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.

We Have a Winner! #LakesAppreciation Instagram Photo Contest

To celebrate North American Lake Management Society‘s Lakes Appreciation Month and encourage folks to get outside and appreciate their favorite lakes, we hosted an Instagram photo contest where participants had the chance to win $100.

The contest is now closed, we’ve selected a name at random, and…

We are very excited to announce the 2019 #LakesAppreciation contest winner!

A very big congratulations to Barbara Ann (@babsinski) who submitted the beautiful photo shown above of New Jersey’s Wesley Lake.

Thanks to everyone who got outside to show appreciation for their community lakes and participated in our contest. We received a variety of incredible photos from lake appreciators throughout the country. Here’s a sampling of the submissions we received:

In case you missed it, check out all of the contest details here:

Photo Contest! Show Your #LakesAppreciation on Instagram to Win $100

We hope you’ll join us next year in celebrating Lakes Appreciation Month! And, we encourage you to get outside and enjoy your community lakes all year long!

PHOTOS: #BagThePhrag Update from Roebling Park

We’re gearing up for another invasive species treatment event at Roebling Park!

Located in Hamilton Township, New Jersey, Mercer County’s John A. Roebling Memorial Park offers residents in the surrounding area a freshwater marsh with river fishing, kayaking, hiking, and wildlife-watching. The park contains the northernmost freshwater tidal marsh on the Delaware River, Abbott Marshland. Since the mid-1990s, many public and private partnerships have developed to help support the preservation of this important and significant marsh.

Our Field Operations Team was recently at the project site assessing present invasive species and re-evaluating access points for our treatment equipment. Check out these photos from their visit!

 

For more information on this marsh restoration project at John A. Roebling Park, visit our original project blog:

Restoring the Northernmost Freshwater Tidal Marsh on the Delaware River

Photo Contest! Show Your #LakesAppreciation on Instagram to Win $100

Did you know that lakes contain about 90% of all surface water on Earth, not counting the oceans? That’s a whole lot to appreciate! And, luckily Lakes Appreciation Month is right around the corner!

July 1 marks the beginning of Lakes Appreciation Month. To encourage active participation in this month-long celebration, we’re holding a #LakesAppreciation Instagram photo contest where you can show us how you appreciate lakes! The winner will receive a $100 Amazon gift card.

CONTEST DETAILS & GUIDELINES: 

We want to see how YOU appreciate lakes! Send us photos of yourself actively participating in lake appreciation. Make sure to read the contest guidelines and conditions listed below. Need some inspiration? Scroll down for a list of suggestions to get your creativity flowing.

HOW TO ENTER THE CONTEST:
  • During the month of July, get out on your local lakes and participate in an appreciation activity.
  • Snap a photo of yourself doing a lake appreciation activity and post it to Instagram. You must use this hashtag #LakesAppreciation in your caption and tag Princeton Hydro (@princeton_hydro) in the photo.
    • In order for us to view your entry and your photo to be eligible for the contest, your account or post must be public.
    • Entries must be submitted as regular posts on your profile in order to qualify, but we also encourage you to add the picture to your story!
PHOTO GUIDELINES:

Each Post Must Include the Following:

  • A lake photo
  • You actively participating in an appreciation activity
  • A caption explaining what you did and why you appreciate your lakes!
  • #LakesAppreciation
  • @princeton_hydro tagged

One lucky winner will be randomly selected on August 1, 2019. The selected winner will receive a $100 gift card to Amazon. We’ll reach out to you via social media to collect your email and address for prize distribution. If the winner does not respond within five working days with the appropriate information, we will select another winner at random. Good luck, everyone!

GETTING STARTED:

Not sure how to get started? We’ve got you covered with a few ideas! Here are 10 ways you can show your lake appreciation:

  1. Relax on the lake: Whether you enjoy swimming, relaxing on the shoreline, sailing, canoeing, or kayaking, there are countless ways you can get outside and enjoy your community lakes.
  2. Go fishing: There’s nothing quite like relaxing on the shoreline with a fishing pole in your hand. Whether you’re there to catch and release or want to take your catches home, fishing is a great way to unwind. Go get your license (if you’re above the age of 16), check your local fishing rules and regulations, and cast a line in your local lake!
  3. new jersey ospreyBreak out the binoculars:  Lakes are great spots to go birding! Download the eBird app to track your bird sightings and see what fellow birders have reported in the area. Also, keep your eyes peeled for ospreys; New Jersey has an osprey conservation project with a map to track all the recent sighting reports.
  4. #TrashTag – Clean it up: One super quick and easy thing to do is clean up your local lake. You can get a small group of friends together or just go out on your own – no effort is too small! You’ll be able to immediately see the benefits of your actions when the trash-lined shore is clear. In addition to the Lakes Appreciation Photo contest tags, make sure you use #trashtag, a global viral cleanup challenge that shows people’s before and after pictures of their cleaning efforts so that you can be a part of that growing trend!
  5. Get involved with your local lake: You can help support your favorite lake by joining 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.
  6. Remove invasive species: One of the most harmful elements of lake ecosystems are invasive species. So, by properly removing and discarding them, you can really help a lake to achieve its most desired state. A list of possible invasive species can be found here. For inspiration, check out this blog, written by our Senior Limnologist, Mike Hartshorne.
  7. Call on your inner-artist and draw a lake scene: All you need is a notepad, a pencil, and some spare time to let your imagination and creative skills take over. Does your lake have ducks? Are there people swimming? Is the sun rising or setting? Snap a picture of you with your art!
  8. 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. Learn more and download the app.
  9. Join the “Secchi Dip-In” contest: The “Secchi Dip-In” is an annual citizen science  event created by NALMS during which lake-goers and associations across North America use a simple Secchi disk to monitor the transparency or turbidity of their local waterway. Visit their website to find out how to join their contest!
  10. Create your own experience: Write a sonnet about one of your lake experiences. Snap a picture of you sitting out by the water’s edge. Share your favorite lake memory on social media. Collect shells. Play a round of SpikeBall or CanJam in the surrounding area. With permission from the lake owner, plant some native species around the water. The possibilities are endless for lake appreciation!

Still having trouble thinking of an activity to do? Visit the NALMS’s website!

fishing on lake

ADDITIONAL CONTEST CONDITIONS:

By submitting an entry (Photograph) via Instagram to Princeton Hydro’s 2019 #LakesAppreciation Month Contest, you agree to the following: You represent and warrant that:

  • You are the sole and exclusive author and owner of the Photograph submitted and all rights therein; and
  • You have the full and exclusive right, power, and authority to submit the Photograph; and
  • You irrevocably grant Princeton Hydro a non-exclusive, worldwide, royalty-free, perpetual license to use the Photograph in any manner related to the Contest, including all associated use, reproduction, distribution, sublicense, derivative works, and commercial and non-commercial exploitation rights in any and all media now known or hereafter invented, including, but not limited to public relations purposes, posting on social media accounts, and/or for company marketing materials; and
  • No rights in the Photograph have been previously granted to any person, firm, corporation or other entity, or otherwise encumbered such that the prior grant would limit or interfere with the rights granted to Princeton Hydro herein; and
  • No part of your Photograph defames or invades the privacy or publicity rights of any person, living or decreased, or otherwise infringes upon any third party’s copyright, trademark or other personal or property rights.

Check out the details and winner of last year’s Lakes Appreciation Month contest:

WINNER! #LakesAppreciation Month Contest Results

:

 

 

Protecting Greenwood Lake’s Water Quality Through Stormwater Management

The summer is upon us and Lakes Appreciation Month is right around the corner, what better time to pay a visit to and learn more about the lakes in your area.

Princeton Hydro conducts work on lakes throughout the Northeast to preserve, protect and improve water quality and ecological health, ensuring that your community lakes can be enjoyed now and into the future. Today, we’re putting the spotlight on Greenwood Lake:

Greenwood Lake, a 7-mile-long interstate lake that straddles the border of New York and New Jersey, is a popular recreation spot for residents and tourists of both states. Considered to be one of the top bass fishing lakes in New Jersey, Greenwood Lake is abundant with largemouth and smallmouth bass, yellow perch, chain pickerel and catfish. The lake is also extensively used by residents for swimming and boating.

For over 35 years, Princeton Hydro’s scientists have worked with New Jersey, local governing municipalities, and the various environmental organizations involved with the protection of Greenwood Lake and its watershed. In the early 2000s, we developed a comprehensive Restoration Plan and a proactive monitoring program that we have used over the years to properly manage the lake and its watershed. The plan was developed for the Greenwood Lake Commission and the Township of West Milford with funding provided through the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s Nonpoint Source 319(h) Program. The Restoration Plan focuses heavily on the implementation of various types of stormwater best management practices (BMPs) to help reduce the influx of sediment and nutrients into the lake. We track the positive effects and benefits achieved through these stormwater projects by conducting both storm-event based and in-lake water quality monitoring.

The goal of the stormwater-based efforts is to ensure the lake’s total phosphorus (TP) load is systematically reduced in accordance with the lake’s established Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL). The TMDL is a regulatory term in the U.S. Clean Water Act, that identifies the maximum amount of a pollutant (in this case phosphorus) that a waterbody can receive while still meeting water quality standards. Princeton Hydro was instrumental in developing the TMDL for Greenwood Lake. Phosphorus entering the lake from runoff is the primary driver of the lake’s eutrophication. The direct results of eutrophication are increases in the density of aquatic plants and nuisance algae. All this added productivity leads to reduced clarity, reductions in dissolved oxygen concentrations, and a number of other ecological impacts that compromise the quality, aesthetics, and use of the lake.

Last year, Princeton Hydro and the Greenwood Lake Commission, with input from the West Milford Environmental Commission, proposed an updated Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP) for the lake. Approved and funded by the NJ Highlands Council, the updated WIP includes a variety of components that build upon the original Restoration Plan and incorporate newly advanced stormwater management and Nonpoint Source Pollution (NPS) reduction technologies.

Belcher's Creek at Edgecumb and Glencross

The WIP includes in‐lake and stream monitoring; the assessment of the existing stormwater structures installed through grant‐based, watershed activities; and the identification of watershed-based projects that can be completed to support the Lake’s compliance with TMDL TP levels with a specific focus on the stormwater runoff produced by Belcher’s Creek, a major tributary to Greenwood Lake.

The WIP also includes the following nine minimum elements considered necessary by both NJDEP and USEPA for funding eligibility:

  1. Identify causes and sources of pollution
  2. Estimate pollutant loading into the watershed and the expected load reductions
  3. Describe management measures that will achieve load reductions and targeted critical areas
  4. Estimate amounts of technical and financial assistance and the relevant authorities needed to implement the plan
  5. Develop an information/education component
  6. Develop a project schedule
  7. Describe the interim, measurable milestones
  8. Identify indicators to measure progress
  9. Develop a monitoring component

While many of these elements have been indirectly addressed to varying degrees in the original Restoration Plan, in order to maximize Greenwood Lake’s opportunities to obtain State and Federal funding for the design and implementation of watershed control measures, the WIP now explicitly correlates the nine elements to eight specific deliverables, which are as follows:

  1. Conduct a detailed in‐lake and watershed‐based water quality monitoring program and compare the data to that collected in 2004 and 2005 to document changes or shifts in water quality.
  2. Meet with the Township of West Milford, Passaic County and other stakeholders to
    inventory recently completed BMPs and other watershed management measures.
  3. Conduct a field‐based evaluation of the stormwater project completed since the original 319‐grant funded Restoration Plan.
  4. Conduct site assessments to identify other potential stormwater/watershed BMP projects.
  5. Conduct a field assessment of the Belchers Creek Corridor to identify potential Nonpoint Source Pollution Reduction Projects.
  6. Assemble the WIP with all the 9 elements fully satisfied.
  7. Schedule and implement stakeholder and public meetings to evaluate project status.
  8. Submit of final version of WIP to the NJDEP and present the findings and recommendations to the public.

This project was initiated in September 2018 and is projected for completion by September 2019. The Greenwood Lake Commission, serves as the inter‐State steward of the Greenwood Lake watershed, and is working closely with Princeton Hydro and the watershed stakeholders (Township of West Milford, Passaic County and others), to ensure the WIP is a holistic document.

Stay tuned for more Greenwood Lake updates as the WIP progresses. For more information about Princeton Hydro’s lake management projects and capabilities, or to discuss your project needs and goals, please contact us.

Some of the photos utilized in this blog are from The Village of Greenwood Lake.

Arbor Day Bird Walk & Planting at Exton Park

On Thursday, April 25th, 2019, we teamed with the Friends of Exton Park and Homenet Automotive to host an early Arbor Day celebration at Exton Park in Exton, Pennsylvania. Paired with Bring Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day, the event drew over 35 volunteers (of all sizes) to help clean up Exton Park and plant 18 trees!

The day started with a leisurely bird walk throughout the park lead by Friends of Exton Park birders. Participants spotted Red-winged Blackbirds, a Solitary Sandpiper, a Wilson’s Snipe, a Downy Woodpecker and even a Green Heron.

After the bird walk, planting and clearing began. Together, volunteers cleared a hefty amount of multiflora rose and garlic mustard, two invasive species prevalent in the park. With the help of our Landscape Designer, Cory Speroff, MLA, ASLA, CBLP, and Senior Limnologist, Mike Hartshorne, volunteers also planted eight river birch, five red osier dogwood, and five swamp white oak trees throughout the park.

At Princeton Hydro, we value working with our clients and partners to create sustainable landscapes that include native plants that will thrive in our local ecosystems. At all our project sites, we aim to restore and maintain our natural habitats and landscapes. And, we love using teamwork to do it!

We were proud contribute the trees for this event and thank our volunteers for all their hard work. This is the second year we have participated in this Arbor Day volunteer event. We are looking forward to making it an annual tradition!

Friends of Exton Park offers weekly bird walks and volunteer opportunities throughout the year. Go here to learn more and get involved.

Wetland Restoration Project Wins “Land Ethics” Award of Merit

The Pin Oak Forest Conservation Area, located in a heavily developed area of northern Middlesex County, New Jersey, once suffered from wetland and stream channel degradation, habitat fragmentation, decreased biodiversity due to invasive species, and ecological impairment. The site was viewed as one of only a few large-scale freshwater wetland restoration opportunities remaining in this region of New Jersey. Thus, a dynamic partnership between government agencies, NGOs, and private industry, was formed to steward the property back to life and restore its natural function. Today, at Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve’s 19th Annual Land Ethics Symposium, Middlesex County and the project team were presented with the “Land Ethics Award of Merit” for its remarkable restoration achievements.

“In just a few years, the landscape at Pin Oak has transformed from a degraded, disconnected wetland to a healthy, high-functioning landscape,” said Mark Gallagher, Vice President of Princeton Hydro. “This restoration project exemplifies how a diverse group of public and private entities can work together to identify opportunities, overcome challenges and achieve tremendous success.”

The Pin Oak restoration team includes Middlesex County Office of Parks and Recreation, Woodbridge Township, Woodbridge River Watch, New Jersey Freshwater Wetlands Mitigation Council, GreenTrust Alliance, GreenVest, and Princeton Hydro.

The Pin Oak Forest Conservation Area is a 97-acre tract of open space that contains a large wetland complex at the headwaters of Woodbridge Creek. In 2017, the award-winning restoration project converted over 30 acres of degraded freshwater wetlands, streams and disturbed uplands dominated by invasive species into a species-rich and highly functional headwater wetland complex. The resulting ecosystem provides valuable habitat for wildlife and a nurturing environment for native plants such as pin oak, swamp white oak, marsh hibiscus, and swamp rose. The restored headwater wetland system provides stormwater management, floodplain storage, enhanced groundwater recharge onsite, and surface water flows to Woodbridge Creek, as well as public hiking trails, all benefiting the town of Woodbridge.

The Land Ethics Award recognizes the creative use of native plants in the landscape, sustainable and regenerative design, and ethical land management and construction practices. The recipient is selected by a jury of professionals in the field of design, preservation and conservation, and the award is presented at the Annual Symposium.

Photo courtesy of Barbara Storms, Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve.

In addition to the Award of Merit, Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve’s honored Dr. Marion Kyde with the 2019 Land Ethics Director’s Award and Doylestown Township Environmental Advisory Council with the 2019 Land Ethics Award. Congratulations to all of the winners!

Established in 1934, Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve is a 134-acre nature preserve, botanical garden, and accredited museum working to inspire the appreciation and use of native plants by serving as a sanctuary and educational resource for conservation and stewardship. For more information, visit www.bhwp.org.

Read more about the Pin Oak Forest Restoration project:

Innovative and Effective Approach to Wetland Restoration

To learn more about Princeton Hydro’s wetland restoration services and recent projects, visit us here: http://bit.ly/PHwetland

 

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.