Washington Post’s Climate Story Features Princeton Hydro

Photo credit: The Washington Post

Did you know that New Jersey is one of the fastest-warming states in the nation? Not only that, did you know the average temperature increase in the state is double the average of the rest of the Lower 48 states?

In a recent article, the Washington Post uncovers quite startling findings from analysis of more than a century of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration temperature data across the Lower 48 states and 3,107 counties. The article takes a specific look at the impacts climate change has had on Lake Hopatcong.

Princeton Hydro has been working with Lake Hopatcong for 30+ years, restoring the lake, managing the watershed, reducing pollutant loading, and addressing invasive aquatic plants and nuisance algae bloomsLake Hopatcong has one of the longest, continuous, long-term ecological databases in New Jersey; 30+ years of consistently collected water quality data.

Dr. Fred Lubnow, Director of Aquatic Programs, and Katie Walston, Senior Scientist, are featured in the Washington Post article. Here’s an excerpt:

On a cool but sunny day in May, Fred Lubnow, director of aquatic programs at Princeton Hydro, and Katie Walston, a senior scientist there, pulled up their anchor in Lake Hopatcong to find it covered with aquatic weeds. The culprit? Fertilizer runoff combined with winters too warm to kill them off.

“The plants start growing earlier and linger around longer, as well,” Lubnow said. The thick ice blocked sunlight from nurturing the weeds. But “in some of these shallow areas, as early as February, we’re looking through the ice seeing the plants growing.”

By summer, the weeds become a nuisance, forcing the state government to “harvest” them with large paddles and toss them onto a conveyor belt, then onto barges. Some years, funding has been hard to get, delaying harvesting and angering homeowners.

“If this area is not harvested, you can’t get a boat through it,” Lubnow says. Swimming isn’t possible, either. Fishing becomes difficult.

Get the full Washington Post story here!

If you’d like to read more about climate change, check out our recent blog:

Four Ways Climate Change Can Affect Your Lake

 

 

 

Four Ways Climate Change Can Affect Your Lake

The Local Effects of Climate Change Observed Through our Community Lakes

Climate change is an enormous concept that can be hard to wrap your head around. It comes in the form of melting ice caps, stronger storms, and more extreme seasonal temperatures (IPCC, 2018). If you’re an avid angler, photographer, swimmer, boater, or nature enthusiast, it’s likely that because of climate change you’ll bear witness to astonishing shifts in nature throughout the greater portion of your lifetime. This is especially true with respect to lakes.

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Lakes are living laboratories through which we can observe the local effects of climate change in our own communities. Lake ecosystems are defined by a combination of various abiotic and biotic factors. Changes in hydrology, water chemistry, biology, or physical properties of a lake can have cascading consequences that may rapidly alter the overall properties of a lake and surrounding ecosystem. Most of the time the results are negative and the impacts severe.

“Managing loads of phosphorous in watersheds is even more important as the East Coast becomes increasingly warmer and wetter thanks to climate change,” said Dr. Fred Lubnow, Director of Aquatics in a recent NJ.com interview. “Climate change will likely need to be dealt with on a national and international scale. But local communities, groups, and individuals can have a real impact in reducing phosphorous levels in local waters.”

Recognizing and monitoring the changes that are taking place locally brings the problems of climate change closer to home, which can help raise awareness and inspire environmentally-minded action.

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

1. Higher Temperatures = Shifts in Flora and Fauna Populations

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

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

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

2. Less Water Availability = Increased Salinity

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

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

3. Nutrient Concentrations = Increased Frequency of Harmful Algal Blooms

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

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

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

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

4. Cumulative Effects = Invasive Species

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

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

• • •

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


References

  1. IPCC. “Summary for Policymakers. “Global Warming of 1.5°C. An IPCC Special Report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty.” World Meteorological Organization, Geneva, Switzerland, 32 pp. 2018.
  2. Hall, Catherine J., and Carolyn W. Burns. “Mortality and Growth Responses of Daphnia Carinata to Increases in Temperature and Salinity.” Freshwater Biology 47.3 (2002): 451-58. Wiley. Web. 17 Oct. 2016.
  3. Herbst, David B. “Defining Salinity Limits on the Survival and Growth of Benthic Insects for the Conservation Management of Saline Walker Lake, Nevada, USA.” Journal of Insect Conservation 17.5 (2013): 877-83. 23 Apr. 2013. Web. 17 Oct. 2016.
  4. Kernan, M. “Climate Change and the Impact of Invasive Species on Aquatic Ecosystems.” Aquatic Ecosystem Health & Management (2015): 321-33. Taylor & Francis Online. Web. 17 Oct. 2016.
  5. Kernan, M. R., R. W. Battarbee, and Brian Moss. “Interaction of Climate Change and Eutrophication.” Climate Change Impacts on Freshwater Ecosystems. 1st ed. Chichester, West Sussex, UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010. 119-51. ResearchGate. Web. 17 Oct. 2016.
  6. Schallenberg, Marc, Catherine J. Hall, and Carolyn W. Burns. “Consequences of Climate-induced Salinity Increases on Zooplankton Abundance and Diversity in Coastal Lakes”Marine Ecology Progress Series 251 (2003): 181-89. Inter-Research Science Center. Inter-Research. Web.

Study Data Leads to Healthier Wreck Pond Ecosystem

Wreck Pond is a tidal pond located on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean in southern Monmouth County, New Jersey. The 73-acre pond, which was originally connected to the sea by a small and shifting inlet, got its name in the 1800s due to the numerous shipwrecks that occurred at the mouth of the inlet. The Sea Girt Lighthouse was built to prevent such accidents. In the 1930s, the inlet was filled in and an outfall pipe was installed, thus creating Wreck Pond. The outfall pipe allowed limited tidal exchange between Wreck Pond and the Atlantic Ocean.

In the 1960s, Wreck Pond flourished with wildlife and was a popular destination for recreational activities with tourists coming to the area mainly from New York City and western New Jersey. In the early spring, hundreds of river herring would migrate into Wreck Pond, travelling up its tributaries — Wreck Pond Brook, Hurleys Pond Brook and Hannabrand Brook — to spawn. During the summer, the pond was bustling with recreational activities like swimming, fishing, and sailing.

Over time, however, the combination of restricted tidal flow and pollution, attributable to increased development of the watershed, led to a number of environmental issues within the watershed, including impaired water quality, reduced fish populations, and flooding.

Throughout the Wreck Pond watershed, high stream velocities during flood conditions have caused the destabilization and erosion of stream banks, which has resulted in the loss of riparian vegetation and filling of wetlands. Discharge from Wreck Pond during heavy rains conveys nonpoint source pollutants that negatively impact nearby Spring Lake and Sea Girt beaches resulting in beach closings due to elevated bacteria counts. Watershed erosion and sediment transported with stormwater runoff has also contributed to excessive amounts of sedimentation and accumulations of settled sediment, not only within Wreck Pond, but at the outfall pipe as well. This sediment further impeded tidal flushing and the passage of anadromous fish into and out of Wreck Pond.

In 2012, Hurricane Sandy caused wide-spread destruction throughout New Jersey and the entire eastern seaboard. The storm event also caused a major breach of the Wreck Pond watershed’s dune beach system and failure of the outfall pipe. The breach formed a natural inlet next to the outfall pipe, recreating the connection to the Atlantic Ocean that once existed. This was the first time the inlet had been open since the 1930s, and the reopening cast a new light on the benefits of additional flow between the pond and the ocean.

Hurricane Sandy sparked a renewed interest in reducing flooding impacts throughout the watershed, including efforts to restore the water quality and ecology of Wreck Pond. The breach caused by Hurricane Sandy was not stable, and the inlet began to rapidly close due to the deposition of beach sand and the discharge of sediment from Wreck Pond and its watershed.

Princeton Hydro and HDR generated the data used to support the goals of the feasibility study through a USACE-approved model of Wreck Pond that examined the dynamics of Wreck Pond along with the water bodies directly upland, the watershed, and the offshore waters in the immediate vicinity of the ocean outfall. The model was calibrated and verified using available “normalized” tide data. Neighboring Deal Lake, which is also tidally connected to the ocean by a similar outfall pipe, was used as the “reference” waterbody. The Wreck Pond System model evaluated the hydraulic characteristics of Wreck Pond with and without the modified outfall pipe, computed pollutant inputs from the surrounding watershed, and predicted Wreck Pond’s water quality and ecological response. The calibrated model was also used to investigate the effects and longevity of dredging and other waterway feature modifications.

As part of the study, Princeton Hydro and HDR completed hazardous, toxic, and radioactive waste (HTRW) and geotechnical investigations of Wreck Pond’s sediment to assess potential flood damage reduction and ecological restoration efforts of the waterbody. The investigation included the progression of 10 sediment borings conducted within the main body of Wreck Pond, as well as primary tributaries to the pond. The borings, conducted under the supervision of our geotechnical staff, were progressed through the surgical accumulated sediment, not the underlying parent material. Samples were collected for analysis by Princeton Hydro’s AMRL-accredited (AASHTO Materials Reference Library) and USACE-certified laboratory. In accordance with NJDEP requirements, sediment samples were also forwarded to a subcontracted analytical laboratory for analysis of potential nonpoint source pollutants.

In the geotechnical laboratory, the samples were subjected to geotechnical indexing tests, including grain size, organic content, moisture content, and plasticity/liquid limits. For soil strength parameters, the in-field Standard Penetration Test (SPT), as well as laboratory unconfined compression tests, were performed on a clay sample to provide parameters for slope stability modeling.

The culvert construction and sediment dredging were completed at the end of 2016. Continued restoration efforts, informed and directed by the data developed through Princeton Hydro’s feasibility study, are helping to reduce the risk of flooding to surrounding Wreck Pond communities, increase connectivity between the pond and ocean, and improve water quality. The overall result is a healthier, more diverse, and more resilient Wreck Pond ecosystem.

During the time of the progression of study by the USACE, the American Littoral Society and the towns of Spring Lake and Sea Girt were also progressing their own restoration effort and completed the implementation of an additional culvert to the Atlantic Ocean.  The American Littoral Society was able to utilize the data, analysis, and modeling results developed by the USACE to ensure the additional culvert would increase tidal flushing and look to future restoration projects within Wreck Pond.

American Littoral Society

 

To learn more about our geotechnical engineering services, click here.

Part Two: Reducing Flood Risk in Moodna Creek Watershed

Photo of Moodna Creek taken from the Forge Hill Road bridge, New Windsor Post Hurricane Irene (Courtesy of Daniel Case via Wikimedia Commons)

This two-part blog series showcases our work in the Moodna Creek Watershed in order to explore common methodologies used to estimate flood risk, develop a flood management strategy, and reduce flooding.

Welcome to Part Two: Flood Risk Reduction and Stormwater Management in the Moodna Creek Watershed

As we laid out in Part One of this blog series, the Moodna Creek Watershed, which covers 180 square miles of eastern Orange County, New York, has seen population growth in recent years and has experienced significant flooding from extreme weather events like Hurricane Irene, Tropical Storm Lee, and Hurricane Sandy. Reports indicate that the Moodna Creek Watershed’s flood risk will likely increase as time passes.

Understanding the existing and anticipated conditions for flooding within a watershed is a critical step to reducing risk. Our analysis revealed that flood risk in the Lower Moodna is predominantly driven by high-velocity flows that cause erosion, scouring, and damage to in-stream structures. The second cause of risk is back-flooding due to naturally formed and man-made constrictions within the channel. Other factors that have influenced flood risk within the watershed, include development within the floodplain and poor stormwater management.

Now, let’s take a closer look at a few of the strategies that we recommended for the Lower Moodna Watershed to address these issues and reduce current and future flood risk:

Stormwater Management

Damage to Butternut Drive caused when Moodna Creek flooded after Hurricane Irene (Courtesy of Daniel Case via Wikimedia Commons)

Stormwater is the runoff or excess water caused by precipitation such as rainwater or snowmelt. In urban areas, it flows over sewer gates which often drain into a lake or river. In natural landscapes, plants absorb and utilize stormwater, with the excess draining into local waterways.  In developed areas, like the Moodna Creek watershed, challenges arise from high volumes of uncontrolled stormwater runoff. The result is more water in streams and rivers in a shorter amount of time, producing higher peak flows and contributing to flooding issues.

Pollutant loading is also a major issue with uncontrolled stormwater runoff. Population growth and development are major contributors to the amount of pollutants in runoff as well as the volume and rate of runoff. Together, they can cause changes in hydrology and water quality that result in habitat loss, increased flooding, decreased aquatic biological diversity, and increased sedimentation and erosion.

To reduce flood hazards within the watershed, stormwater management is a primary focus and critical first step of the Moodna Creek Watershed Management Plan. The recommended stormwater improvement strategies include:

  • Minimizing the amount of impervious area within the watershed for new development, and replacing existing impervious surfaces with planter boxes, rain gardens and porous pavement.
  • Utilizing low-impact design measures like bioretention basins and constructed-wetland systems that mimic the role of natural wetlands by temporarily detaining and filtering stormwater.
  • Ensuring the long-term protection and viability of the watershed’s natural wetlands.

The project team recommended that stormwater management be required for all projects and that building regulations ensure development does not change the quantity, quality, or timing of run-off from any parcel within the watershed. Recommendations also stressed the importance of stormwater management ordinances focusing on future flood risk as well as addressing the existing flooding issues.

Floodplain Storage

Floodplains are the low-lying areas of land where floodwater periodically spreads when a river or stream overtops its banks. The floodplain provides a valuable function by storing floodwaters, buffering the effect of peak runoff, lessening erosion, and capturing nutrient-laden sediment.

Communities, like the Moodna Creek watershed, can reduce flooding by rehabilitating water conveyance channels to slow down the flow, increasing floodplain storage in order to intercept rainwater closer to where it falls, and creating floodplain benches to store flood water conveyed in the channel.  Increasing floodplain storage can be an approach that mimics and enhances the natural functions of the system.

One of the major causes of flooding along the Lower Moodna was the channel’s inability to maintain and hold high volumes of water caused by rain events. During a significant rain event, the Lower Moodna channel tends to swell, and water spills over its banks and into the community causing flooding. One way to resolve this issue is by changing the grading and increasing the size and depth of the floodplain in certain areas to safely store and infiltrate floodwater. The project team identified several additional opportunities to increase floodplain storage throughout the watershed.

One of the primary areas of opportunity was the Storm King Golf Club project site (above). The team analyzed the topography of the golf course to see if directing flow onto the greens would alter the extent and reach of the floodplain thus reducing the potential for flooding along the roadways and properties in the adjacent neighborhoods. Based on LiDAR data, it was estimated that the alteration of 27 acres could increase floodplain storage by 130.5 acre-feet, which is equivalent to approximately 42.5 million gallons per event.

Land Preservation & Critical Environmental Area Designation

For areas where land preservation is not a financially viable option, but the land is undeveloped, prone to flooding, and offers ecological value that would be impacted by development, the project team recommended a potential Critical Environmental Area (CEA) designation. A CEA designation does not protect land in perpetuity from development, but would trigger environmental reviews for proposed development under the NY State Quality Environmental Review Act. And, the designation provides an additional layer of scrutiny on projects to ensure they will not exacerbate flooding within the watershed or result in an unintentional increase in risk to existing properties and infrastructure.

Conserved riparian areas also generate a range of ecosystem services, in addition to the hazard mitigation benefits they provide. Protected forests, wetlands, and grasslands along rivers and streams can improve water quality, provide habitat to many species, and offer a wide range of recreational opportunities. Given the co-benefits that protected lands provide, there is growing interest in floodplain conservation as a flood damage reduction strategy.


These are just a few of the flood risk reduction strategies we recommended for the Lower Moodna Creek watershed. For a more in-depth look at the proposed flood mitigation strategies and techniques, download a free copy of our Moodna Creek Watershed and Flood Mitigation Assessment presentation.

Revisit part-one of this blog series, which explores some of the concepts and methods used to estimate flood risk for existing conditions in the year 2050 and develop a flood management strategy.

Two-Part Blog Series: Flood Assessment, Mitigation & Management

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

Conservation Spotlight: Reducing Flood Risk and Restoring Wetlands in Jamaica Bay

Located in Queens, New York on the northern shore of Jamaica Bay, Spring Creek South contains approximately 237 acres of undeveloped land, including wetlands and 2.4 miles of coastline. The site is bounded by the Howard Beach residential neighborhood in Queens, a commercial area along Cross Bay Boulevard, the Belt Parkway, and Jamaica Bay. The northwest section of Spring Creek South is part of the National Park Service’s Gateway National Recreation Area, and is largely comprised of small patches of degraded tidal marsh and disturbed and degraded upland ecosystems.

On October 29, 2012, Hurricane Sandy drove a catastrophic storm surge into the New Jersey and New York coastlines. Spring Creek South and the surrounding community of Howard Beach experienced record flooding and damage to property and critical infrastructure. Storm tides caused damage and erosion along the shoreline and in the salt marsh area, degrading important habitat and leaving the site vulnerable to invasive species.

Hurricane Sandy Aftermath at Howard Beach, taken 10/30/2012 by Pam Andrade

The New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services (NYSDHSES) was awarded funding from FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program to restore Spring Creek South. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) New York District, serving as project administrator, contracted Princeton Hydro to provide ecosystem restoration services. The goal of the project is to reduce future flood risk exposure while also protecting, restoring, and improving the quality and function of ecological systems; improving stormwater management and water quality; and enhancing the park’s visitor experience.

To achieve this goal, the project team is using an integrated approach that involves utilizing green infrastructure to create a natural barrier for the community and reduce the risks of coastal storms. Project activities include berm construction and the restoration of tidal marsh, creation of freshwater wetland forest, and creation of maritime shrub, forest, and grassland habitats, as well as stabilization of the existing shoreline.

On December 31, 2018, we completed Phase One of the project, which entails engineering design and preliminary permitting. More specifically, we’ve provided conceptual planning; analysis of subsurface soils for geotechnical properties and hazardous waste; coastal and freshwater wetland delineations; biological benchmarking analysis; and the development of sea level rise curves and two-dimensional hydrologic and hydraulic coastal modeling. As part of the hydrology study, we analyzed what the site could be expected to look like in 50 years due to climate changes and sea level rise. Our engineering design was also brought to 65% completion.

We also obtained permits, prepared the Environmental Assessment (EA), and oversaw the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process. The EA received a “Finding of No Significant Impact” (FONSI) from FEMA, which means the environmental analysis and interagency review concluded that the project has no significant impacts on the quality of the environment.

Due to the complex nature of this project and its location, we are coordinating with a variety of different entities, including the local Howard Beach Community Board, the FAA (proximity to JFK International Airport), Port Authority, USACE, NOAA Fisheries, USFWS, USEPA, NYSDEC, NYC DEP, the National Park Service, HDR Engineering and WSP Engineering.

Phase Two of the project is the construction phase, which is expected to take about two years to complete. A key part of the Spring Creek South construction activities is the restoration of approximately 40 acres of tidal marsh, which is anticipated to improve water quality locally by stabilizing sediment, reducing erosion, and filtering dissolved particulate materials. The project team will restore existing coastline areas and install a salt marsh along the shoreline. Planted with native flora, like Spartina alterniflora, a perennial deciduous grass found in intertidal wetlands, the coastal salt marsh will help to stabilize sediment. Additionally, removing invasive species like Phragmites australis from the area and replacing it with native plant species will increase the ability for native vegetation to colonize the site, improve vegetative diversity, and reduce fire risk in the park.

A forested wetland area and berm will also be created in order to provide the surrounding communities with natural shields and buffers to future storms. The berm, with an elevation of 19 feet (NAVD88), will help to manage the risk of storm surge flooding caused by coastal storms. The forested wetland area will also provide improved stormwater runoff storage, naturally filter stormwater, and, via flap gates, direct its flow toward Jamaica Bay, away from residential and commercial properties.

These measures will help to dissipate wind and wave energy, increase shoreline resilience, improve stormwater management at the site, and create habitat that increases the ecological value and biodiversity at the site, while providing resilience benefits. Restoration activities will benefit vulnerable and rare ecological communities by producing localized environmental enhancements, including improving water quality and creating and restoring habitat. The project also increases opportunities for recreational uses such as wildlife viewing/photography, fishing, and nature study.

Princeton Hydro specializes in the planning, design, permitting, implementing, and maintenance of wetland rehabilitation projects. To learn more about some of our ecosystem restoration and enhancement services, visit: bit.ly/PHwetland.

 

Two-Part Blog Series: Flood Assessment, Mitigation & Management

In this two part blog series, we showcase our work in the Moodna Creek Watershed in order to explore some of the concepts and methods used to estimate flood risk for existing conditions and the year 2050 and develop a flood management strategy (Part One), and traditional engineering and natural systems solutions used to manage and reduce flood risk (Part Two).

Part One: Flood Assessment & Mitigation Analysis in the Moodna Creek Watershed

The greater Moodna Creek watershed covers 180 square miles of eastern Orange County, NY. The watershed includes 22 municipalities and hundreds of streams before joining the Hudson River. This region has seen tremendous growth in recent years with the expansion of regional transit networks and critical infrastructure.

The Moodna Creek watershed can be split into two sub-basins — the Upper Moodna Creek and the Lower Moodna Creek. In the span of 15 months, Hurricane Irene, Tropical Storm Lee, and Hurricane Sandy each have caused significant flooding throughout the Moodna Creek watershed, damaging public facilities, roadways, and private properties. Both sub-basin communities have noted a concern about increased flood risk as more development occurs.

As global temperatures rise, climate models are predicting more intense rainfall events. And, the flood risk for communities along waterways — like the Moodna Creek watershed — will likely increase as time passes. In order to understand existing and future risk from flood events in this flood-prone area, a flood risk management strategy needed to be developed. The strategy uses a cost-benefit analysis to review the feasibility of each measure and the overall impact in reducing flood risks.

With funds provided from a 2016 grant program sponsored by the New England Interstate Waters Pollution Control Commission (NEIWPCC) and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s (NYCDEC) Hudson River Estuary Program (HEP), Princeton Hydro along with a variety of project partners completed a flood assessment and flood mitigation analysis specific to the Lower Moodna Creek watershed.

Let’s take a closer look at our work with the Lower Moodna Creek watershed, and explore some of the methods used to estimate flood risk and develop a flood management strategy:

Lower Moodna Creek Watershed Flood Assessment & Analysis

The primary Lower Moodna Creek project goals were to assess flood vulnerabilities and propose flood mitigation solutions that consider both traditional engineering strategies and natural systems solution approaches (land preservation, wetland/forest restoration, green infrastructure and green water management). The project team focused on ways to use the natural environment to reduce risk.  Instead of strictly focusing on just Moonda Creek, the team took a holistic approach which included all areas that drain into the river too. These analyses were incorporated into a Flood Assessment Master Plan and Flood Mitigation Plan, which will serve as a road map to reducing flooding issues within the watershed.

Managing Flood Risk

The first step in managing flood risk is to understand what type of exposure the communities face. The Moodna Creek project modeled flooding within the watershed during normal rain events, extreme rain events, and future rain events with two primary goals in mind:

Visual assessment being conducted in flood-prone areas of Moodna Creek Watershed.

  • Assess the facilities, infrastructure, and urban development that are at risk from flooding along the Moodna Creek and its tributaries within the study area.
  • Develop a series of hydrologic and hydraulic models to assess the extent of potential flooding from the 10-year (10%), 100-year (1%),  and 500-year (0.2%) storm recurrence intervals within the study area. The modeling includes flows for these storm events under existing conditions and also hypothetical scenarios with predicted increases in precipitation and population growth.

 

The project team used these models and data to propose and evaluate a series of design measures that help reduce and mitigate existing and anticipated flood risk within the study area. Where possible, the proposed solutions prioritized approaches that protect and/or mirror natural flood protection mechanisms within the watershed such as floodplain re-connection and wetland establishment. In addition to flood protection, the project components also provide water quality protection, aesthetics and recreation, pollutant reduction, and wildlife habitat creation.

Land Use and Zoning

Zoning is a powerful tool that determines a region’s exposure to hazards and risk. Zoning determines which uses are permitted, or encouraged, to be built in moderate and high-risk areas. It also prevents certain uses, such as critical facilities, from being built in those areas. Zoning is also a determinant of a region’s character and identity.

In the Lower Moodna Creek watershed, a large majority (82%) of land is zoned for residential use. However, in the flood-prone areas, there is a higher ratio of areas zoned for non-residential uses (commercial, industrial) than in areas that are zoned for potential future development. Specifically, within the 10-year storm recurrence floodplain, 30% of the land is zoned for industrial use. This is likely because several facilities, such as wastewater treatment plants and mills, require access to the river and were strategically developed to be within immediate proximity of waterfront access. The Lower Moodna zoning analysis demonstrated a general preference within watershed to limit residential use of flood-prone areas. 

Land Preservation

Preserving land allows for natural stormwater management, as well as limits the exposure of development, and minimizes sources of erosion within the watershed. Preserved land also maintains the hydrologic and ecologic function of the land by allowing rainwater to be absorbed or retained where it falls and thus minimizing run-off. If the land within the floodplain is preserved, it will never be developed, and therefore the risk — a calculation of rate exposure and the value of the potential damage — is eliminated.  Therefore, land preservation, both within the floodplains and in upland areas, is the best way to minimize flood damage.

Conserved riparian areas also generate a range of ecosystem services, in addition to the hazard mitigation benefits they provide. Protected forests, grasslands, and wetlands along rivers and streams can improve water quality, provide habitat to many species, and offer a wide range of recreational opportunities. Given the co-benefits that protected lands provide, there is growing interest in floodplain conservation as a flood damage reduction strategy.

Within the mapped Lower Moodna floodplains, our assessment determined that there appears to be a slight priority for preserving land most at-risk for flooding. This is likely a consequence of prioritizing land that is closest to riparian areas and preserving wetland areas, which are the most likely to experience flooding. Within the floodplains for the 10-year storm, approximately 22.7% is preserved. For the 100-year storm, approximately 21.2% of the land is preserved. Within the 500-year storm, this number drops slightly to 20.3%. These numbers are so close in part because the difference between the 10-year, 100-year, and 500-year floodplains are small in many areas of the watershed.

Hydrology and Hydraulics

Hydrology is the scientific study of the waters of the earth, with a particular focus on how rainfall and evaporation affect the flow of water in streams and storm drains. Hydraulics is the engineering analysis of the flow of water in channels, pipelines, and other hydraulic structures. Hydrology and hydraulics analyses are a key part of flood management.

As part of this flood assessment, Princeton Hydro created a series of hydrologic and hydraulic (H&H) models to assess the extent of potential flooding from the 10-year, 100-year, and 500-year storm recurrence intervals within the Lower Moodna. The modeling, which included flows for these storm events under existing conditions and future conditions based on predicted increases in precipitation and population growth, makes it easier to assess what new areas are most impacted in the future.

These are just a few of the assessments we conducted to analyze the ways in which flooding within the watershed may be affected by changes in land use, precipitation, and mitigation efforts. The flood models we developed informed our recommendations and proposed flood mitigation solutions for reducing and mitigating existing and anticipated flood risk.

Check out Part Two of this blog series in which we explore flood risk-reduction strategies that include both traditional engineering and natural systems solutions:

Part Two: Reducing Flood Risk in Moodna Creek Watershed

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

 

September Events Spotlight: Webinars, Conferences & Film Festival

Princeton Hydro is proud to participate in a number of conferences, events, and webinars throughout September:

 

September 6 at 12 pm: “Social Media Hacks” Webinar for the Society for American Military Engineers (SAME) Young Member Council 

SAME Young Member Council is hosting a webinar that will offer solutions for boosting social media presence and increasing engagement. Designed for social media beginners and experts alike, the webinar titled, “Social Media Hacks,” will be presented by Dana Patterson, Communications Strategist for Princeton Hydro. Participants will learn about creating successful social media strategy, utilizing free social media management tools, tracking social media analytics, and executing high-quality posts on various social media platforms. The webinar is free for SAME Members and $25 for all non-members.

Learn more and register.

 

September 9: Wild & Scenic Film Festival On Tour

Hosted by Musconetcong Watershed Association, the “Wild & Scenic Film Festival On Tour” celebrates the 50th Anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act by bringing communities together to screen films that call attention to local and global environmental issues. The Hackettstown, NJ tour event, which Princeton Hydro is a proud sponsor of, will feature 11 short films including River Connections, a film that explores the importance of free-flowing rivers and highlights the recent Hughesville Dam removal project. An interactive panel event will follow the film screening and feature experts including MWA Executive Director Alan Hunt, Ph.D. and Princeton Hydro President Geoffrey Goll, P.E., who were both interviewed in the film. This event is free and open to the public, but registration is required.

Learn more and register.

 

September 12: Schuylkill Action Network’s (SAN) Water Utility Forum

This year’s SAN Forum will cover a variety of water-quality related topics, including perfluorinated compound (PFCs) and upcoming drinking water regulations. The forum will provide a platform to collaborate and share information, expertise, and technology to help achieve a shared vision of clean water and a healthy environment for the Schuylkill River and its tributaries. A variety of presentations will be offered during the forum, including one by Dr. Fred Lubnow, Director of Aquatics Programs for Princeton Hydro, on the topic of Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs).

Learn more and register.

 

September 15: Mercer County Park Commission’s River Days

Join Mercer County Park Commission for “River Days,” a free, family-friendly event at the Tulpehaking Nature Center with trail activities, arts and crafts, a raffle, and a neighborhood cookout on the back lawn of the nature center. Check out the Princeton Hydro air boat and chat with our Aquatics Field Director about the upcoming multi-year restoration of freshwater tidal wetlands in John A. Roebling Memorial Park. The restoration project is a partnership between Mercer County, New Jersey, Mercer County Park Commission, and Princeton Hydro.

Learn more.

 

September 23-26: 91st Annual Water Works Operators’ Association of Pennsylvania (WWOAP) Conference

WWOAP is hosting its 91st annual conference, which offers a diverse collection of professional presentations, workshops, networking events and an exhibit hall. Princeton Hydro’s Director of Aquatics Programs  Dr. Fred Lubnow is presenting on “Managing HABs and Their Associated Cyanotoxins in Raw Water.” Other presentation topics include “What Might Climate Change Look Like in Pennsylvania,” “A Multi-Lateral Approach to Water Loss Reduction,” and “Achieving Water Quality Optimization.”

View the full conference program.

 

September 25: New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission (NEIWPCC) Research Webinar

NEIWPCC is offering a free research webinar on modeling and flood-mitigation recommendations for a forested and urban Hudson River tributary watershed. The webinar takes a look at the Moodna Creek Watershed and Flood Mitigation Assessment and describes how flood models were used to inform recommendations for reducing and mitigating existing and anticipated flood risk. The assessment was conducted by environmental consultants at Princeton Hydro and GreenVest, and funded by NEIWPCC through the New York Department of Environmental Conservation’s Hudson River Estuary Program. This free webinar will be presented by Christiana Pollack, GISP, CFM, Environmental Scientist & GIS Manager for Princeton Hydro, and Jessica Jahre, CFM, AICP.

Learn more and register.

 

September 28: Alliance for NJ Environmental Education (ANJEE) Autumn Conference

Duke Farms will host ANJEE’s Autumn Conference, titled “Imagine a World Outdoors.” The conference, which takes place completely outdoors and does not include a single PowerPoint presentation, invites environmental education professionals throughout New Jersey to come together to collaborate around innovative ideas, learn and disseminate best practices, and network. Participants will explore natural history with local experts in birding, animal tracking, and plant identifying and learn trade secrets from experienced outdoor teachers who will share their methods and techniques. Princeton Hydro’s Dana Patterson and Pinelands Adventures’ Danielle Odom are teaching a workshop on “How to Bring Out the Inner Bird Nerd in your Students. ANJEE hopes the event will inspire participants to become more informed and dedicated stewards of the land.

Learn more and register.

 

Stay tuned for more event updates!

Conservation Spotlight: Dunes at Shoal Harbor Shoreline Protection

Hurricane Sandy was the largest storm to ever originate in the Atlantic ocean. It badly damaged several countries in the Caribbean, caused over $50 billion in damages along the Eastern Seaboard, and left dozens dead. While hurricanes are a natural part of our climate system, research shows that intense hurricane activity has been on the rise in the North Atlantic since the 1970s. This trend is likely to be exacerbated by sea level rise and growing populations along coastlines. Natural coastal habitats — like wetlands and dunes — have proven to shield people from storms and sea-level rise, and have protected coastal communities from hundreds of millions of dollars in damage.

The Dunes at Shoal Harbor, a residential community in Monmouth County, New Jersey, is situated adjacent to both the Raritan Bay and the New York City Ferry channel. The site, previously utilized for industrial purposes, consisted of a partially demolished docking/berthing facility. A significantly undersized 6” diameter, 8-foot long stone revetment was also constructed on the property.

During Hurricane Sandy, the revetment failed and the community was subjected to direct wave attack and flooding. Homes were damaged, beach access was impaired, and the existing site-wide stormwater management basin and outfall was completely destroyed.

Princeton Hydro performed a wave attack analysis commensurate with a category three hurricane event, and used that data to complete a site design for shoreline protection. Consistent with the analysis, the site design includes the installation of a 15-foot rock revetment (one foot above the 100-year floodplain elevation) constructed with four-foot diameter boulders. The project also consists of replacing a failed elevated timber walkway with a concrete slab-on-grade walkway, restoring portions of the existing bulkhead, clearing invasive plants, and the complete restoration of the failed stormwater basin and outlet.

A rendering of the “Dunes at Shoal Harbor” shoreline protection design by Princeton Hydro.

The plan incorporates natural barriers to reduce the impacts of storm surges and protect the coastal community, including planting stabilizing coastal vegetation to prevent erosion and installing fencing along the dune to facilitate natural dune growth.

These measures will discourage future erosion of the shoreline, protect the residential community from future wave attacks and flooding, and create a stable habitat for native and migratory species.  The project is currently in the permitting phase, and will move to construction when all permits are obtained from local, state, and federal agencies.

This project is an great example of Princeton Hydro’s ability to coordinate multi-disciplinary projects in-house. Our Water Resources Engineering, Geosciences Engineering, and Natural Resources teams have collaborated efficiently to analyze, design, and permit this shoreline protection project. For more information on our engineering services, go here.

A Scientist’s Journey to the Antarctic: A Princeton Hydro Blog Series

This two-part blog series takes us on an adventure to the southernmost continent and explores how changes to Antarctica’s ecosystem have worldwide impacts.

Welcome to Part Two: The Continent of Science

Antarctica, the most remote and inaccessible continent in the world, is also, on average, the coldest, windiest and driest continent. Quick Fact: Antarctica is actually a desert! Additionally, with an average elevation of about 7,200 feet above sea level, it is also the world’s highest continent.

There are no native people in Antarctica, but scientists from all over the world visit the continent to conduct research. During the summer, approximately 4,000 scientists visit “the continent of science” to carry out research in a wide range of physical and biological sciences – from the vastness of space to the minutest scale of microorganisms. The research conducted here has helped to highlight global problems, including climate change.

Tourists also visit Antarctica during the summer to enjoy the spectacular scenery and abundant wildlife. In Part One of our two-part blog series, we take you on an Antarctic journey through Sophie Breitbart’s experience aboard the National Geographic Explorer ship. Sophie saw a variety of wildlife during her 10-day educational excursion, including Crabeater and Leopard seals, gentoo and Chinstrap Penguins, Humpback and Killer whales, migrating Red Knots, and more.

Polar tours like the National Geographic Lindblad Expedition help to raise climate change awareness and create lifelong wildlife ambassadors, and the profits from responsibly managed tourism help to fund critical scientific expeditions to the Antarctic.

Just last year, a research mission conducted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration discovered that sea ice cover in the Antarctic is near record lows – 18.2%, or 520,000 square miles, below the 1981-2010 average. That is the second lowest sea ice report since record-keeping began in 1979, with the first being recorded in 2016. Smaller ice shelves in the Antarctic Peninsula are currently retreating, breaking up into vast fields of icebergs, likely due to rising temperature and surface melting.

Snow and ice make up more than 95% of Antarctica’s surface terrain. The continental ice sheet contains approximately seven million cubic miles of ice, representing about 90% of the world’s total ice. The average thickness is about 1.5 miles. To understand its extent, if Antarctica’s ice were to melt today, global sea levels could rise 150 – 200 feet. It’s massive.

Climate change impacts are already being documented in Antarctica. The Antarctic Peninsula’s glaciers have been warming faster than the rest of the continent. As the snow and ice decrease, the land cover increases and absorbs more heat, which in turn increases the rate of warming. In 2017, a study published in Current Biology found that over last 50 years, temperatures have been rising, and therefore have caused a steady growth of moss on the continent.  So, scientists are now predicting that, “terrestrial ecosystems will alter rapidly under future warming, leading to major changes in the biology and landscape of this iconic region—an Antarctic greening to parallel well-established observations in the Arctic.”  And, another study by researcher Bill Fraser has reported that Adélie Penguin populations have decreased from 32,000 breeding pairs to 11,000 in 30 years because of the changes in temperature.

Changes to the global sea ice cover reported by NOAA not only carry major implications for the continent of Antarctica, but for the entire world. 97% of actively publishing climate scientists agree that earth’s climate is warming, and the evidence that the Arctic’s ice caps are melting at an accelerated rate due to climate change is blaring. And, more than 62% of Americans say they are at least “somewhat worried” about global warming. Yet, not many people are taking daily actions to slow global climate change.

We must make every effort we can to limit our own carbon footprint and mitigate climate change. It has been said that there are most likely no greater ambassadors for Antarctica than the tourists who have been there and return home to share information about the need for its protection.

When Sophie returned from her trip, she said “I became an environmental scientist because I have a passion to conserve biodiversity. Being immersed in this wild place and experiencing firsthand the magnificent yet fragile Antarctic landscape acts as a reminder of why it’s so important to do this work. Those memories inspire me to keep at it.”

To learn more about Antarctica and what scientists with World Wildlife Fund are doing to protect it, go here. If you have any questions for Sophie about her journey, please email us or comment below.

 

Sophie Breitbart worked for Princeton Hydro from March 2016 until May 2018, first as an intern and then as a staff scientist. She is now pursuing her PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Toronto, where she will study how urban development affects the ecology and evolution of interactions between the plant common milkweed, its herbivores, and pollinators.

 

A Scientist’s Journey to the Antarctic: A Princeton Hydro Blog Series

A trip to Antarctica has long been at the top of the bucket list for Sophie Breitbart, former Staff Scientist at Princeton Hydro, and her father. Ultimately inspired by the extraordinary spirit of adventure in “South: The Endurance Expedition,” the story of British explorer Ernest Shackleton‘s 1914 attempt to reach the South Pole, the two decided that it was time to make the journey to the white continent. What they experienced was far more than a travel dream fulfilled.

This two-part blog series takes us on an adventure to the southernmost continent and explores how changes to Antarctica’s ecosystem have worldwide impacts.

Part One: Antarctic Adventure

The National Geographic Lindblad Expedition trip began with a flight to Buenos Aires, Argentina, where Sophie and her father met up with the other travelers and an expedition crew that consisted of an exploration leader, eight veteran naturalists, a National Geographic photographer, a Lindblad-National Geographic certified photo instructor, an undersea specialist, a Global Perspectives guest speaker, and a video chronicler.

Ushuaia, Argentina

In Buenos Aires, the group, totaling approximately 140 people, boarded a private charter flight to Ushuaia, Argentina, the world’s southernmost city. After taking in views of the Martial Mountains and the Beagle Channel, which is commonly referred to as The End of the World, the group climbed aboard the National Geographic Explorer ship and set sail for a 10-day Antarctic adventure.

The National Geographic Explorer is a 367-foot expedition ship that accommodates 148 guests in 81 cabins. The Explorer is uniquely equipped with an ice-strengthened hull, advanced navigation equipment, a variety of exploration tools, and vast expanses of windows that provided the ultimate vantage point for spotting dolphins and sea birds as the ship left the Beagle Channel.

Before reaching the Antarctic, the ship would have to pass through the infamous Drake Passage, the body of water between Cape Horn in South America and the South Shetland Islands in Antarctica, where the Atlantic, Pacific, and Southern seas converge. Because the currents in the Passage meet no resistance from any nearby landmass, they can be some of the choppiest waters in the world. Luckily for Sophie and the other Explorer travelers, the Drake Passage was cooperative for the most part and the journey through it was relatively smooth. (Editor’s Note: The journey back was another story.)

On day five of the journey, the ship arrived in the Antarctic Peninsula.

“The ice was so shocking and jaw-dropping,” said Sophie reflecting on her first impression of Antarctica. “I had never seen anything like it before. There were so many different shades of blues and whites and countless textures. It was truly incredible to see.”

With close to 24 hours of daylight, the exploration opportunities were endless. Sophie and her father participated in kayaking tours, expeditions on an 8-person zodiac boat, around the clock wildlife watching, and even a few hikes on the Antarctic Peninsula. There they saw indigenous rocks and artifacts, remnants of British research stations from the 1950s, and lots of wildlife, including nesting South Polar Skua Birds, penguins swimming and jumping out of the water, and a playful group of Leopard Seals.

Humpback and Killer whales skirted the ship as well. A Killer Whale research team aboard the Explorer took blow samples, which would be genetically sequenced, and shared  with passengers their aerial imagery findings, which they captured in order to record the whales’ dimensions, family structures, and health. Sophie and her father enjoyed a variety of whale sightings. During one of their kayaking expeditions, a large Humpback Whale surfaced just 10 feet away from them, then swam right underneath the kayaks and resurfaced, showing lots of playfulness and curiosity.

Check out this incredible video showing a fascinating strategy that killer whales use to hunt seals:

While Sophie struggled to choose a favorite moment from the trip, she quickly recalled the memory of kayaking along the coast of the Antarctic Peninsula among a field of stunning icebergs. “They each possess a unique mixture of color, density, shape, and size… like pieces of artwork, truly breathtaking in their composition and enormity.” Another easy highlight: “One day, the captain lodged our ship into an ice floe and we had a cookout complete with BBQ and lawn chairs. Definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

Sophie described this journey as the “most amazing scientific field trip” she’s ever been on. It left her feeling inspired to continue her work as an environmental scientist and acted as a reminder about why it’s so important to continue to be involved with projects that conserve biodiversity and protect water resources.

Check out Part Two of this Princeton Hydro blog series.

 

Sophie Breitbart worked for Princeton Hydro from March 2016 until May 2018, first as an intern and then as a staff scientist. She is now pursuing her PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Toronto, where she will study how urban development affects the ecology and evolution of interactions between the plant common milkweed, its herbivores, and pollinators.