week depending on the weather conditions.

Over the course of the 2019 summer season, Lake Hopatcong suffered from large-scale and persistent HABs causing local and county health agencies to close off all beaches and issue advisories over large sections of the lake. These unprecedented conditions had significant negative impacts on the ecological, recreational, and economic resources of the lake and region. In order to combat HABs in this upcoming 2020 summer season, the Lake Hopatcong Commission has partnered with the Lake Hopatcong Foundation, four municipalities (Jefferson, Hopatcong, Mt. Arlington, and Roxbury), two counties (Morris and Sussex), and their environmental consultant, Princeton Hydro, to develop both short- and long-term lake management strategies.

“The negative effects of HABs in our lake last year were numerous, widespread, and in some cases devastating,” recalled Donna Macalle-Holly of Lake Hopatcong Foundation. “It is imperative for every stakeholder to pool our resources to keep it from happening again. Collaboration is the only way to protect public health, as well as the health of New Jersey’s largest lake.”

In an effort to evaluate a variety of innovative in-lake and watershed-based measures to prevent, mitigate, and/or control harmful algal blooms in Lake Hopatcong, the Lake Hopatcong Commission was awarded a $500k grant as part of New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s (NJDEP) new $13.5M initiative to reduce and prevent future harmful algal blooms in New Jersey. In addition to the $500k grant, the aforementioned local government and nonprofit stakeholders provided $330k in matching funds to implement and evaluate a variety of ways to address HABs in Lake Hopatcong.

“Our lake community cannot sustain another year like 2019,” said Lake Hopatcong Commission Chairman Ron Smith. “Since the news of our grant award in early March, we have been working with our partners to make sure the projects are implemented in time for the 2020 season.”

This week, the water resource engineering and natural resource management firm, Princeton Hydro—a lake management consultant to Lake Hopatcong for over two decades—is implementing the first and largest innovative measure as part of the NJDEP HABs grant-funded project. This involves treating 50 acres of the southern end of the lake with Phoslock, a clay-based product that inactivates phosphorus in both the water column and the sediments, making this critical nutrient unavailable for algal growth. The Phoslock treatment, which requires proper permitting by NJDEP, is applied as a slurry and will be distributed from a boat. The slurry will temporarily make the water appear turbid, but should disperse approximately two to six hours after each treatment.

“We are expecting the Phoslock treatment to limit the growth of algae and therefore reduce the occurrence of harmful algal blooms in the lake this summer, keeping it open for recreation and business,” said Dr. Fred Lubnow, Director of Aquatic Resources at Princeton Hydro and leading HABs expert. “If this technology is deemed successful and cost-effective in Lake Hopatcong, we could set the precedent for large-scale HABs prevention in other lakes throughout New Jersey, and even across the nation.”

Developed by the Australian national science agency CSIRO, Phoslock is frequently used to strip the water column of dissolved phosphorus, as well as to inactivate phosphorus generated from deep, anoxic sediments. Recently, at a smaller scale, it has been shown to inactivate the mobilization of phosphorus from shallow sediments where there is a mobilization of phosphorus from both chemical and biological processes.

Algae uses phosphate, the biologically available form of phosphorus, as a food source to grow. When there is an excessive amount of phosphorus in a lake, algal growth can be dense and can negatively affect water quality. This excessive plant growth, caused by eutrophication, can both cause a lack of oxygen available, leading to fish kills, as well as produce harmful algal blooms with cyanotoxins, which are harmful to humans and pets.

Photo credit: SePRO Corporation

After Phoslock is applied, it sinks through the water column, binding phosphate as it moves towards the sediment. Once settled at the bottom of the lake, it forms a very thin layer and continues to bind phosphate released from the sediment, thus controlling the release of phosphorus into the lake. One pound of phosphorus has the potential to generate up to 1,100 lbs of wet algae biomass. However, 1.1 tons of Phoslock is capable of removing 24 pounds of phosphorus — that’s over 26,000 lbs of wet algae biomass not growing in the lake for every 1.1 ton of Phoslock applied. In turn, Phoslock’s ability to suspend biologically available phosphorus is therefore a major step towards improving a lake’s water quality.

As part of the NJDEP HABs grant funding, the stakeholder group will be evaluating the relative effectiveness of this treatment strategy. Because of its shallow depth and separation from the main lake, the Landing Channel area was a good candidate for evaluation of this technology. Princeton Hydro will conduct pre- and post-treatment monitoring of the Phoslock treatment area in order to conduct an objective evaluation of the cost effectiveness of the treatment as a means of preventing the development and/or mitigation of HABs. If the study indicates that Phoslock is a cost-effective treatment, the Lake Hopatcong Commission may consider additional trials in other sections of the lake, if funding is available.

To learn more about HABs, check out our recent blog:

Identifying, Understanding and Addressing Harmful Algae Blooms

A Statement of Solidarity from Princeton Hydro

 

We stand with you. Black Lives Matter.

George Floyd’s murder by police officers has shaken us, like the rest of the world. This week, as we try to keep working to improve our ecosystems, quality of life, and communities, what’s been forefront in our minds has been the river of blood from a history of injustice to the Black community. 

For far too long, the Black community has been wrongfully targeted by the institutions that are supposed to protect them. And for far too long, a segment of society that is privileged enough to look away, has turned a blind eye to systemic racism. This cannot continue. We are proud to see people of all backgrounds coming together to display their anger and frustration. We support demands for greater institutional and societal changes that are essential to ending extradjudicial murder like what happened with Mr. Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and countless others. However, we must not only look to others to enact change. Each of us must look internally.

At Princeton Hydro, our deep-seated, shared motivator, which we call our “why” statement (right), drives us to make the world a better place everyday. We stand with our clients and allies, like American Rivers, who believes that “fighting for rivers means fighting for justice” and National Audubon Society who understands that “the outdoors – and the joy of birds – should be safe and welcoming for all people.” We believe in positive change, both for our environment and for our people. 

It is important that we reflect internally to understand how we can improve our small business and live up to our core value of a “positive working environment” for all. Princeton Hydro’s Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) Steering Committee, an internal team of scientists, engineers, and administrators, suggested that we deem Martin Luther King, Jr. Day an official Day of Service for staff, and we listened. 

So, Princeton Hydro is changing our company policy to observe MLK Day as a “Day of Service,” which will allow for employees to choose to spend the day volunteering instead of coming into work. We believe this small change is important to celebrate the civil rights leader’s legacy and to continue to give back to our local communities. Since Princeton Hydro’s inception, we have been committed to serving our communities each and every day. We remain devoted to this goal, as it is an integral part of our day-to-day operations.

The JEDI Steering Committee was founded to promote diversity and inclusion within Princeton Hydro. We recognize that our offices and our industry are underrepresented with people of color, creating an inaccurate representation of our society as a whole. Prejudice goes far beyond our government institutions, and the first step to solving any problem is acknowledging it exists. We acknowledge that we are all guilty of unconscious bias in our homes, our schools, and our workplaces. That is why we, as professionals who have the privilege of working in the fields of science and engineering, are continually educating ourselves on how to honor our responsibilities in making our profession welcoming and obtainable for people of all backgrounds. 

We cannot afford to cover our ears and close our minds. We believe that each and every one of us has work to do to fight racism and promote justice.  People from all backgrounds have now taken to the streets to demand reform within policy agencies around the country. That is why our small business has committed to donating to organizations that are on the ground fighting for justice and equality, as well as planning sustainable and resilient communities for the most vulnerable people. 

During the month of June, we will be matching employee donations, up to a total of $1,000, for the following nonprofits, and we hope you will consider donating as well:

We recognize that this is only a first step toward actively working to dismantle these very deep rooted, unjust systems. We urge you to take a first step too, whether that be donating, volunteering, voting, signing petitions, etc. It is always the time to act, but this time, we have no choice. We cannot successfully do good for our planet, our shared home, without valuing and protecting its people. All people. 

We look forward to building a better future for our people and for our planet, together.

Yours in the movement,

Princeton Hydro

Analyzing Mitigation Strategies for Flood-Prone Philadelphia Community

Photo from Eastwick Friends and Neighbors Coalition

Hydrology is the study of the properties, distribution, and effects of water on the Earth’s surface, in the soil and underlying rocks, and in the atmosphere. The hydrologic cycle includes all of the ways in which water cycles from land to the atmosphere and back. Hydrologists study natural water-related events such as drought, rainfall, stormwater runoff, and floods, as well as how to predict and manage such events. On the application side, hydrology provides basic laws, equations, algorithms, procedures, and modeling of these events.

Hydraulics is the study of the mechanical behavior of water in physical systems. In engineering terms, hydraulics is the analysis of how surface and subsurface waters move from one point to the next, such as calculating the depth of flow in a pipe or open channel. Hydraulic analysis is used to evaluate flow in rivers, streams, stormwater management networks, sewers, and much more.

Combined hydrologic and hydraulic data, tools, and models are used for analyzing the impacts that waterflow – precipitation, stormwater, floods, and severe storms – will have on the existing infrastructure. This information is also used to make future land-use decisions and improvements that will work within the constraints of the hydrologic cycle and won’t exacerbate flooding or cause water quality impairment.

Simply put, hydrologic and hydraulic modeling is an essential component of any effective flood risk management plan.

Putting Hydrologic & Hydraulic Analysis to Work in Philadelphia

Eastwick, a low-lying urbanized neighborhood in Southwest Philadelphia, is located in the Schuylkill River Watershed and is almost completely surrounded by water: The Cobbs and Darby creeks to the west, the Delaware River and wetlands to the south, and the Schuylkill River and Mingo Creek to the east. The community is at continual risk of both riverine and coastal flooding, and faces an uncertain future due to sea level rise and riverine flooding exacerbated by climate change.

Princeton Hydro, along with project partners KeystoneConservation and University of Pennsylvania, conducted an analysis of Eastwick, the flood impacts created by the Lower Darby Creek, and the viability of several potential flood mitigation strategies.

Flood mitigation approaches can be structural and nonstructural. Structural mitigation techniques focus on reconstructing landscapes, including building floodwalls/seawalls and installing floodgates/levees. Nonstructural measures work to reduce damage by removing people and property out of risk areas, including zoning, elevating structures, and conducting property buyouts.

For Eastwick, studying stream dynamics is a key component to determining what type of flood mitigation strategies will yield the most success, as well as identifying the approaches that don’t work for this unique area.

Princeton Hydro Senior Ecologist Christiana Pollack CFM, GISP participated in a workshop for Eastwick residents held by CCRUN and the Lower Darby Creek team. The goal of the workshop was to get the community’s input on the accuracy of the predictive models.Princeton Hydro’s study focused on the key problem areas in Eastwick: the confluence of Darby Creek and Cobbs Creek; a constriction at Hook Road and 84th Street; and the Clearview Landfill, which is part of the Lower Darby Creek Superfund site. Additionally, the study sought to answer questions commonly asked by community members related to flooding conditions, with the main question being: What impact does the landfill have on area flooding?

The built-up landfill is actually much higher than the stream bed, which creates a major disconnection between the floodplain and the stream channel. If the landfill didn’t exist, would the community still be at risk? If we increased the floodplain into the landfill, would that reduce neighborhood flooding?

Princeton Hydro set out to answer these questions by developing riverine flooding models primarily using data from US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and NOAA’s National Weather Service (NWS). FEMA looks at the impacts of 1% storms that are primarily caused by precipitation events as well as coastal storms and storm surge. NOAA looks at the impacts of hurricanes. And, NOAA’s NWS estimates sea, lake and overland storm surge heights from hurricanes.

This is an example of a 2D model showing where the water is originating, how the water flows through the neighborhood, moves to the lower elevations, and eventually sits.

This is an example of a 2D model showing where the water is originating, how the water flows through the neighborhood, moves to the lower elevations, and eventually sits.

The models used 2D animation to show how the water flows in various scenarios, putting long-held assumptions to the test.

The models looked at several different strategies, including the complete removal of the Clearview Landfill, which many people anticipated would be the silver bullet to the area’s flooding. The modeling revealed, however, that those long-held assumptions were invalid. Although the landfill removal completely alters the flood dynamics, the neighborhood would still flood even if the landfill weren’t there. Additionally, the modeling showed that the landfill is actually acting as a levee for a large portion of the Eastwick community.

This model was developed to illustrate how the removal of the landfill impacts waterflow through the Eastwick community.

This model was developed to illustrate how the removal of the landfill impacts waterflow through the Eastwick community.

Ultimately, the research and modeling helped conclude that for the specific scenarios we studied, altering stream dynamics – a non-structural measure – is not a viable flood mitigation strategy.

The USACE is currently undergoing a study in collaboration with the Philadelphia Water Department to test the feasibility of a levee system (a structural control measure), which would protect the Eastwick community by diverting the flood water. Funding for the study is expected to be approved in the coming year.

Take a Deeper Look at Eastwick Flood Mitigation Efforts

There are many studies highlighting flood mitigation strategies, environmental justice, and climate change vulnerability in Eastwick. Princeton Hydro Senior Project Manager and Senior Ecologist, Christiana Pollack CFM, GISP, presented on the flooding in Eastwick at the Consortium for Climate Risk in the Urban Northeast Seminar held at Drexel University. The seminar also featured presentations from Michael Nairn of the University of Pennsylvania Urban Studies Department, Ashley DiCaro of Interface Studios, and Dr. Philip Orton of Stevens Institute of Technology.

You can watch the full seminar here:

For more information about Princeton Hydro’s flood management services, go here: http://bit.ly/PHfloodplain.

NJDEP Releases Updated Guidance for Harmful Algal Blooms

Last summer, 39 of New Jersey’s lakes were plagued with toxic algae outbreaks, also known as harmful algae blooms or HABs, causing major water quality degradation, beach closures and health advisories. In response, the NJDEP implemented a unified statewide approach to addressing HABs in freshwater recreational waters and sources of drinking water, and protecting the public from risks associated with exposure to cyanobacteria.

Last week, NJDEP announced a new component to its statewide Cyanobacterial HAB Response Strategy: a color-coded health alert index that provides precise recreational use recommendations for impacted waterbodies based on levels of cyanobacteria and/or cyanotoxins present. The index has six tiers – NONE, WATCH, ALERT, ADVISORY, WARNING, and DANGER – each providing recommendations on the specific activities that should or should not be pursued based on water monitoring results.

“Princeton Hydro is proud to be one of the contributing factors in the development of the Updated Guidance for HABs,” said said Dr. Fred Lubnow, Director of Aquatic Resources for Princeton Hydro. “We feel this updated protocol will provide the necessary and objective information for State and local organizations to make informed and rational decisions, based on sound and scientifically-based data, on how to deal with HABs in a recreational setting.

Princeton Hydro and Clean Water Consulting are the technical advisers for the New Jersey Lake Group, who have met a number of times over the last 8 to 9 months to discuss the State’s guidance on dealing with HABs.  In late 2019, on behalf of the New Jersey Lake Group, Princeton Hydro and Clean Water Consulting developed a White Paper providing recommended changes for consideration to NJDEP’s Recreational Response Strategy to HABs.

“I’m proud to say that many of the provided recommendations were integrated into NJDEP’s Updated Guidance for HABs,” explained Dr. Lubnow.

WATCH
(Suspected or confirmed HAB with potential for allergenic and irritative health effects)
This warning will be posted when HAB cell counts exceed 20,000. In this scenario, public beaches remain open, but the index instructs the public to use caution, provides information on the potential less serious health effects, and allows for more informed decision-making.

ALERT
(Confirmed HAB that requires greater observation due to increasing potential for toxin production)
This warning indicates a public bathing beach closure only and is posted when a HAB has been confirmed with cell counts between 40,000 and 80,000 and no known toxins above the public threshold. Beaches remain open (dependent upon local health authority) and monitoring for future toxin production should be increased.

ADVISORY
(Confirmed HAB with moderate risk of adverse health effects and increased potential for toxins above public health thresholds)
Signs will be posted for this warning level when cell counts exceed 80,000 or when toxin levels exceed 3 micrograms per milliliter of microcystins. Public bathing beaches will be closed, but the waterbody will remain accessible to some “secondary contact” activities, like boating.

WARNING and DANGER
(Confirmed HAB with high risk of adverse health effects due to high toxin levels)
and (Confirmed HAB with very high risk of adverse health effects due to high toxin levels)
These tiers are designed to alert the public to the presence of HABs that are producing very high levels of toxins which justify additional caution. In some instances, the entire waterbody may be closed for all public use. New Jersey has experienced approximately 12 “warning level” HAB events over the last 3 years; monitoring has never indicated a “danger level” HAB event.

According to their press release, NJDEP is committed to working with local officials to implement the index and get signage posted at lakes throughout the state as soon as possible.

In order to create the health index, NJDEP scientists carefully reviewed HABs data collected over the last three years by Lake Hopatcong Commission, Lake Hopatcong Foundation, Princeton Hydro, and other sources. The tiered warning system will enable lake communities, residents and visitors to make more individualized decisions about what risks they are willing to take and what activities they feel comfortable engaging in at the various levels of HABs.

In the coming days, the NJDEP’s Harmful Algal Bloom website will be updated to include the new health index and accompanying signage, relevant monitoring data, and other information for each of the impacted bodies of water, as well as an updated HAB Monitoring and Response Strategy. For now, you can read the full press release and additional information here: https://www.nj.gov/dep/newsrel/2020/20_0023.htm.

To learn more about HABs, check out our recent blog:

Identifying, Understanding and Addressing Harmful Algae Blooms

Our 2020 Earth Day Photo Contest Winner!

In honor of Earth Day, Princeton Hydro held its annual Photo Contest with the theme “Human Impact” for its employees. We’d like to thank everyone who submitted photos this year. Overall, we received 27 gorgeous submissions from our staff.

All photos were rated on the following criteria by three volunteer judges: Danielle Odom, Lucy Aquilino, and Amanda Brooks (see bios below).

  • Technical Quality (30%)
  • Originality (30%)
  • Artistic Merit (40%)
THE WINNER OF THE PRINCETON HYDRO 2020 EARTH DAY PHOTO CONTEST IS…

“Welcome Home” – Although its a local and small impact, I intentionally leave dead wood in sunny places on my property. This ensures that I always have an Eastern Fence Lizard like this big female to greet me when I come home. Southern New Jersey. By Clay Emerson.

Scroll to the bottom to see a gallery of runner-up photos.

ABOUT THE JUDGES:
DANIELLE ODOM

Danielle is a Staff Scientist II at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University. Her career is dedicated to watershed monitoring research and her responsibilities include both field and laboratory work. She has specialized in studying biological indicators as a parameter to track stream health via macroinvertebrate taxonomy; in particular identifying members of the non-biting midge family Chironomidae. Once an experiential outdoor educator, she taught nature photography to middle school students as a pathway to understanding different perspectives and the impact of humans on the environment, a la Ansel Adams.

Lucy Aquilino

Lucy is a retired Parole officer and amateur photographer. A mom of 2, she loves taking nature photos and going on adventures with her kids.

Amanda Brooks

Amanda is a nature enthusiast who loves taking long walks in the woods with her camera and notepad. With her degree in Environmental Studies and English and her background in the arts, she is always looking for creative ways to capture the beauty of nature to inspire its protection. She currently resides in Burlington, Vermont and works as a tree-monger at Gardener’s Supply Company. You can check out more of her work on her Facebook page. 

Check out the photos from last year’s Earth Day photo contest here:

Our 2019 Earth Day Photo Contest Winner!

Volunteer Spotlight: Monitoring Baby Bird Boxes & Counting Shorebirds

We’re excited to put the spotlight on Princeton Hydro Environmental Scientist Emily Bjorhus and her admirable volunteer work.

As an Environmental Scientist, Emily Bjorhus works on a wide range of projects from flood risk management to wetland mitigation to stream restoration. She specializes in wetland and stream ecology and environmental permitting and compliance. Outside of the office, Emily is an active volunteer with Natural Lands and the Delaware Shorebird Project, working to protect natural resources, promote biodiversity, and protect important species. Emily also volunteers at Franklin Delano Roosevelt High School in Brooklyn, NY teaching Environmental Science students about wetlands. We’ve put together a snapshot of Emily’s volunteer activities:

Natural Lands – Force of Nature Volunteer

Natural Lands is a nonprofit organization that saves open space, cares for nature, and connects people to the outdoors in eastern Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey. Founded in the early 1950s, today nearly five million people live within five miles of lands under Natural Lands’ permanent protection.

As a Force of Nature volunteer with Natural Lands, Emily has been monitoring ~20 nest boxes located in meadow and forest edge habitat at Gwynedd Preserve since 2018. From April through mid-August, Emily and another volunteer visit the sites every 5-7 days to monitor the nest boxes for the types of species using the boxes, nest condition, nest materials, number of eggs laid, number of eggs that hatch, and number of chicks that fledge. Chickadees, wrens, blue birds, and tree swallows are the primary species that nest in the boxes Emily monitors.

When asked what she loves most about this volunteer work, Emily said, “I love watching how the birds build their nest week after week, seeing the eggs multiply and tracking the chicks’ growth. I even enjoy dodging dive-bombing tree swallows.”

Delaware Shorebird Project – Data Collection Volunteer

Delaware Shorebird Project is led by DNREC’s Division of Fish & Wildlife in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Delaware Museum of Natural History, British Trust for Ornithology and Wash Wader Ringing Group, with the help of experienced and dedicated volunteers like Emily.

The project monitors the health and status of migratory shorebird populations to collect data that can be applied to the conservation of these birds. The research has resulted in better understanding of the ecology of shorebirds migrating through Delaware Bay, management of the horseshoe crab harvest to sustain the shorebirds’ population, and protection of key shorebird habitat.

Emily participated in a 3-day shorebird monitoring initiative, which included counting the number of shorebirds on the beach, re-sighting birds previously marked with leg flags, participating in bird catches, and weighing and measuring birds from the catches. The data collected helps monitor trends in shorebird abundance, migratory routes, condition and other important biological data.

“It’s such a pleasure working with the amazing people that come from all over the world to run and participate in this ambitious study,” said Emily. “The data collected from this program will hopefully aid researchers and policy makers to develop strategies to better protect shorebird habitat in the future.”

Franklin Delano Roosevelt High School Environmental Studies – Guest Speaker

Ms. Hannah Goldstein and her Environmental Science students at Franklin Delano Roosevelt High School in Brooklyn, NY welcome Emily as a volunteer guest speaker to teach all about wetlands. The instruction also includes a hands-on session where students collect soil samples to determine if hydric soils are present and identify surrounding trees using a dichotomous key.

“Science is such an important subject matter for kids to be learning for a variety of reasons. Environmental science education in particular encourages thought patterns, which get kids engaged in real-world environmental protection activities,” said Emily. “I really enjoy working with Ms. Goldstein and her students. I hope my presentation inspires the students to learn more about wetlands and become ambassadors of wetland conservation.”

 

Emily earned her M.S. in Sustainable Engineering at Villanova University and holds a B.S. in Environmental Science from University of Colorado at Boulder. As an Environmental Scientist for Princeton Hydro, she coordinates, leads and assists with state environmental permitting programs and NEPA compliance and documentation, including preparation of Federal and state permit applications, Endangered Species Act 7 consultations, and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) environmental review processes. In addition, she conducts a variety of environmental field investigations such as wetland and waterbody delineations.

We’re so proud to have Emily on our team and truly value the work she does inside and outside the office.