Setting the Precedent: Blue Acres Floodplain Restoration in Linden

The City of Linden, located 13 miles southwest of Manhattan in Union County, New Jersey, is a highly urbanized area with a complex mix of residential, commercial, and industrial land uses. Originally settled as farmland on broad marshes, the City has deep roots in industrial production that emerged in the 19th century, and its easily accessible location on the Arthur Kill tidal straight helped fuel this industrial development.

Now, the City of Linden, which is home to more than 40,000 people, is considered a transportation hub: it has three major highways running through it (the New Jersey Turnpike, Route 1, and Route 27); its rail station provides critical commuter and industry access; the Linden Municipal Airport is a gateway to the NY/NJ metropolitan area; and its access point on the Arthur Kill is used by shipping traffic to the Port Authority of NY and NJ.

Unfortunately, the industrial boom left a legacy of pollution in the city, so much, that the Tremley Point Alliance submited an official Envionmental Justice Petition to the state. In 2005, the New Jersey Environmental Task Force selected the community for the development of an Environmental Justice Action Plan and listed it as one of six environmental justice communites in New Jersey.

As do many urban municipalities, Linden suffers severe flooding from heavy rains and storms. One of the significant sources of flood water threatening the City comes from stormwater runoff.

Like other communities in the Arthur Kill Watershed, Linden also suffers severe flooding from heavy rains and storms with one of the significant sources of flood water coming from stormwater runoff. Due to a high percentage of impervious cover from houses, roadways, and sidewalks, even small rain events generate a significant amount of stormwater runoff. Over time, these conditions have been exacerbated by the historic loss of coastal wetlands and outdated infrastructure. Nuisance flooding is especially problematic as runoff cannot drain from the area at a sufficient rate to prevent flooding during normal or elevated tidal conditions. Very simply, heavy rainfall is one factor contributing to recurring flooding.

In 2012, Hurricane Sandy caused wide-spread destruction throughout New Jersey and the entire eastern seaboard. The City of Linden was hard hit, and the City’s Tremley Point neighborhood was especially storm-ravaged. Tremley Point, a low-lying community of about 275 homes located at the headwaters of Marshes Creek and in the 100-year floodplain of the Rahway River, is regularly flooded during normal rain events. During Hurricane Sandy, local news outlets reported that a 15-foot tidal surge overtook Tremley Point homes, destroyed roads, and washed up hazardous material such as a 150-gallon diesel tank.

To help communities like Tremley Point recover, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) launched the Blue Acres program under which NJDEP purchases homes from willing sellers at pre-Sandy market values, so residents in areas of repetitive and catastrophic flooding can rebuild their lives outside flood-prone areas. Structures are demolished and the properties are permanently preserved as open space for recreation or conservation purposes. The program began in 1995 and expanded with federal funding after Sandy. The goal of the Blue Acres Program is to dramatically reduce the risk of future catastrophic flood damage and to help families to move out of harm’s way.

As part of the NJDEP Blue Acres Program, Princeton Hydro, in collaboration with the City of Linden, Rutgers University, NJDEP, Phillips 66, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, New Jersey Corporate Wetlands Restoration Partnership, and Enviroscapes, has undertaken one of the first ecological restoration projects within Blue Acres-acquired properties, which are located in the Tremley Point neighborhood. This project increases storm resiliency by reducing flooding and stormwater runoff by improving the ecological and floodplain function within the former residential properties acquired by the NJDEP Blue Acres Program.

The City of Linden Blue Acres restoration project increases storm resiliency by reducing flooding and stormwater runoff by improving the ecological and floodplain function within the former residential properties acquired by the NJDEP Blue Acres Program.

The project includes the development and implementation of an on-the-ground green infrastructure-focused floodplain enhancement design involving the restoration of native coastal floodplain forest and meadow, as well as floodplain wetlands. The restored area provides natural buffering to storm surge and enhances floodplain functions to capture, infiltrate, store, and slow excess stormwater to reduce the risk of future flood damage. In addition, it restores natural habitat and provides public recreation access on NJDEP Blue Acres property.

The design includes re-planting the parcels and the installation of a walking path through part of the area. It also includes the creation of a floodplain bench for the adjacent drainage ditch, an unnamed tributary to Marshes Creek. A floodplain bench is a low-lying area adjacent to a stream or river constructed to allow for regular flooding in these areas. Site improvements include grading of the floodplain bench and minor depressional area; 6-12-inches of tilling, soil amendment, and planting within the planting area; and construction of the gravel pathway.

The project will result in valuable environmental and community benefits to the area, including an annual reduction in stormwater runoff of 4.1 million gallons. This represents a 45% reduction in stormwater runoff. Restoration of the floodplain will also help reduce community vulnerability to storms. The hope is that this project will be a model that fosters more floodplain restoration projects in the future.

For more information on the Blue Acres Program, please visit the DEP website.

Regional Watershed Planning: A Critical Strategy to Prevent HABs

Photo by @likethedeaadsea, submitted during our 2019 #LAKESAPPRECIATION Instagram Photo Contest.

Harmful Algae Blooms (HABs) were in the spotlight last summer due to the severe impacts they had on lakes throughout the country. Nation-wide, HABs caused beach closures, restricted lake usage, and lead to wide-ranging health advisories. There were 39 confirmed harmful algal bloom (HAB) outbreaks in New Jersey alone.

As a reminder, HABs are rapid, large overgrowths of cyanobacteria. These microorganisms are a natural part of aquatic ecosystems, but, under the right conditions (primarily heavy rains, followed by hot, sunny days), these organisms can rapidly increase to form cyanobacteria blooms, also known as HABs. HABs can cause significant water quality issues; produce toxins that are incredibly harmful (even deadly) to humans, animals, and aquatic organisms; and negatively impact economic health, especially for communities dependent on the income of jobs and tourism generated through their local lakes.

“A property’s value near an infested lake can drop by up to $85,000, and waterside communities can lose millions of dollars in revenue from tourism, boating, fishing and other sectors,” reports Princeton Hydro President Geoff Goll, P.E.

Generally, the health of a private lake is funded and managed in isolation by the governing private lake association group. But, in order to mitigate HABs and protect the overall health of our local waterbodies, it’s important that we look beyond just the lake itself. Implementing regional/watershed-based planning is a critical step in preventing the spread of HABs and maintaining the overall health of our natural resources.

At the end of 2019, the Borough of Ringwood became the first municipality in New Jersey to take a regional approach to private lake management through a public-private partnership with four lake associations.

The Borough of Ringwood is situated in the heart of the New Jersey Highlands, is home to several public and private lakes, and provides drinking water to millions of New Jersey residents. In order to take an active role in the management of these natural resources, Ringwood hired Princeton Hydro, a leader in ecological and engineering consulting, to design a municipal-wide holistic watershed management plan that identifies and prioritizes watershed management techniques and measures that are best suited for immediate and long-term implementation.

Map showing the four private lakes involved in the Borough of Ringwood's regional holistic watershed management plan.

Funding for Ringwood’s Watershed-based Assessment is being provided by the New Jersey Highlands Council through a grant reimbursement to the Borough of Ringwood. The Highlands Council offers grant funding and assistance to support the development and implementation of a wide range of planning initiatives. Examples of the types of efforts that can be funded for municipalities and counties include:

  • Land Use and Development projects like sustainable economic development planning and green building and environmental sustainability planning;
  • Infrastructure projects like stormwater management and water use/conservation management;
  • Resource Management projects like habitat conservation, lake management and water quality monitoring; and
  • Recreation and Preservation projects like land preservation and stewardship, farmland preservation and agriculture retention, and historic preservation.

Chris Mikolajczyk, CLM, Princeton Hydro’s Aquatics Senior Project Manager and the Ringwood project’s lead designer, presented with Keri Green of the NJ Highlands Council, at a recent New Jersey Coalition of Lake Associations meeting. The duo showcased Ringwood’s unique approach, spread the word about available funding through the NJ Highlands Council, and encourage other municipalities to follow Ringwood’s lead in taking a regional approach to lake and watershed management.

Mikolajczyk said, “This regional approach to lake and watershed management is a no-brainer from a scientific, technical, and community point of view. Historically, however, municipal governments and private lake associations have rarely partnered to take such an approach. The hope is that the Borough of Ringwood efforts, funded by the New Jersey Highlands Council, will set a precedent for this logical watershed management strategy and open the door for future public-private partnerships.”

This integrated approach to watershed and lake management is an important preventative measure to improve water quality for millions of people and reduce potential future incidents of aquatic invasive species and harmful algal blooms throughout the region.

To learn more about NJ Highlands Council and available grant funding, go here.
To download a complete copy of the presentations given by Mikolajczyk and Green at the recent NJCOLA meeting, go here.
To learn more about Princeton Hydro’s pond, lake and watershed management services, go here.

 

Winter Events Spotlight: Webinars, Courses, & Conferences

Throughout the first quarter of 2020, Princeton Hydro is participating in a variety of events focused on conserving, restoring, and protecting our precious water resources. Here’s a snapshot of what’s to come:

January 21: American Sustainable Business Council Webinar

As part of ASBC’s “Clean Water is Good for Business” campaign, the organization is hosting this online training session for businesses to help elevate their voice on clean water issues. Titled “Making the Business Case on Clean Water Issues to the Media,” this webinar will help you find and approach the right journalists, make the most compelling arguments for your policy agenda, enhance your credibility and confidence, and much more! The webinar is lead by Bob Keener, Deputy Director of Public Relations at American Sustainable Business Council; Dana Patterson, Marketing & Communications Manager at Princeton Hydro; Rita Yelda, Outreach & Communications Manager at Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed; and Colton Fagundes, Policy Associate at American Sustainable Business Council.

Learn more & Register

 

January 28: NJDEP’s Harmful Algal Blooms Summit

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection is hosting a Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) Summit. The summit is part of Governor Phil Murphy and the NJDEP’s three-pronged, $13 million initiative to reduce and prevent future HABs in New Jersey. This is the first of two regional summits taking place in early 2020 with the goal of improving communication throughout lake communities and sharing information ahead of the warmer months when HABs begin to appear. The summit includes a presentation from Princeton Hydro’s Dr. Fred Lubnow who will discuss the prevention, management and treatment of HABs. 

Learn more about NJDEP’s HABs Initiative

 

January 29-30: 2020 Delaware Wetlands Conference

Wetland enthusiasts, experts and students from the Mid-Atlantic region will gather together in Wilmington, Delaware to attend the 9th biennial 2020 Delaware Wetlands Conference. Participants will share the latest in wetland research, innovations to outreach and education, and the progress of conservation programs. Senior Ecologist Michael Rehman of Princeton Hydro, a proud sponsor of the event, is giving a presentation on urban wetland restoration. Swing by our exhibitor booth to say hello!

Learn more & Register

 

JANUARY 2019 – MAY 2020: TEMPLE UNIVERSITY WETLAND ECOLOGY COURSE

Our Vice President Mark Gallagher and Founding Principal and Consultant Dr. Steve Souza are teaching an applied wetland ecology graduate course at Temple University. The 17-week Spring semester course, which includes weekly lectures as well as field trips, will provide students with an opportunity to study real-world examples of wetland and riparian restoration and the integration of wetland ecology and restoration design within the context of green infrastructure. Students will gain an increased understanding of the ecological functions of wetland and riparian ecosystems; be introduced to the principles of applied ecology as related to wetland and riparian ecosystem restoration; get hands-on experience with how to use green infrastructure techniques in urban and suburban settings to control and abate stormwater impacts; and learn about state and federal regulations.

LEARN MORE

 

JANUARY 2019 – MAY 2019: DELAWARE VALLEY UNIVERSITY WATERSHED MANAGEMENT COURSE

Dr. Fred Lubnow, Princeton Hydro’s Director of Aquatic Programs, is teaching a “Watershed Management” course at Delaware Valley University. The course provides participants with the skills needed to understand the concepts and terminology of hydrologic processes and watersheds, including evapotranspiration, soil water, infiltration, runoff, and stream flow. Through hands-on laboratory exercises and engaging lectures, students will also develop skills in environmental awareness, ecological awareness, and land stewardship, which will help them understand the key processes involved in managing watershed resources sustainably.

LEARN MORE

 

March 2: SAME Philadelphia Post Small Business Conference

Society for American Military Engineers (SAME) gives leaders from the A/E/C, environmental, and facility management industries the opportunity to come together with federal agencies in order to showcase best practices and highlight future opportunities for small businesses to work in the federal market. Princeton Hydro’s Chief Operating Officer and Director of Geosciences Engineering Kevin Yezdimer, P.E. and Marketing Coordinator Kelsey Mattison are excited to participate in and exhibit at this year’s SAME SBC Philadelphia Post Conference. The program consists of networking events, small business exhibits, a variety of speakers and much more.

LEARN MORE & REGISTER

 

March 4-5: Pennsylvania Lake Management Society (PALMS) Conference

PALMS is hosting its 30th annual conference during which lake professionals, students, recreation enthusiasts, lakeside residents and community members will join together to explore a variety of topics related to managing lakes and reservoirs. This year’s conference themed, “Reflecting on our Past While Looking to the Future,” offers a collection of professional presentations, workshops and panel discussions. Dr. Fred Lubnow and Michael Hartshorne of Princeton Hydro are both giving presentations on harmful algae blooms. View the full conference agenda here, and be sure to visit the Princeton Hydro exhibitor booth to chat about the latest advancements in pond, lake and watershed management.

Learn more & Register

 

March 20: 24th Annual NJ Land Conservation Rally

The New Jersey Conservation Foundation is hosting its 24th Annual NJ Land Conservation Rally, a one-day educational conference focused on conserving New Jersey’s open space and farmland. This year’s conference, which Princeton Hydro is a proud sponsor of, includes training workshops, roundtable discussions, exhibitors, and a variety of networking opportunities. Click here to view the full conference agenda, including presentor bios and presentation abstracts. We hope you’ll stop by the Princeton Hydro exhibitor booth to say hello!

Learn more & Register

 

March 22: Stroud Water Research Center’s Lecture Series Event

Stroud Water Research Center is dedicated to understanding the ecology of streams, rivers, and watersheds. Its freshwater research, environmental education, watershed restoration, and stewardship programs enable businesses, policymakers, landowners, and individuals to make informed decisions that affect water quality and availability around the world. As part of Stroud’s environmental education mission, it is hosting a lecture series. Princeton Hydro is excited to sponsor the “World Water Day: Research & Restoration with Stroud Microbiologist Dr. Jinjun Kan.” Stay tuned for more info on this lecture!

Learn more about Stroud

 

March 27: University of Pennsylvania’s 14th Annual Graduate Student Research Conference

Penn’s Master of Environmental Studies and Master of Science in Applied Geosciences programs will host the 14th Annual Graduate Student Research Conference. This event, a celebration of academic excellence for Penn’s professional master’s programs, will kick off with a keynote address from Kathy Klein, Executive Director of the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary.  40+ graduating students from the Masters of Environmental Studies and Master of Science in Applied Geoscience programs will present their research posters during the event. Participants will also have the opportunity to  network with local organizations and Penn collaborators, including Princeton Hydro.

Learn more & RSVP

 

STAY TUNED FOR MORE EVENT SPOTLIGHTS!

 

 

 

SAME NJ Post Honors Princeton Hydro’s Marketing Manager

Princeton Hydro’s Marketing and Communications Manager Dana Patterson was presented with the Society of American Military Engineers (SAME) New Jersey Post’s “Young Member Award” for her efforts in maintaining and advancing the objectives of the organization.

Marketing and Communications Manager Dana Patterson was presented with the Society of American Military Engineers (SAME) New Jersey Post's "Young Member Award" for her efforts in maintaining and advancing the objectives of the organization.The mission of SAME is to build leaders and lead collaboration among government and industry to develop multidisciplinary solutions to national security infrastructure challenges. Princeton Hydro joined SAME as a sustaining member in 2018, and actively supports the organization and its goals. Ms. Patterson has been active with the New Jersey Post since joining Princeton Hydro in October of 2018, and was elected into the SAME New Jersey Post Board of Directors Secretary position in Summer of 2019. In addition to her board role, she is an active member of the SAME NJ Post Small Business Council and assists with the organization’s social media marketing.

“I am honored and humbled to accept this award from the SAME New Jersey Post. It has been rewarding to collaborate with such a dedicated group of volunteers who share insights and ideas on business development, leadership, and federal opportunity tracking, while also empowering youth to participate in the STEM field,” said Ms. Patterson. “I look forward to inspiring more members of the NJ community to engage with our organization.”

The SAME NJ Post 2020 Award Ceremony is held each year to recognize members for their outstanding contributions to the Post and its community. The following volunteers were also recognized with awards:

Congratulations to all the award winners and many thanks to SAME NJ Post.

For more information about SAME NJ Post, go here. To learn more about the national SAME organization, go here.