Client Spotlight: Musconetcong Watershed Association

In this photo, Princeton Hydro team member gathers data on the Hughesville Dam removal, using GPS to check the elevation of the constructed riffle on the beautiful Musconetcong River.

Welcome to the latest edition of our Client Spotlight Blog Series! Each spotlight provides an inside look at our collaboration, teamwork, and accomplishments with a specific client. We value our client relationships and pride ourselves on forming strong ties with organizations that share our values of creating a better future for people and our planet.

Meet the Musconetcong Watershed Association

The Musconetcong Watershed Association (MWA) is an independent, non-profit organization dedicated to protecting and improving the quality of the Musconetcong River and its watershed, including its natural and cultural resources. Members of the organization are part of a network of individuals, families, and companies that care about the Musconetcong River and its watershed, and are dedicated to improving the watershed resources through public education and awareness programs, river water quality monitoring, promotion of sustainable land management practices, and community involvement.

Princeton Hydro has been working with MWA in the areas of river restoration, dam removal, and engineering consulting since 2003. To develop this Client Spotlight, we collaborated with MWA’s Executive Director Cindy Joerger and Communications Coordinator Karen Doerfer:

Q: What makes MWA unique?

A: As a watershed association, we focus on a specific place. This includes the Musconetcong River, a National Wild and Scenic River, as well as the area’s cultural, historical, recreational, and natural resources. We take a watershed focus, seeking to monitor the river and upstream areas to ensure it maintains good water quality.

Q: What does MWA value?

A: MWA values community. Our membership is mostly grassroots, including residents, riverfront landowners, farmers, and local businesses. We value the long-term community of people who have helped form the organization, improve the river, and protect the scenic and historic resources that make our watershed unique.

Q: How long has MWA been working with Princeton Hydro?

Dam removal project partners and community members pose with Sally Jewell at the Hughesville Dam removal event on Sept. 8, 2016. Photo Credit: USFWS.

Project partners pose with Sally Jewell at the Hughesville Dam removal event in 2016. Photo Credit: USFWS.

A: Princeton Hydro has helped MWA with dam removal projects since the very first one, the Gruendyke Mill Dam, which was an obsolete dam on the border of Hackettstown and Mount Olive. Since then, Princeton Hydro has helped with four other dam removal projects and is currently assisting in the removal and restoration of the Beatty’s Mill Dam in Hackettstown, providing engineering plans and project management support.

The dam removals in the lower Musconetcong River have created a free-flowing passage to the Delaware River, and the removal of the Hughesville Dam welcomed the return of American shad less than a year after its removal.

Q: What types of services have Princeton Hydro provided to your organization?

A: Princeton Hydro has provided MWA with dam removal services on the Musconetcong River, most notably, the removal of Hughesville Dam, which brought Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell, out for its notching. Princeton Hydro has also helped us with the engineering and design for the Musconetcong Island Park Project, which involves the demolition of a building in a Historic District and the replacement of new, safer stairs.

We value Princeton Hydro’s expertise in environmental permitting, hydrology, and fisheries, as we have utilized this expertise to review development proposals and conduct fish surveys.

Q: Do you have a favorite or most memorable project we’ve worked on together?

A: The Hughesville Dam removal saw many successes and a few challenges we had to overcome as a team. After the initial removal and restoration, we worked together on another streambank restoration project to further stabilize the streambank near the dam removal site. This dam removal restored over 5 miles of free-flowing river to the Delaware River and will help lay the groundwork for the Warren Glen Dam removal, which is the largest dam on the Musconetcong River.

Hughesville Dam Removal on the Musconetcong River

Bringing fish back to native spawning grounds always makes us feel good! After Superstorm Sandy, millions of dollars were spent to remove dams from coastal waters and since then, species like American Shad, Eastern Brook Trout, and River Herring are making a comeback in our fresh water bodies. We had the pleasure of working on two of the projects mentioned: the removal of the Hughesville Dam on the Musconetcong River (video below) and Wreck Pond in Spring Lake, NJ. Full story: http://bit.ly/2SFtaEb

Posted by Princeton Hydro on Monday, December 10, 2018

 

Q: What are some exciting things your organization is working on right now?

Photo from Princeton Hydro led volunteer clean-up effort on the Musconetcong River in 2018. The team picked-up garbage along the road and riverbank, and pulled trash from the riverbed.

Photo from a Princeton Hydro-led volunteer cleanup effort on the Musconetcong River in 2018.

A: MWA is still working to restore the Asbury Mill, which we plan to use as an educational and eco-tourism hub for the community, as well as a much-needed office space for our growing staff.

We’ve also received some exciting new grants that will help us continue to involve the community in efforts to protect and improve water quality. Our “Push Back the Lawn” campaign will allow us to reach out to small landowners and educate them on the importance of riparian buffers.

This year has also brought some challenges for our organization, but we are excited to be picking up our River Cleanup again this fall. Normally, we conduct a watershed-wide cleanup in April, but due to COVID-19, we had to push it back. However, families and small groups are glad to be able to get out and give back by picking up trash that has collected with increasing staycations and small trips.

Q: What drives you to want to go to work every day?

A: Working for such a small organization, it is easier and more gratifying to see the impact it’s making. Our staff gets to see a lot of projects from start to finish, so it’s rewarding to be able to have your stamp on something you watched grow from its inception to conclusion.

Q: How can Princeton Hydro support you/your organization in the future?

A: In the upper watershed, we are hoping that Princeton Hydro, in concert with others, can continue to help guide improvements to the water quality of Lake Hopatcong. The lake acts as our headwaters and is the largest in New Jersey. Last year, it suffered a serious issue with Harmful Algal Blooms.

We are also looking forward to the Beatty’s Mill Dam removal project, where we will remove a remnant dam and reduce streambank erosion. We hope this will roll into another similar project at Newburgh, which should improve water quality and fish habitat and decrease flooding severity in the Hackettstown area.

Delaware River Watershed Forum participants tour dam removal sites along the Musconetcong River.

Delaware River Watershed Forum participants tour dam removal sites along the Musconetcong River in 2019.

Click below to read the previous edition of our Client Spotlight blog series, which features the Lake Hopatcong Foundation:

Client Spotlight: Lake Hopatcong Foundation

The Ecogeomorphic Evolution of Louisana’s Wax Lake Delta

By Brittany Smith, Environmental Scientist at Princeton Hydro 

As a graduate student in the geology program at the University of Texas at Austin, I worked on a study that used remote sensing to explore links between coastal geomorphology and ecology at the Wax Lake Delta in Louisiana. In this blog, I provide a snapshot of my research, which was recently published in the journal Remote Sensing.

 

What is the Wax Lake Delta?

The Wax Lake Delta is a small, young river delta in Louisiana that began growing in the 1940s after the construction of the Wax Lake Outlet. In 1941 the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dug the Wax Lake Outlet from the Atchafalaya River – it extended out to the coastline and was designed to reduce the severity of floods in nearby Morgan City.

Image by NASA/Jesse Allen: While the Mississippi River Delta has been washing into the Gulf of Mexico and receding just to the west the Wax Lake and Atchafalaya River deltas (pictured above) are growing. Satellite imagery shows how the deltas have grown between 1984 (left) and 2014 (right).

This outlet provided a constant flow of water to be diverted from the river before reaching the banks of Morgan City, which had experienced several devastating floods. Approximately 40 percent of the Atchafalaya’s discharge gets channeled through the Wax Lake Outlet, which has the capacity to carry a maximum of 440,000 cubic feet per second.

Following the creation of the Wax Lake Outlet, the turbulent flow of water began to carry sediment down the outlet, which deposited at the mouth of the outlet and, over time, caused an underwater delta to grow. In just over 40 years, the Wax Lake Delta grew from nothing to an area twice the size of Manhattan. Research shows that it receives 34 million tons of sediment per year. Today, it spans roughly 7 miles out into the Gulf of Mexico and provides valuable habitat for a variety of animals.

 

The Why Behind the Research

Many coastal areas have been retreating or drowning as a result of subsidence and decreased sediment availability due to upstream dams and levees. According to the Population Reference Bureau, “Today, approximately 3 billion people — about half of the world’s population — live within 200 kilometers of a coastline. By 2025, that figure is likely to double.”

This population is increasingly vulnerable to flooding and erosion due to sea level rise and storms, especially in coastal Louisiana, where land loss is prevalent due to subsidence and decreased sediment supply.

The Wax Lake Delta is one of the few places in coastal Louisiana that is building rather than losing land, so is seen as an example of processes that could be applied elsewhere on the Gulf Coast to mitigate subsidence and restore coastal wetlands. Additionally, it is an ideal study site because it is relatively small, young enough that it has a good historic record, and has been largely unaltered by human activities.

This image depicts the study area: (a) The Wax Lake Delta (WLD, red square) is located at the terminus of the Wax Lake Outlet (blue line), which diverts water from the Atchafalaya River (purple line) in the U.S. state of Louisiana. The Atchafalaya is a distributary channel for the Mississippi (green line) and Red (red line) Rivers. (b) Image of WLD from 28-Sep-2010 by Landsat [88], for water level y = 0.35 m (NAVD88) at Camp Island gage (yellow dot) [93]. (c) Image of WLD from 24-Apr-2011 by Landsat [88], for water level y = 0.67 m (NAVD88) at Camp Island gage. WLD Pintail Island test case area outlined in white.

 

The Research in a Nutshell

Elevation is a very important variable in coastal ecosystems, as it controls how frequently a site is flooded. This in turn controls how frequently sediment can be delivered or removed from the site, and also what type of vegetation will grow there.

To understand how the Wax Lake Delta is growing, it would be ideal to have an understanding of how the topography has changed over time. Unfortunately, very little elevation data was available for the Wax Lake Delta, so I had to develop an indirect way of getting this information.

Photo Credit: Field and StreamWhat I did have available was a significant amount of Landsat satellite imagery. This was useful to me for two reasons: the delta is extremely flat and low-lying (less than 3 feet above sea level), and the tidal cycle typically fluctuates between 0-3 feet above mean sea level. This means that since each satellite image is taken at a different water level, different parts of the delta are exposed above the water in each picture. Taken together as a group over time, we can start to get a sense of which areas are higher and more likely to be exposed, and which areas are more likely to be flooded, and therefore at a lower elevation.

To do this in a quantitative way, I took all the images taken over a three year period and converted them to binary images, where land was classified as 1, and water classified as 0. I then added the images together, to create a composite image where pixels with higher values corresponded to areas that were exposed more frequently, and pixels with lower values were more frequently flooded.

Using water level data from a USGS gauge station that was installed at the delta in late 2008, I was able to develop a probability distribution of water levels. Taking these together – a probability map of flooding frequency and a probability distribution of water level elevations – I was able to create topographic maps based on the Landsat satellite imagery.

By performing this method over a number of years, patterns emerge about how the delta is evolving over time. The island changes from a relatively amorphous, unorganized shape to a defined outer levee and inner island platform.

Photo Credit: The National Wildlife FederationA deeper knowledge of the delta topography, allows us to look at connections to the delta ecology. We know that elevation controls hydrology and therefore plant growth, but we have also seen situations where plants can in-turn affect elevation by contributing organic matter to the soil, preventing erosion due to the root mat, or trapping sediment with their stems when sediment-laden water flows through.

In the case of salt marshes, previous studies have shown that if there is a feedback between the two, it occurs because a) plants tend to be most productive at a specific elevation and b) plants are in some way contributing to sediment accumulation relative to their productivity.

Photo Credit: USGSFor example, if a plant grows best at an elevation of two feet, it grows really densely at two feet, contributes more organic matter to the soil, bigger roots grow that help increase cohesion and reduce erosion, and the stems are denser and trap more sediment when the area is flooded. These all help increase the elevation of the marsh over time. However, if the elevation starts to get too high, the plant grows less densely, contributes less to the marsh surface, and the elevation will drop back down until the plant is happy again. Over time, the surface of the marsh will start to organize around these ideal elevations, creating a terraced effect with platforms corresponding to different plant types that do particularly well at that elevation.

When we look at how a transect down the center of the delta island has changed over time, we see that it goes from a relatively smooth, straight line, to a stepped system comparable to the models from other studies. When we compare the elevations of these platforms to the vegetation communities at the delta, we find that they correspond positively to high-marsh and low-marsh plants. This suggests that there is feedback occurring between plants and sediment accumulation at the delta.

 

In Conclusion

This research a) developed a new approach for investigating changes in coastal topography using satellite imagery, and b) confirmed that there is likely to be feedbacks between sediment deposition, marsh elevation, and vegetation growth. These feedbacks should be considered in any coastal wetland restoration and land building efforts.

 

Brittany Smith is an Environmental Scientist with an extensive background in hydrology and ecology. At Princeton Hydro, she has been involved in a wide variety of projects including stream assessments, wetland water budget modeling, soil field assessments, GIS analysis, permitting, and aquatic ecology. She holds a Master of Science in Geology with an emphasis in hydrology and geomorphology from the University of Texas at Austin, and a Bachelor of Science in Plant Biology from the University of California at Davis. Brittany has strong skills in data analysis and management, as well as experience in a broad range of field and laboratory techniques.

 

Using an Ancient Technology in a New Way: Preventing Algal Growth with Biochar

Photo by: Colleen Lyons of the Lake Hopatcong Commission

Photo by: Colleen Lyons of the Lake Hopatcong Commission

The use of biochar, a pure carbon, charcoal-like substance made from organic material, to enhance soil fertility is thought to have originated over 2,000 years ago in the Brazilian Amazon. Archeological studies indicate populations of native Amazonians used biochar to amend nutrient-poor soils to increase agricultural productivity.

Biochar is generally produced through a process called pyrolysis. Pyrolysis is the decomposition of organic matter brought about by high temperatures (typically 800°F) in an environment with limited oxygen. The word pyrolysis is coined from the Greek-derived elements pyro “fire” and lysis “separating.”

Recently, biochar has received tremendous attention and its usage has moved beyond traditional agricultural and landscaping soil amendment applications. It is being championed as a useful technique for soil restoration, carbon sequestration, and – the one we’re most excited about – water quality management.

Photo by: Colleen Lyons of the Lake Hopatcong Commission

Photo by: Colleen Lyons of the Lake Hopatcong Commission

That’s right! Biochar has been shown to improve water quality by removing dissolved phosphorus from fresh waterbodies limiting algal growth and reducing the likelihood of harmful algae blooms (HABs).

Biochar can be placed in floatation balls, cages, or sacks, which are then tethered along the shoreline and in critical locations throughout the waterbody, like where an inlet enters a lake.

The benefits of biochar far outweigh the relatively low-cost investment. In addition to phosphorus removal and algal growth prevention, once the biochar’s capacity to absorb phosphorus has been exhausted, it can be re-purposed as compost for soil enrichment.

Photo by: Colleen Lyons of the Lake Hopatcong Commission

Photo by: Colleen Lyons of the Lake Hopatcong Commission

Princeton Hydro recently installed biochar flotation bags in various locations throughout Lake Hopatcong, including the Lake Winona outlet, the Lake Forest Yacht Club inlet, Lakeside Avenue and Holiday Avenue inlet in Hopatcong, and the Edith Decker School outlet in Mount Arlington.

The biochar bag installation, which was funded by the NJDEP Freshwater HABs Prevention & Management Grant provided to the Lake Hopatcong Commission (LHC) and its project partner the Lake Hopatcong Foundation (LHF), is one part of a multi-pronged lake management plan that aims to prevent the development of HABs and protect the overall water quality of Lake Hopatcong. Last summer, Lake Hopatcong – along with freshwater lakes throughout the country – was hit hard by a HAB outbreak that caused beach closures, health advisories, and water quality degradation.

Princeton Hyrdo has been working with the LHC, LHF, Morris & Sussex Countys, and local municipalities to implement a number of lake management strategies, including the recent dispersal of Phoslock, a different type of HAB-battling material, in Landing Cove, which was the largest application of Phoslock ever completed in the Northeast. Read more about it in our recent blog:

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

The team also installed Floating Wetland Islands, which use a mix of microbes and native plants to remove excess algae-causing nutrients from the water, in different areas of Lake Hopatcong.

Over the coming weeks, our team is installing more biochar bags in Roxbury, NJ at Duck Pond and in Mount Arlington, NJ at Memorial Pond. Stay tuned for more info! To learn more about our water quality management services, 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.

 

Bloomfield: Restoration Efforts Transforming Industrial Site Into Thriving Public Park

A densely developed, flood-prone, former industrial site in Bloomfield, New Jersey is being transformed into a thriving public park and 4.2 acres of wetlands. This is thanks to the Third River Floodplain Wetland Enhancement Project, which broke ground in March of 2019. The project will restore valuable ecological functions and natural floodplain connection, enhance aquatic and wildlife habitat, and increase flood storage capacity for urban stormwater runoff.

The project team has already made tremendous progress at the site, which is located along the Third River and Spring Brook, two freshwater tributaries of the Passaic River. Princeton Hydro is serving as the ecological engineer to Bloomfield Township; our scientists and engineers have assisted in obtaining grants, collected background ecological data through field sampling and surveying, created a water budget, completed all necessary permitting, designed both the conceptual and final restoration plans, and continues to conduct construction oversight during the implementation of this important urban wetland creation project.

The project team recently utilized a drone to document the significant progress being made:

 

View of the construction progress with the proposed wetland to the upper half of the photo. Photo provided by Creamer Environmental.

View of the construction progress with the proposed wetland to the upper half of the photo. Photo provided by Creamer Environmental.

Close-up view of the wetland construction progress. Note the hummocks and hollows created with the wetland soil as well as the habitat features constructed of trees and natural rock uncovered during the excavation process. Photo provided by Creamer Environmental.

Close-up view of the wetland construction progress. Note: the hummocks and hollows created with the wetland soil as well as the habitat features constructed of trees and natural rock uncovered during the excavation process. Photo provided by Creamer Environmental.

Nearly complete grading of the proposed wetland. Note the hummocks and hollows created with the wetland soil. Photo provided by Creamer Environmental.

Nearly complete grading of the proposed wetland. Note: the hummocks and hollows created with the wetland soil. Photo provided by Creamer Environmental.

Over 500 trees and shrubs have been planted in the new wetland with additional trees and shrubs planted along Lion Gate Drive and in existing woodlands. The selected native plant species all provide important wildlife value, including providing food and shelter for migratory birds. Enviroscapes was contracted to install all of the trees and wetland plants at this site and has nearly finished planting efforts:

Removing invasive species and replacing them with native plants, shrubs and trees sets the stage for a flourishing native plant community year after year.

Removing invasive species and replacing them with native plants, shrubs and trees, sets the stage for a flourishing wetland habitat.

The project is progressing quickly as the weather warms. Nearly all of the plantings have been installed and seeding is happening in the next two weeks.

This green infrastructure project will re-establish the natural floodplain wetland and riparian plant communities.

This green infrastructure project will re-establish the natural floodplain wetland and riparian plant communities.

We’re excited to see what the restoration will look like when it’s all finished. Check out additional photos below and stay tuned for project updates!

To learn more, check out the full story below:

Urban Wetland Restoration to Yield Flood Protection for Bloomfield Residents

Understanding and Addressing Invasive Species

Photo from: New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, water chestnut bed at Beacon

Spring is officially here! Tulips will soon be emerging from the ground, buds blossoming on trees and, unfortunately, invasive plant species will begin their annual growing cycle. No type of habitat or region of the globe is immune to the threat of invasive species (“invasives”). Invasives create major impacts on ecosystems throughout the world, and freshwater ecosystems and estuaries are especially vulnerable because the establishment of such species in these habitats is difficult to contain and reverse.

This blog provides an introduction to invasive aquatic species, including information that will help you prevent the spread of invasives in the waterways of your community.

Defining Invasive Species

Invasive species can be defined as non-native occurring in an ecosystem that is outside its actual natural or native distributional range. Although the colonization of an ecosystem by non-native species can occur naturally, it is more often a function of human intervention, both deliberate and accidental. For aquatic ecosystems some species have become established as a result of the aquarium trade, fish culture practices and/or transport of plants and animals in the bilge and ballast water of trans-oceanic shipping vessels.

One of the primary reasons invasives are able to thrive, spread rapidly, and outcompete native species is that the environmental checks and predators that control these species in their natural settings are lacking in the ecosystems and habitat in which they become introduced. The subsequent damages they cause occur on many ecological levels including competition for food or habitat (feeding, refuge and/or spawning), direct predation and consumption of native species, introduction of disease or parasites, and other forms of disruption that lead to the replacement of the native species with the invasive species. As a result, invasives very often cause serious harm to the environment, the economy, and even human health. A prominent example is the Emerald Ash Borer, a non-native, invasive beetle that is responsible for the widespread death of ash trees.

As noted above, there are a large number of aquatic invasive species. Some of the more commonly occurring non-native aquatic plant species that impact East Coast lakes, ponds and reservoirs include:

Understanding How Invasives Spread

Either intentionally or unintentionally, people have helped spread invasives around the globe. This is not a recent phenomenon but rather something that has been occurring for centuries. “Intentional introductions,” the deliberate transfer of nuisance species into a new environment, can involve a person pouring their home aquarium into a lake or deliberate actions intended to improve the conditions for various human activities, for example, in agriculture, or to achieve aesthetics not naturally available.

Photo by: Tom Britt/CC Flickr, zebra Mussels adhered to a boat propeller“Unintentional introductions” involve the accidental transfer of invasives, which can happen in many ways, including aquatic species attached to the hull of boats or contained in bilge and ballast water. A high-profile example is the introduction of zebra mussels to North America. Native to Central Asia and parts of Europe, zebra mussels accidentally arrived in the Great Lakes and Hudson River via cargo ships traveling between the regions. The occurrence, density, and distribution of Zebra mussels occurred at an alarming rate, with the species spreading to 20 states in the United States and to Ontario and Quebec in Canada. Due to their reproductive fecundity and filter-feeding ability, they are considered the most devastating aquatic invasive species to invade North American fresh waters. They alter and diminish the plankton communities of the lakes that they colonize leading to a number of cascading trophic impacts that have especially negative consequences on fisheries. Zebra mussel infestations have also been linked to increased cyanobacteria (bluegreen algae) blooms and the occurrence of harmful algae blooms (HABs) that impact drinking water quality, recreational use, and the health of humans, pets, and livestock.

Additionally, higher than average temperatures and changes in rain and snow patterns caused by climate change further enable some invasive plant species to move into new areas. This is exemplified by the increased northly spread of hydrilla (Hydrilla verticillate), a tropical invasive plant species that has migrated since its introduction in Florida in the 1950s to lakes, rivers, and reservoirs throughout the U.S.

Regardless of how any of these invasive species first became established, the thousands of terrestrial and aquatic invasive species introduced into the U.S. have caused major ecological, recreational and economic impacts.

Measuring the Impacts of Invasives

After habitat loss, invasive, non-native species are the second largest threat to biodiversity. According to The Nature Conservancy, “Invasive species have contributed directly to the decline of 42% of the threatened and endangered species in the United States. The annual cost to the nation’s economy is estimated at $120 billion a year, with over 100 million acres (an area roughly the size of California) suffering from invasive plant infestations. Invasive species are a global problem — with the annual cost of impacts and control efforts equaling 5% of the world’s economy.”

Of the $120 billion, about $100 million per year is spent on aquatic invasive plant control to address such deleterious issues as:

  • Human health (West Nile Virus, Zika Virus)
  • Water quality impacts (Canada geese)
  • Potable water supplies (Zebra mussel)
  • Commercial fisheries (Snake head, lamprey, Eurasian ruffe, round goby)
  • Recreational activities (Eurasian watermilfoil, water chestnut, hydrilla)
  • Biodiversity (Purple loosestrife, common reed, Japanese knotweed)

Invasive species can change the food web in an ecosystem by destroying or replacing native food sources. As the National Wildlife Federation explains, “The invasive species may provide little to no food value for native wildlife. Invasive species can also alter the abundance or diversity of species that are important habitat for native wildlife. Additionally, some invasive species are capable of changing the conditions in an ecosystem, such as changing soil chemistry…”

Addressing Invasives

Our native biodiversity is an irreplaceable and valuable treasure. Through a combination of prevention, early detection, eradication, restoration, research and outreach, we can help protect our native heritage from damage by invasive species.

What Can We Do?

  • Reduce the spread
  • Routinely monitor
  • Document and report
  • Spread the word

Reducing the Spread:
The best way to fight invasive species is to prevent them from occurring in the first place. There are a variety of simple things each of us can do to help stop the introduction and spread of invasives.

  • Plant native plants on your property and remove any invasive plants. Before you plant anything, verify with your local nursery and check out this online resource for help in identifying invasive plants.
  • Thoroughly wash your gear and watercraft before and after your trip. Invasives come in many forms – plants, fungi and animals – and even those of microscopic size can cause major damage.
  • Don’t release aquarium fish and plants, live bait or other exotic animals into the wild. If you plan to own an exotic pet, do your research to make sure you can commit to looking after it. Look into alternatives to live bait.

Monitoring:
The Lake Hopatcong Foundation Water Chestnut prevention brochureInvasive plant monitoring is one of the most valuable site­-level activities people can support. Contact your local watershed organizations to inquire about watershed monitoring volunteer opportunities. For example, the Lake Hopatcong “Water Scouts” program was established to seek out and remove any instances of the invasive water chestnut species.

If you are a lake or watershed manager, the best way to begin an invasive plant monitoring project is with an expert invasive plant survey to determine which invasives are most likely to be problematic in your watershed and identify the watershed’s most vulnerable areas. Contact us to learn more.

 

Documenting and Reporting:
It’s important to learn to identify invasive species in your area and report any sightings to your county extension agent or local land manager. For example, in New Jersey there is the Invasive Species Strike Team that tracks the spread of terrestrial and aquatic invasives and works with local communities in the management of these species. Additionally, consider developing a stewardship plan for your community to help preserve its natural resources. Princeton Hydro’s team of natural resource scientists can help you get the ball rolling by preparing stewardship plans focused on controlling invasive species and protecting the long-term health of open spaces, forests habitats, wetlands, and water-quality in your community.

Spreading the word:
Many people still don’t understand the serious implications of invasive species. Education is a crucial step in stopping the spread of invasives, which is why it’s so important to talk with your neighbors, friends and family about the hazards and ecological/economic impacts of invasive species.

Also consider talking with your community lake or watershed manager about hosting an educational workshop where experts can share their knowledge about invasives specific to your area and how best to address them. Princeton Hydro’s Director of Aquatic Programs Dr. Fred Lubnow recently gave a presentation to the Lake Hopatcong Foundation titled, “Invasive Species in Watershed Management.” View it here.

 

We encourage you to share this article and spread your invasive species knowledge so that together we can help stop the introduction and spread of invasive species.

Ecological Uplift in an Urban Setting

The City of Elizabeth, the fourth most populous in New Jersey, is not exactly the first place that comes to mind when envisioning a wild landscape. This bustling urban area is well known for its Port Newark-Elizabeth Marine Terminal and the Philips 66 Bayway Refinery, and sits at the intersection of several major roadways like the NJ Turnpike and the Goethals Bridge. The landscape, which was once teeming with dense wetlands and associated habitats, is now heavily urbanized with a vast mix of residential, commercial, and industrial properties. The largely channelized Elizabeth River courses through the city for 4.2 miles before draining into the Arthur Kill waterway. However, in this 14-square mile city, native flora and fauna are taking root again thanks to ecological restoration and mitigation efforts.

Urban landscapes like Elizabeth can pose significant challenges for restoration efforts, but they also provide an array of opportunity for significant ecological uplift.

In 2004, Princeton Hydro was retained to restore an 18-acre site adjacent to the Elizabeth Seaport Business Park, which is located in an area that was once part of a large contiguous wetland system abutting Newark Bay. The site was comprised of a significantly disturbed mosaic of wetland and upland areas and a monoculture of Phragmites australis, also known as Common Reed, on historic fill. Historic fill consists of non-native material, historically placed to raise grades, and typically contains contaminated material not associated with the operations of the site on which it was placed.

The highly invasive Phragmites australis had overtaken most of the wetland areas, and the upland woodland areas only contained four tree species, mostly Eastern Cottonwood, with very low wildlife value. The 18-acre site had huge potential but was significantly degraded and was being vastly underutilized. Overall, the mitigation plan focused on the enhancement of existing wetland and transition areas to increase the area’s wildlife value through the establishment of a more desirable, diverse assemblage of native species subsequent to eradication of non-native-invasive species.

2005 (Before Plantings)
2019
In 2004, Prologis hired Princeton Hydro to restore an 18-acre area adjacent to the Elizabeth Seaport Business Park, which a significantly disturbed and degraded mosaic of wetland and upland areas. This project serves as an example of how degraded urban areas can be successfully rehabilitated and the land’s natural function restored and enhanced.

The freshwater wetland aspect of the mitigation plan, which included inundated emergent, emergent, and forested habitat, was designed to be a combination of wetland creation (2.40 acres) and enhancement (8.79 acres), emphasizing the establishment of more species rich wetlands in order to increase biodiversity and improve the site’s wildlife food value.

The upland forest aspect of the mitigation plan involved the enhancement of 5.40 acres and creation of 1.45 acres of upland forest to foster the development of a species rich and structurally complex upland forest. The upland areas targeted for enhancement/creation consisted of areas where woody vegetation was lacking or forested areas that were dominated by eastern cottonwood.

2008
2019
The 18-acre site in Elizabeth, NJ had huge potential but was significantly degraded and was being vastly underutilized. The mitigation plan emphasized the establishment of more species rich wetlands in order to increase biodiversity and improve the site’s wildlife habitat value.

The project team worked to remove Phragmites australis from the site utilizing a combination of herbicide and mechanical removal techniques. Once the Phragmites australis was cleared, the team installed 27,000 two-inch native herbaceous plant plugs in the wetland portions of the mitigation site, and 2,705 native trees/shrubs throughout the site.

In order to ensure the continued success of the mitigation project, monitoring is regularly conducted at the site. A monitoring report conducted at the end of 2019 revealed a plethora of well-established habitat areas, a diverse community of plant and tree species, and a thriving, highly-functional landscape.

2004 (Before Plantings)
september 2019
In 2004, before the restoration work began, the site consisted of degraded Phragmites australis dominated wetlands and an urban woodland area dominated by Eastern cottonwood. The planting component of the mitigation project commenced in 2015, and the installation of all woody plant material began Fall 2015 and was completed in Fall 2016. The 2019 Monitoring Report revealed the plantings are well-established and the area is thriving.

Presently, the Elizabeth Seaport Business Park Mitigation Site boasts a variety of productive wildlife habitats that are rare in a highly urbanized setting and provides valuable ecosystem services, including sediment retention and roosting, foraging, and nesting opportunities for both resident and migratory bird species with over 150 bird species identified within the mitigation site.

2008
2019
The Elizabeth Seaport Business Park site was comprised of a monoculture of Phragmites australis, also known as Common Reed. The mitigation plan focused on enhancing the existing wetland by eradicating non-native-invasive plant species, like Phragmites, and establishing more diverse population of productive, native species with high ecological value.

This project serves as an example of how degraded urban areas can be successfully rehabilitated and the land’s natural function restored and enhanced.  If you’d like to learn more about this project from our Natural Resources Senior Project Manager Michael Rehman, check out the video of his presentation at the 2020 Delaware Wetlands Conference below.

We’re at the Delaware Wetlands Conference and our Senior Project Manager, Michael Rehman, is presenting on a successful urban wetland restoration in Elizabeth, NJ.

Posted by Princeton Hydro on Thursday, January 30, 2020

 

If you’re interested in learning more about our wetland restoration and mitigation services, go here!

FREE DOWNLOADS: Mid-Atlantic Stream Restoration Conference Presentations

The Resource Institute hosted its 9th Annual Mid-Atlantic Stream Restoration Conference in Baltimore, Maryland, where water resource professionals, researchers, and practitioners come together for three days to share ideas and learn about stream restoration planning, assessment, design, construction, evaluation, and other topical stream issues. The conference, which was themed Building Resilient Streams in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions, included presentations, discussions, exhibits, and pre-conference workshops. Princeton Hydro participated in three presentations on a variety of topics. Below, we provide a synopsis and free download of each presentation:

Innovative Design and Funding Approaches for Dam Removal Projects Where an Unfunded Mandate Exists

Lead Presenter: Kirk Mantay, PWS, GreenTrust Alliance, Inc.
Co-Authors: Geoffrey Goll, P.E.; Princeton Hydro President; John Roche, Maryland Department of Environment; and Brett Berkley, GreenVest.

The presentation provides a detailed look at the removal of the Martin Dam in Fallston, Maryland, and how project partners were able to drastically expand the footprint of this emergency dam removal to generate enough ecological restoration benefits to adequately fund the dam removal itself.

The Martin Dam was constructed in 1965 as part of USDA’s sustainable farms pond construction initiative, which promoted aquaculture and subsistence fish production on small farms across the region as an income source for agricultural producers. Dam-related impacts included the permanent loss of spring-fed sedge wetlands, ditching of forested floodplain wetlands, pollution from stream bank entrenchment, and thermal impacts to a wild brook trout population downstream.

Overtime, the dam structure began to degrade. With each state and local agency inspection that was conducted, the dam increased in hazard category. In 2016, the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) was forced to list the dam as a, “public safety hazard at risk of immanent failure.” The landowner, unable to fund the dam removal, contacted GreenTrust Alliance (GTA), a regional green infrastructure nonprofit organization, for help.

By emphasizing the ecological benefits of restored wetlands and streams above and below the dam as well as the critical public safety hazard faced by residents and motorists downstream, GTA, in partnership with Princeton Hydro and GreenVest, was able to secure restoration funding for the site. The design and permitting was lead by Princeton Hydro, and the dam was safely breached as part of restoration construction in January 2019.

Learn more and download the full presentation.

 

Columbia Lake Dam Removal; Using Drones for Quantitative Evaluation of River Restoration

Lead Presenter: Beth Styler-Barry of The Nature Conservancy
Co-Authors from Princeton Hydro: Geoffrey Goll, P.E., President; Casey Schrading, EIT, Staff Engineer; Kelly Klein, Senior Project Manager, Natural Resources; and Christiana Pollack, CFM, GISP, Senior Project Manager, Environmental Scientist.

In order to explore the use of drone or UAV technology to evaluate the effects of dam removals, the presentation showcases the Columbia Lake Dam removal, the largest dam removal in New Jersey to date.

The Columbia Lake Dam, built in 1909, was 18 feet high, 330 feet long dam, and stretched more than 1.5 miles on the Paulins Kill less than 0.25 miles upstream from its confluence with the Delaware River. As part of The Nature Conservancy’s (TNC) mission to improve the quality of the Paulins Kill, removing this “first blockage” was the cornerstone of the larger mission. Princeton Hydro served as the engineer-of-record, designing and permitting this project. Dam removal activities commenced in 2018 and were finalized in 2019. Its removal opens 10 miles of river for fish migration and improves recreation access, floodplain reconnection, habitat enhancement and higher water quality.

TNC will conduct five years of monitoring, a vitally important component of this project, to determine long-term ecological uplift, short-term positive and negative effects, and to develop data to provide information for future dam removals. And, as a result of the programmable and repeatable nature of drone flight paths, such monitoring will be able to be conducted for years and decades, producing invaluable data for research and future project design.

The presentation reviews the various parameters investigated, the results and significance of the data retrieved, and recommendations for the use of drone technology for future ecosystem restoration projects.

Learn more and download the full presentation.

Modeling 3D Rivers in AutoCAD to Enhance Design and Deliverables

Lead Presenter: Daniel Ketzer, PE, Princeton Hydro Senior Project Manager, River Restoration
Co-Authors from Princeton Hydro: Eric Daley, Water Resources Engineer; Cory Speroff, MLA, ASLA, CBLP, Landscape Designer; and Sumantha Prasad, PE, ENV SP, Water Resource Engineer

This presentation provides an overview on how to create 3D river models based on geomorphic input to enhance the overall accuracy and quality of a river restoration project.

In river restoration, the proposed geometry of the river channel is the key part of the design. It impacts earthwork, utility conflicts, plan set layout, and many other aspects of the project. In larger projects with reaches measuring thousands of feet and greater, manual grading is extremely time consuming and tedious; and determining the entire implication of the proposed design is difficult to achieve when simply analyzing proposed cross-sections and profiles. To increase efficiency and maintain uniformity throughout the subject reach developing a 3D-surface model of the proposed restoration reduces design time and increases quality. AutoCAD Civil 3D can be used to convert the proposed profiles and cross-sections from a geomorphic design into a 3D surface of the river corridor.

The presentation goes through the key steps that need to be taken and strategic questions that need to be asked when modeling 3D rivers in AutoCAD along with important tips and reminders.

Learn more and download the full presentation.

Stay tuned for our Spring Events Spotlight to learn how you can participate in upcoming environmental events! Click here to read more about Princeton Hydro’s river restoration services.

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 led 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.

 

Feasibility Study Identifies Key Opportunities for Hudson River Habitat Restoration

Hudson River Bear Mountain Bridge (Photo from Wikipedia)

The Hudson River originates at the Lake Tear of the Clouds in the Adirondack Mountains at an elevation of 4,322 feet above sea level. The river then flows southward 315 miles to New York City and empties into the New York Harbor leading to the Atlantic Ocean. The Hudson River Valley lies almost entirely within the state of New York, except for its last 22 miles, where it serves as the boundary between New York and New Jersey.

Hudson River Basin (Image by USACE)Approximately 153 miles of the Hudson River, between the Troy Dam to the Atlantic Ocean, is an estuary. An estuary is defined by the USEPA as “a partially enclosed, coastal water body where freshwater from rivers and streams mixes with salt water from the ocean. Estuaries, and their surrounding lands, are places of transition from land to sea. Although influenced by the tides, they are protected from the full force of ocean waves, winds and storms by landforms such as barrier islands or peninsulas.”

The Hudson River’s estuary encompasses regionally significant habitat for anadromous fish and globally rare tidal freshwater wetland communities and plants, and also supports significant wildlife concentrations. As a whole, the Hudson River provides a unique ecosystem with highly diverse habitats for approximately 85% of New York State’s fish and wildlife species, including over 200 fish species that rely on the Hudson River for spawning, nursery, and forage habitat.

The Hudson is an integral part of New York’s identity and plays a vital role in the lives of the people throughout the area. Long valued as a transportation corridor for the region’s agricultural and industrial goods, and heavily used by the recreation and tourism industries, the Hudson plays a major role in the local economy. It also provides drinking water for more than 100,000 people.

At the end of the American Revolution, the population in the Hudson River Valley began to grow. The introduction of railroad travel in 1851 further accelerated development in the area. Industrial buildings were erected along the river, such as brick and cement manufacturing, which was followed by residential building. Along with the aforementioned development, came the construction of approximately 1,600 dams and thousands of culverts throughout the Hudson River.

According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), these human activities have significantly degraded the integrity of the Hudson River ecosystem and cumulatively changed the morphology and hydrology of the river. Over time, these changes have resulted in large-scale losses of critical shallow water and intertidal wetland habitats, and fragmented and disconnected habitats for migratory and other species. Most of this loss and impact has occurred in the upper third portion of the estuary.

As part of the effort to restore the vital river ecosystem, the USACE New York District launched a Hudson River Habitat Restoration Feasibility Study, which helps to establish and evaluate baseline conditions, develop restoration goals and objectives, and identify key restoration opportunities. Princeton Hydro participated in data collection and analysis, conceptual restoration designs, and preparation of the USACE Environmental Assessment for the Hudson River Habitat Restoration Ecosystem Restoration Draft Integrated Feasibility Study and Environmental Assessment.

Basic map depicting project sites (Created by Princeton Hydro)The study area includes the Hudson River Valley from the Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge downstream to the Troy Lock and Dam upstream. The primary restoration objectives include restoring a mosaic of interconnected, large river habitats and restoring lost connectivity between the Hudson River and adjacent ecosystems.

A total of six sites were evaluated using topographic surveys, installation and monitoring of tide gauges, evaluation of dam and fish barrier infrastructure, and field data collection and analysis to support Evaluation of Planned Wetlands (EPW) and Habitat Suitability Indices (HSI) functional assessment models. Literature reviews were also completed for geotechnical, hazardous toxicity radioactive waste, and aquatic organism passage measures.

Multiple alternatives for each of the six sites were created in addition to the preparation of conceptual designs, quantity take-offs, and cost estimates for construction, monitoring and adaptive management, and long-term operation and maintenance activities.

Princeton Hydro also prepared an environmental assessment in accordance with NEPA standards, addressing all six sites along the Hudson River and its tributaries. This assessment served to characterize existing conditions, environmental impacts of the preferred Proposed Action and No Action Alternatives, and regional cumulative environmental impacts. Our final report was highlighted by USACE at the 2019 Planning Community of Practice (PCoP) national workshop at the Kansas City District as an example of a successfully implemented Ecosystem Restoration Planning Center of Expertise (ECO-PCX) project.

USACE’s specific interest in Hudson River restoration stems from the aforementioned dramatic losses of regional ecosystems, the national significance of those ecosystems, and the apparent and significant opportunity for measurable improvement to the degraded ecological resources in the river basin.

The feasibility study is among the first of several critical steps in restoring the Hudson River’s ecosystem function and dynamic processes, and reestablishing the attributes of a natural, functioning, and self-regulated river system. Stay tuned for more updates on the Hudson River restoration efforts.