Part Two: Damned If You Do, Dammed If You Don’t: Making Decisions and Resolving Conflicts on Dam Removal

Credit: FWRA.org

In this two part blog series piece we take a look at addressing and preventing potential conflicts and the key factors involved in dam removal decision-making – to remove or not to remove.

What to Do About Dams

Typically, the decision to remove a dam is made by varying entities, depending on the regulatory oversight of the dam. In most cases, the dam owner itself is the decision-maker, often deciding that the costs of continuing to operate and maintain the dam are more than removing the dam. State dam safety offices can sometimes order a dam to be removed or lowered if there are major safety concerns. State fish and wildlife offices and environmental organizations are also often involved in the decision-making, particularly when the goals of the project include restoration of habitat for migratory and resident aquatic species. If the dam in question is a hydropower facility, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission also has the power to order a hydropower dam under their jurisdiction to be removed for both environmental and safety reasons.

Laura Wildman, P.E., dam removal and river restoration expert and Director of Princeton Hydro’s New England Regional Office, says, “Identifying key barriers early on and understanding which of those barriers might have potential solutions versus remain an impediment, is critical to prioritizing limited ecological restoration resources.”

The careful formulation and communication of the benefits for dam removal specific to each project, adequate education of the public, and stakeholder involvement are incredibly important components to dam removal conflict resolution. As is an understanding that not all dams will or should be removed, and that the local community and stakeholders needs/concerns should be fully integrated into the decision-making process.

Key facets of stakeholder involvement, include:

  • Initial Stakeholder Discussions: Gather information and input from all stakeholders involved
  • Field Work & Initial Assessment: Know the project site inside and out, conduct an in-person inspection, and gather all of the initial data needed to have an informed discussion
  • Report Back with Results, without Judgement: Share the current state of the dam with stakeholders & regulators, without implying any solution or recommendation
  • Detailed Analysis, Feasibility & Alternatives Assessment: Collaboratively select alternative options, and include for a discussion of the alternative analysis process in the pre-application regulatory and stakeholder meetings
  • Formal Regulatory Review w/ Public Meetings: Present solution and/or submit engineering design and permit applications to regulators, and host public meetings to inform the community about the timeline and status.  Some public meetings are required as part of the regulatory process, however, it is important to keep the stakeholders involved in the process. So, additional meetings or presentations are recommend for true engagement.
  • Implementation: If the solution is to remove or repair the dam, continue to update the community about the status and timeline of construction. Local residents, elected officials, and nonprofit groups could be your best allies in keeping everyone informed.

It’s crucial to keep stakeholders and general public informed throughout the process via regular social media and traditional media outreach. Successful projects are based on a transparent process that integrates the local community.  It is the local community that then becomes the environmental stewards of the restored river system.

Celebrating the start of the Columbia Dam removal with the New Jersey Nature Conservancy, American Rivers, Princeton Hydro, USFWS, NJDEP, the local community, and other stakeholders.

 

Analyzing Dams for Removal

There are few “easy” dam removal decisions. Most dams have both positive and negative impacts. The challenge in making a sound decision about whether or not to remove a dam is to identify all of the costs and benefits of keeping (and eventually repairing or replacing) that particular structure, as well as the costs and benefits of removing it, and balance the findings to determine the best option. It is important to ensure that the full range of costs and benefits are identified.

Working through the many issues involved in deciding to keep or remove a dam can offer surprising conclusions that can lead to a reasoned approach – reducing subjectivity and increasing objectivity. The key issues typically investigated include:

  • Impounded sediment
  • Infrastructure/utility impacts
  • Current use (& economic value of dam)
  • Environmental concerns & benefits
  • Geomorphic equilibrium
  • Public health & safety
  • Flooding & hydrologic impacts
  • Aesthetic & sentimental value
  • Historic/archeological
  • Community concerns
  • Sensitive or invasive species
  • Water rights
  • Cost & funding availability

When making a final decision, it’s important to critically examine all factors to understand the influences on the decision. No matter the final outcome, at least it will be a well-informed process, and the information and understanding gained can help shape future decisions.

Although each dam removal project is unique, we developed a standard process that we follow:

While there is often no definitive answer to a question about whether a particular dam should be removed, there is a right and wrong way to go about making a dam removal decision. A good dam removal/retention decision is one that is based on an assessment of all the facts, collaboration with all stakeholders, and objective criteria.

Princeton Hydro has designed, permitted, and overseen the reconstruction, repair, and removal of dozens of dams throughout the Northeast.  To contact us and learn more about our fish passage and dam removal engineering services, visit: bit.ly/DamBarrier.

Revisit part-one of this blog series:

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*FREE DOWNLOADS* 2019 NJ Land Rally Presentations

The New Jersey Conservation Foundation held its 23rd Annual NJ Land Conservation Rally, a one-day educational conference focused on “Conservation Innovations in a Changing World.” The day included networking activities, workshops, and a keynote address given by the First Lady of New Jersey Tammy Snyder Murphy.

During the conference, Princeton Hydro, a proud sponsor of the event, lead three workshops on a variety of topics. Below, we provide a synopsis and free download of each presentation:

 

Fundraising & Marketing Strategy:
“Nonprofit Storytelling A-Z: How to Transform Passive Clickers into Action Takers”

Our Communication Strategist, Dana Patterson, along with Lindsay McNamara of the National Audubon Society lead a workshop that taught participants how to use values-driven and science-congruent narratives to reach key stakeholders and supporters in the New Jersey conservation community and beyond. Dana and Lindsay demonstrated how to implement humanistic storytelling strategies and translate technical stats and science findings into interesting, relatable stories that will resonate with and activate valuable target audiences.

Download the full presentation

 

Community Education & Outreach:
“Floating Classroom: Successful Citizen Science on New Jersey’s Largest Lake”

Chris Mikolajczyk, CLM, our Senior Aquatic Scientist, and Donna Macalle-Holly, Grant and Program Director for Lake Hopatcong Foundation, discussed how to start an innovative citizen science project in the community. For the presentation, they showcased a recently launched and highly successful citizen-science initiative: the “Floating Classroom.” Together, the Lake Hopatcong Foundation and Princeton Hydro conceptualized, funded, and launched a custom-built 40-foot education vessel that provides community members and students an interactive, hands-on education experience to explore Lake Hopatcong while learning about freshwater ecology. This initiative has helped to engage the community in stewardship while continuing to closely monitor the lake’s water quality.

Download the full presentation

 

Ecology & Stewardship:
“From Scum to Fish – A Journey Through the Aquatic Food Web and its Management”

Our Director of Aquatic Programs, Dr. Fred Lubnow, and our Senior Aquatic Ecologist, Dr. Jack Szczepanski, lead a workshop on the many facets that make-up a healthy freshwater ecosystem. They explored the various types of life that inhabit the aquatic environment: from algae and cyanobacteria to submerged aquatic vegetation and fish. And, they delved into each one’s place in the food web, how they interact with each other, their effects on the health of the water they live in, and management techniques to tackle water quality issues associated with each.

Download the full presentation

 

The NJ Land Conservation Rally conference also included presentations on topics ranging from environmental advocacy to land acquisition to urban conservation to non-profit organizational management. To view presentation hand-outs and learn more about the conference, go here.

Princeton Hydro is a proud supporter of the New Jersey Conservation Foundation, a private, nonprofit organization that relies on philanthropic support and grants from a variety of public and private organizations and individual donors. Through acquisition and stewardship, they protect strategic lands, promote strong land use policies, and forge partnerships through education and assistance programs. Since 1960, New Jersey Conservation Foundation has protected over 120,000 acres of natural areas and farmland in New Jersey – from the Highlands to the Pine Barrens to the Delaware Bay, from farms to forests to urban and suburban parks. For more information, or to become a member, go here.

NJ Highlands Coalition Honors Princeton Hydro Founding Principal with “Lifetime Achievement Award”

Julia M. Somers, New Jersey Highlands Coalition Executive Director, and Dr. Stephen Souza, recipient of the NJ Highlands Coalition's Lifetime Achievement Ward
Dr. Stephen Souza, Princeton Hydro Co-Founder, awarded by
New Jersey Highlands Coalition at 4th Annual Golf Outing on May 16

New Jersey Highlands Coalition honored Dr. Stephen Souza, a Founding Principal of Princeton Hydro, with a Lifetime Achievement Award during its 4th Annual Golf Outing held on May 16 at the Hawk Pointe Golf Club. The organization awarded Dr. Souza for his dedication to preserving and protecting New Jersey’s watersheds and natural resources, and the significant improvements he’s made to water quality throughout the state.

“Of all the hydrologists, limnologists, and environmental engineers practicing in New Jersey today, I venture to say none have had the positive impact on New Jersey’s lakes and rivers that Steve has,” said Julia M. Somers, New Jersey Highlands Coalition Executive Director, when presenting the Lifetime Achievement Award to Dr. Souza. “He has personally lifted the level of knowledge and expertise needed to successfully manage, mitigate, and protect our water resources to a much higher and better place than ever before, and we owe him a huge vote of gratitude and thanks. Steve always tells his clients the truth and is uncompromising in protecting the resource. It is a pleasure to present this award to Steve today.”

When accepting the award, Dr. Souza said, “I am truly humbled by this award, and extend my sincerest thanks to everyone here today. More important than coming out for a day of golf and relaxation, is that the funds raised today will help continue to support the Coalition’s efforts to protect the Highlands region’s fragile ecology and surface and groundwater resources.”

New Jersey Highlands Coalition‘s mission is to protect, restore, and enhance the water and other natural and cultural resources of the Highlands. The organization’s Annual Golf Outing brings together environmental advocates and organizations throughout New Jersey to discuss emerging issues, learn about the Highlands Coalition’s key focus areas for the year, network, and play golf!

Princeton Hydro, a proud sponsor of the Golf Outing, has worked directly over the years with the NJ Highlands Coalition, as well as for the NJ Highlands Council and many of the municipalities located within the Highlands, to preserve, protect, and enhance the region’s water, wetland, and woodland resources and sensitive biotic communities.

“We, at Princeton Hydro, are very proud of Steve and his accomplished career, which has been dedicated to enhancing and protecting water resources. The people and ecology of New Jersey are better off because of the direct impact of his work,” said Geoffrey Goll, PE, President of Princeton Hydro. “As a mentor, business partner, and, most important of all, a friend, I am grateful for his leadership over the years.”

Scott Churm and Dr. Stephen SouzaHawk Pointe Golf Club was chosen for this event because it’s a unique setting that incorporates the landscape of the Highlands into the course and uses some of the best-available technology to recycle water and manage its footprint. The 72-par golf course features 18 holes in a beautiful natural area surrounded by wetlands, dense woods, historical landmarks, and glimpses of wildlife.

The golf outing was a scramble format with a shotgun start. In addition to golfing, the event included visual media seminars and a photo contest.

To learn more about New Jersey Highlands Coalition, visit their website.

Princeton Hydro was formed in 1998 with the specific mission of providing integrated ecological and engineering consulting services. Offering expertise in natural resource management, water resources engineering, geotechnical design & investigation, and regulatory compliance, we provide a full suite of services throughout the Mid-Atlantic and New England states. Visit PrincetonHydro.com for more details.

 

June 5: Restoration Ecology Course at Rutgers University

Join us on Wednesday, June 5 for a One-Day Environmental Training Course

Rutgers Office of Continuing Professional Education is offering a one-day class that explores the utilization of mitigation and sustainable design techniques to reduce stormwater impacts and increase storm resiliency.

The course, designed for ecologists, engineers, planners, and landscape architects involved in the recovery of impacted river, lake, riparian, wetland, and coastal environments, draws heavily upon real-world examples of restoration ecology in practice. This interactive course focuses specifically on the multi-disciplined recovery of degraded, damaged, or impaired ecosystems.

Dr. Stephen Souza, a founding principal of Princeton Hydro and owner of Clean Waters Consulting, LLC, is the main instructor and course coordinator. The course curriculum includes lessons from Dr. Souza and a number of experts from the Princeton Hydro team, including:

  • “River Restoration – Large Scale Dam Removal” lead by President Geoffrey Goll, P.E.
  • “Restoration of Tidal Ecosystems – The Creation of the Bayonne Golf Club” lead by Vice President Mark Gallagher
  • “Green Infrastructure and Coastal Resiliency” lead by Senior Project Manager & Environmental Scientist Christiana Pollack, GISP, CFM
  • “Does Green Infrastructure Mitigate Flooding?” lead by Dr. Souza

Course instruction will also be provided by John Miller, P.E., CFM, CSM, FEMA Mitigation Liaison; Nathaniel Burns, Langan Engineering Project Landscape Architect; and Capt. Al Modjeski, American Littoral Society Habitat Restoration Program Director.

In addition to 0.7 Rutgers CEUs, the course also awards participants with professional credits, including:

  • Landscape Architecture Continuing Education System (LA CES): 7.25 hours
  • NY Landscape Architects: 10.5 hours CL; 10 hours EA
  • NJ Public Health Continuing Education Contact Hours: 7.5
  • NJ Licensed Water & Wastewater Operators: 7 TCHs
  • NJ Certified Public Works Managers (CPWM): 5 Technical, 2 Government
  • NJ Licensed Professional Engineers: 6 Continuing Professional Competency (CPC) credits
  • NY Professional Engineers: 7 hours
  • NJ Licensed Site Remediation Professionals (LSRP): 6.5 Technical CEC’s

The course will be held on Wednesday, June 5 2019 from 8:30AM to 5:00PM at the Rutgers Continuing Education Center at the Atrium in Somerset, NJ. Register on or before May 22 to take advantage of a discounted early registration fee. Pre-registration is required. Continental breakfast and buffet lunch are provided at no additional cost.

Princeton Hydro is proud to partner with Rutgers Office of Continuing Professional Education and take part in this valuable continuing professional education course. We hope to see you there!

 

Recycled Christmas Trees Used to Restore Disappearing NJ Shoreline

INNOVATIVE COASTAL RESILIENCY DESIGN USING RECYCLED CHRISTMAS TREES IMPLEMENTED BY VOLUNTEERS ALONG DISAPPEARING POINT PLEASANT SHORELINE

To prevent further erosion at the Slade Dale Sanctuary in Point Pleasant, dozens of volunteers helped stabilize the shoreline using a technique that has never been done before in New Jersey.  On Saturday, American Littoral Society, in partnership with Princeton Hydro, Borough of Point Pleasant, New Jersey Nature Conservancy, New Jersey Corporate Wetlands Restoration Partnership, and the Point Pleasant Rotary Club, organized dozens of volunteers to restore the shoreline and prevent further erosion at the Slade Dale Sanctuary using recycled Christmas trees.

As one of only a few areas of open space left in Point Pleasant, the 13-acre Slade Dale Sanctuary is an important part of the local ecosystem, and is home to a number of unique animals and plants. This waterfront preserve along the North Branch Beaver Dam Creek is predominantly tidal marsh, which provides habitat for various birds, including osprey, as well as passive recreation opportunities for the community.

Unfortunately, the Slade Dale Sanctuary is disappearing. Since 1930, the shoreline of Slade Dale Sanctuary has retreated approximately 300 feet, equal to the length of a football field, and the channels into the marsh have increased in number and size, according to a study we conducted on behalf of American Littoral Society, for which we provide engineering and natural resources management consulting services.

In order to stabilize the shoreline, restore the marsh, and enhance the ecological function and integrity of the preserve, Princeton Hydro developed a conceptual and engineering design using living shoreline features to enhance ecological value and reduce erosion. The final conceptual plan for restoration uses tree vane structures to attenuate wave action, foster sediment accretion, and reduce erosion along the coast.

To implement this vision and begin building back marsh, the project team is constructing several Christmas tree breakwaters and Christmas tree vanes that mimic naturally occurring debris structures in tidal systems and enhance habitat opportunity and shelter for aquatic life. Volunteers came together on Saturday, May 11 to help with the construction. The Mayor of Point Pleasant Robert A. Sabosik also attended the event, “The Barnegat Bay is an attribute that we all enjoy, and it’s something we have to protect.”

After the 2018 holiday season, the Good Sheppard Lutheran Church in Point Pleasant provided space to collect and store donated Christmas trees, which were then moved to the marsh a few days before the event. On the day of the event, recycled Christmas trees were transported from their staged locations on the marsh to the breakwater sections that were previously installed in the water. To transport them across the water to the pilings, volunteers used two methods: by walking a skiff boat loaded with trees through the water to the pilings or by forming assembly line from the shore to pilings to guide floating trees through the water (check out the album below!).  Then, they stuffed the Christmas trees between the pilings, securely tied them down, and staked Christmas trees directly into the creek bottom. For extra assurance, the placed and tied heavy bags of used oyster shells on top of the tree line. Oyster shells were donated by local Monmouth County restaurants in an effort to reduce waste streams.

“We really enjoyed participating in this event with American Littoral Society and so many wonderful volunteers,” Christiana L. Pollack, GISP, CFM, Princeton Hydro’s Project Manager for this restoration effort. “It is so wonderful to see this project coming to fruition. We’re so proud of our partnership with American Littoral Society and our combined efforts to revitalize and rehabilitate our precious coastal habitats.”

Members of the media were invited to attend the volunteer event. News 12 New Jersey covered the event and aired a story on it during their Sunday news broadcast, and NJTV News will be airing the story in the near future.

Many thanks to everyone who came out in support of this important restoration effort at Slade Dale Sanctuary American Littoral Society hosts volunteer events throughout the year. Go here to get involved.