Floating Wetland Islands: A Sustainable Solution for Lake Management

Nick Decker, PA State Parks Resource Manager, and Cory Speroff and Katie Walston of Princeton Hydro position a floating island of native plants in the lake at Frances Slocum State Park

Looking for a unique and creative way to manage nutrient runoff in freshwater lakes? Installing Floating Wetland Islands (FWI) is a low-cost, effective green infrastructure solution used to mitigate phosporus and nitrogen stormwater pollution often emanating from highly developed communities and/or argricultural lands.

FWIs are designed to mimic natural wetlands in a sustainable, efficient, and powerful way. They improve water quality by assimilating and removing excess nutrients that could fuel algae growth; provide valuable ecological habitat for a variety of beneficial species; help mitigate wave and wind erosion impacts; provide an aesthetic element; and add significant biodiversity enhancement within open freshwater environments.

“A pound of phosphorus can produce 1,100 lbs of algae each year. And, each 250-square foot island can remove 10 lbs of phosphorus annually.” explains Princeton Hydro Staff Scientist Katie Walston. “So, that’s 11,000 lbs of algae that is mitigated each year from each 250 square foot of FWI installed!”

This illustration, created by Staff Scientist Ivy Babson, conveys the functionality of a Floating Wetland Island

This illustration, created by Staff Scientist Ivy Babson, conveys the functionality of a Floating Wetland Island

Typically, FWIs consist of a constructed floating mat with vegetation planted directly into the material. Once the islands are anchored in the lake, the plants thrive and grow, extending their root systems through the mat and absorbing and removing excess nutrients from the water column such as phosphorus and nitrogen.

Native plants on the floating island designed by Princeton Hydro that will help reduce the phosphers and algae in the lake at Frances Slocum State ParkThe plants uptake a lot of nutrients, but the workhorse of the FWIs is the microbial community. The matrix used within the islands has a very high surface area and it promotes microbial growth, which performs the majority of the nutrient uptake. Additionally, the root growth from the plants continues to increase the surface area for the microbial biofilm to grow on. Both the plants and microbes acting together help optimize nutrient removal.

Princeton Hydro has designed and installed numerous FWIs in waterbodies large and small for the purpose of harmful algal bloom control, fisheries enhancement, stormwater management, shoreline preservation, wastewater treatment, and more. FWIs are also highly adaptable and can be sized, configured, and planted to fit the needs of nearly any lake, pond, or reservoir.

Greenwood Lake

Recently, the Princeton Hydro team completed a FWI installation in Belcher’s Creek, the main tributary of Greenwood Lake. The lake, a 1,920-acre waterbody located in  both Passaic County, New Jersey and Orange County, New York, is a highly valued ecological and recreational resource for both states and has a substantial impact on the local economies. In addition, the lake serves as a headwater supply of potable water that flows to the Monksville Reservoir and eventually into the Wanaque Reservoir, where it supplies over 3 million people and thousands of businesses with drinking water. 

Since the lake was negatively impacted by HABs during the 2019 summer season, Greenwood Lake Commission (GWLC) has made a stronger effort to eliminate HABs and any factors that contribute to cyanobacteria blooms for 2020 and into the future. Factors being addressed include pollutant loading in the watershed, especially that of Belcher’s Creek. The installation of FWIs in Belcher’s Creek will immediately address nutrients in the water before it enters Greenwood Lake and help decrease total phosphorus loading. In turn this will help reduce HABs, improve water quality throughout the Greenwood Lake watershed, and create important habitat for beneficial aquatic, insect, bird and wildlife species.

“In addition to the direct environmental benefits of FWIs, the planting events themselves, which involve individuals from the local lake communities, have long-lasting positive impacts,” said Dr. Jack Szczepanski, Princeton Hydro Senior Project Manager, Aquatics Resources. “When community members come together to help plant FWIs, it gives them a deepened sense of ownership and strengthens their connection to the lake. This, in turn, encourages continued stewardship of the watershed and creates a broader awareness of how human behaviors impact the lake and its water quality. And, real water quality improvements begin at the watershed level with how people treat their land.”

The project was partially funded by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s (NJDEP) Water Quality Restoration Grants for Nonpoint Source Pollution Program under Section 319(h) of the federal Clean Water Act. As part of the statewide HAB response strategy, the NJDEP made $13.5 million in funding available for local projects that improve water quality and help prevent, mitigate and manage HABs in the state’s lakes and ponds. The GWLC was awarded one of the NJDEPs matching grants, which provided $2 in funding for every $1 invested by the grant applicant. For this project, the GWLC purchased the FWIs and NJDEP provided the 2:1 cash match in order for the GWLC to implement additional HAB prevention and mitigation strategies in critical locations throughout the watershed.

Check out the photos from last month’s installation:

Here are a few more examples of FWI design and installation projects we’ve completed:

Frances Slocum Lake

Officials with the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Luzerne Conservation District, Nanticoke Conservation Club, and students at Rock Solid Academy in Shavertown teamed up with Princeton Hydro to install two floating islands on the lake. They were planted natives to the area, including Green Bulrush, Broadleaf Arrowhead, Blue Flag Iris, Shallow Sedge, and Spotted Joe-Pye.

Princeton Hydro also installed solar-powered aeration systems in the middle of the FWIs. Aeration systems provide additional water quality improvements, help prevent water around the islands from stratifying, promotes “through-column” mixing, and helps to minimize the occurrence of phytoplankton blooms. The use of solar-powered aeration, whether installed on a FWI or along the shoreline, creates a sustainable, cost-effective, zero-energy water treatment solution, and eliminates the need to run direct-wired electrical lines to remote locations. Learn more.

Princeton Hydro also installs solar-powered aeration systems on FWIs, creating a sustainable, cost-effective, holistic water treatment solution.
Harveys Lake

Princeton Hydro, along with project partners, installed five floating wetland islands in Harveys Lake in order to assimilate and reduce nutrients already in the lake. The islands were placed in areas with high concentrations of nutrients, placed 50 feet from the shoreline and tethered in place with steel cables and anchored. A 250-square-foot FWI is estimated to remove up to 10 pounds of nutrients per year, which is significant when it comes to algae. Learn more.

Volunteers install native plants in one of the FWIs installed in Harveys Lake. Photo by: Mark Moran, The Citizen’s Voice.
lake hopatcong

Through a nonpoint source pollution grant awarded by NJDEP to the Lake Hopatcong Commission, Jefferson Township was able to install FWIs in order to deliver better water quality to Ashley Cove and Lake Hopatcong. The primary goal of the project was to reduce high levels of algae-causing phosphorus present in the lake. In each FWI, indigenous plants, Milkweed and Hibiscus, among other vegetation, were planted along with peat and mulch. Learn more.

Casey Hurt, right, and Richard Ampomah maneuver one of two floating wetland islands in Ashley Cove.
Lake Holiday

Two interconnected sets of FWIs were installed in Lake Holiday in the tributary coves of Isaac’s and Yeider’s Creeks. The strategic placement of the islands eliminates interference with normal boat traffic. In order to minimize movement, the FWIs were secured to trees along the bank with coated cable and protective bands and anchored to the lake bottom with submerged concrete blocks. Learn more.

Senior Scientist Katie Walston installs goose netting around the vegetation in order to prevent geese and other unwanted species from feeding on the plants.

Over the coming weeks, our team will be in Asbury Park, New Jersey installing FWIs in Sunset Lake. Stay tuned for more! For additional information about floating wetland islands and water quality management, go here: bit.ly/pondlake.

6 Ways to Celebrate Lakes Appreciation Month

July is Lakes Appreciation Month – a great time of year to enjoy your community lakes and help protect them.

Lakes Appreciation Month was started by North American Lake Management Society (NALMS) to help bring attention to the countless benefits that lakes provide, to raise awareness of the many challenges facing our waterways, and to encourage people to get involved in protecting these precious resources.

“You work and play on them. You drink from them. But do you really appreciate them? Growing population, development, and invasive species stress your local lakes, ponds, and reservoirs. All life needs water; let’s not take it for granted!” – NALMS

Chemical pollutants, stormwater runoff, hydrocarbons, invasive aquatic species, and climate change are just a few of the the serious threats facing lakes and other freshwater habitats. So what can you do to to help?


We’ve put together six tips to help you celebrate Lakes Appreciation Month and get involved in protecting your favorite lakes:

1. Join the “Secchi Dip-In” contest

The “Secchi Dip-In” is an annual citizen science event where lake-goers and associations across North America use a simple Secchi disk to monitor the transparency or turbidity of their local waterway. Created and managed by NALMS, volunteers have been submitting information during the annual Dip-In since 1994. Get all the Dip-In details here.

2. Monitor and report algae blooms

With the BloomWatch App, you can help the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency understand where and when potential harmful algae blooms (HABs) occur. HABs have the potential to produce toxins that can have serious negative impacts on the health of humans, pets, and our ecosystems. Click here to learn more and download the app here. For more information on HABs, check out our recent blog.

3. Commit to keeping your lake clean

Commit to keeping your lake clean: Volunteers play a major role in maintaining the health and safety of community waterways. If you’re interested in helping to conserve and protect your water resources, you can start by cleaning up trash. Choose a waterbody in your community; determine a regular clean-up schedule; and stick to it! Cleaning your neighborhood storm drains really helps too; click here to find out how.

Photo: Santiago Mejia, The Chronicle
4. support your local lake

You can help support your favorite lake by joining or donating to a lake or watershed association. As an organized, collective group, lake associations work toward identifying and implementing strategies to protect water quality and ecological integrity. Lake associations monitor the condition of the lake, develop lake management plans, provide education about how to protect the lake, work with the government entities to improve fish habitat, and much more.

5. Get outside and enjoy (safely)

There are countless ways to enjoy and appreciate your community lakes. During Lakes Appreciation month, take photos that illustrate how you appreciate your community lakes, share them on social media using the hashtag: #LakesAppreciation, and hopefully you’ll inspire others to show their Lake Appreciation too.

6. ENTER the Lakes Appreciation Challenge

NALMS invites you to participate in its social media photo contest, titled “Show Your Lakes Appreciation Challenge.” To participate: Take a picture of yourself or someone you know enjoying or working on a lake or reservoir during July. And, upload the photo to Facebook, Instagram and/or Twitter using a descriptive caption and the #LakesAppreciation hashtag. Three winners will be determined via a raffle and announced via social media on Monday, August 3rd. Learn more.

fishing on lake

To ensure you’re staying safe while participating in Lakes Appreciation Month and all outdoor activities, please be sure to follow local regulations and the CDC’s recommended COVID-19 guidelines.

To learn more about NALMS and get more ideas on how to celebrate your local lakes, go here: https://www.nalms.org. If you’re interested in learning more about Princeton Hydro’s broad range of award-winning lake management services, go here: http://bit.ly/pondlake.

 

Understanding The Updated NJ Stormwater Rule

In March 2020, NJ Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) published the long-awaited revisions to the New Jersey Stormwater Management Rule (N.J.A.C. 7:8), which now requires the use of green infrastructure. But what do these updates actually mean for New Jersey’s stormwater infrastructure?

At Princeton Hydro, we recognize the benefit of green infrastructure and we’ve been incorporating it into our engineering designs since before the term was regularly used in the stormwater lexicon. We’ve been following the rule amendments very closely, so we’ve got the inside scoop on how to interpret these new updates. In this blog, we’ll break down the complexities and changes to help you understand what’s really going on.

What is Green Infrastructure?

So, let’s start with what green infrastructure actually is in a general sense. Many people think of green infrastructure solely as a way to classify certain stormwater best management practices, or BMPs, but in reality, it goes much deeper than that. Green infrastructure is an approach to engineering design that emphasizes the use of natural processes. Examples include green roofs, rain gardens, constructed wetlands, vegetated bioswales, and living shorelines. In general, approaching environmental management from this lens can help reduce costs and negative impacts to our ecosystems. The benefit to using green infrastructure over structural grey infrastructure is that these living BMPs are incredibly resilient. Being living systems, green infrastructure BMPs help decrease stormwater volume, as soil and vegetation naturally retain and evapotranspire water. Afterall, those natural processes have successfully worked for billions of years, so why not mimic them in our design?

In addition to effectively managing stormwater, green infrastructure has other added benefits such as reducing the heat island effect, reducing energy use, removing pollutants from the air, beautifying public spaces, and even increasing property value. Though the actual practice of green infrastructure may seem new and innovative, the concept has been around for decades.

What’s Changed?

So now, let’s get to the updated regulations. The biggest takeaway from this update is that green infrastructure is now required to meet the three performance criteria that NJDEP sets forth for stormwater management. The amendments to the rule give definitions of green infrastructure as it applies to stormwater management. The rule defines green infrastructure as follows:

“‘Green Infrastructure’ means a stormwater management measure that manages stormwater close to its source by:

  1. Treating stormwater runoff through infiltration into subsoil;

  2. Treating stormwater runoff through filtration by vegetation or soil; or

  3. Storing stormwater runoff for reuse.”

NJDEP evaluates stormwater management compliance through three basic performance metrics: (1) groundwater recharge, (2) water quality, and (3) peak flow control. While these metrics have remained relatively unchanged under the amended rule, the requirements for meeting them have been modified to include green infrastructure. The pre-existing rule required that major developments incorporate nonstructural stormwater management BMPs/strategies to the “maximum extent practicable” to meet their criteria. The amended rule not only gives specific suggestions for the kind of BMPs it’s looking for by adding a definition of green infrastructure, but it also makes those BMPs/strategies a requirement for compliance with the rule’s minimum standards.

The rule also includes tables outlining/summarizing the application of each type of stormwater BMP. One of the biggest changes here is that some of those BMPs have drainage area limitations, which could pose new challenges in the design process.

As stated above, the rule defines green infrastructure as, “a stormwater management measure that manages stormwater close to its source.” This is where those drainage area limitations come into play. Dry wells have a one acre drainage area limitation, which is not new, however, pervious pavement has a 3:1 ratio requirement, meaning that the water flowing over standard pavement, or impervious surfaces, should not be more than three times greater than the area of the pervious pavement.

Likewise, in the amended rule, BMPs like bioretention systems, have a drainage area limitation of 2.5 acres. The addition of this requirement will require designers to spread BMPs out throughout their site, instead of simply including one large structural BMP in a single location on the site. This approach decentralizes and distributes BMPs, enabling more stormwater to infiltrate into the ground, rather than runoff. Because this method more clostely mimics the natural water cycle, it is expected to foster better long-term performance of the BMPs.

This 2.5-acre drainage area limitation is going to effect stormwater design in that it will lead to BMP decentralization. So, project sites will likely have numerous smaller BMPs that will be distributed throughout the area, as opposed to having one large basin at the bottom of the site. This applies, in particular, to large scale commercial and residential projects, as the updated rule will discourage, and in most cases actually not allow, for the implementation of one large basin at the bottom of the site, which currently is common practice in large-scale development design.

Motor Vehicle Surfaces

Another update to the rule is that motor vehicle surfaces are now incorporated into the definition of major development, which was further clarified and defined as:

Any individual ‘development,’ as well as multiple developments that individually or collectively result in:

  1. The disturbance of one or more acres of land since February 2, 2004;

  2. The creation of one-quarter acre or more of “regulated impervious surface” since February 2, 2004;

  3. The creation of one-quarter acre or more of “regulated motor vehicle surface” since March 2,2021; or

  4. A combination of 2 and 3 above that totals an area of one-quarter acre or more. The same surface shall not be counted twice when determining if the combination area equals one quarter acre or more.

The amended rule requires these motor vehicle surfaces to have 80% total suspended solids (TSS) removal, in order to maintain water quality. These surfaces include standard pavement drive/parking areas and gravel and dirt drive/parking areas, according to the rule. However, the rule does not require water quality control for runoff from other impervious surfaces that are not traveled by automobiles, such as rooftops and sidewalks, or other paved walkway areas.

Revisions to BMP Manual

In addition to the changes made to the actual rule, NJDEP released an updated draft of Chapters 5, 12, 13, and Appendix D of the NJ Stormwater BMP Manual, which is currently open for public comment. Chapter 5 regards Stormwater Management and Quantity and Quality Standards and Computations and Chapter 12 regards Soil Testing Criteria. The biggest update to the manual is the addition of the recently finalized Chapter 13: Groundwater Table Hydraulic Impact Assessments for Infiltration BMPs, which requires design engineers to assess the hydraulic impact on the groundwater table to avoid adverse impacts such as surficial ponding, flooding of basements, interference with sewage disposal systems, and interference with the proper functioning of the BMP itself. The addition of this chapter will ensure that these issues are minimized, helping to improve the state’s stormwater management practices overall.

What does this all mean for New Jersey Municipalities?

New Jersey municipalities will need to comply with the new standards, as the NJ Stormwater Management Rule represents the minimum requirements for stormwater control ordinances. The law states that municipalities must update their ordinances by March 2, 2021. To make this transition a bit smoother, NJDEP has released a revised model ordinance in Appendix D of the NJ Stormwater BMP Manual to act as a sample for municipalities to follow when adopting these new regulations. Similar to before, municipalities do have the ability to require stricter stormwater performance metrics, but the criteria outlined in the rule are the minimum that must be met under the new regulations.

For more information on the updates to the stormwater regulations, you can check out an informational webinar (below) hosted by NJ-AWRA and The Watershed Institute. This webinar includes three presentations by New Jersey stormwater experts, including our Director of Stormwater Management & Green Infrastructure, Dr. Clay Emerson, PE, CFM.

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

To prevent harmful algal blooms (HABs) in New Jersey’s largest lake, a clay-based nutrient inactivating technology called Phoslock, is being applied in Lake Hopatcong this week. This is the largest Phoslock treatment to occur in the Northeastern U.S. The Phoslock treatment, which is happening in the southern end of the lake called Landing Channel, is expected to take approximately one week depending on the weather conditions.

Over the course of the 2019 summer season, Lake Hopatcong suffered from large-scale and persistent HABs causing local and county health agencies to close off all beaches and issue advisories over large sections of the lake. These unprecedented conditions had significant negative impacts on the ecological, recreational, and economic resources of the lake and region. In order to combat HABs in this upcoming 2020 summer season, the Lake Hopatcong Commission has partnered with the Lake Hopatcong Foundation, four municipalities (Jefferson, Hopatcong, Mt. Arlington, and Roxbury), two counties (Morris and Sussex), and their environmental consultant, Princeton Hydro, to develop both short- and long-term lake management strategies.

“The negative effects of HABs in our lake last year were numerous, widespread, and in some cases devastating,” recalled Donna Macalle-Holly of Lake Hopatcong Foundation. “It is imperative for every stakeholder to pool our resources to keep it from happening again. Collaboration is the only way to protect public health, as well as the health of New Jersey’s largest lake.”

In an effort to evaluate a variety of innovative in-lake and watershed-based measures to prevent, mitigate, and/or control harmful algal blooms in Lake Hopatcong, the Lake Hopatcong Commission was awarded a $500k grant as part of New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s (NJDEP) new $13.5M initiative to reduce and prevent future harmful algal blooms in New Jersey. In addition to the $500k grant, the aforementioned local government and nonprofit stakeholders provided $330k in matching funds to implement and evaluate a variety of ways to address HABs in Lake Hopatcong.

“Our lake community cannot sustain another year like 2019,” said Lake Hopatcong Commission Chairman Ron Smith. “Since the news of our grant award in early March, we have been working with our partners to make sure the projects are implemented in time for the 2020 season.”

This week, the water resource engineering and natural resource management firm, Princeton Hydro—a lake management consultant to Lake Hopatcong for over two decades—is implementing the first and largest innovative measure as part of the NJDEP HABs grant-funded project. This involves treating 50 acres of the southern end of the lake with Phoslock, a clay-based product that inactivates phosphorus in both the water column and the sediments, making this critical nutrient unavailable for algal growth. The Phoslock treatment, which requires proper permitting by NJDEP, is applied as a slurry and will be distributed from a boat. The slurry will temporarily make the water appear turbid, but should disperse approximately two to six hours after each treatment.

“We are expecting the Phoslock treatment to limit the growth of algae and therefore reduce the occurrence of harmful algal blooms in the lake this summer, keeping it open for recreation and business,” said Dr. Fred Lubnow, Director of Aquatic Resources at Princeton Hydro and leading HABs expert. “If this technology is deemed successful and cost-effective in Lake Hopatcong, we could set the precedent for large-scale HABs prevention in other lakes throughout New Jersey, and even across the nation.”

Developed by the Australian national science agency CSIRO, Phoslock is frequently used to strip the water column of dissolved phosphorus, as well as to inactivate phosphorus generated from deep, anoxic sediments. Recently, at a smaller scale, it has been shown to inactivate the mobilization of phosphorus from shallow sediments where there is a mobilization of phosphorus from both chemical and biological processes.

Algae uses phosphate, the biologically available form of phosphorus, as a food source to grow. When there is an excessive amount of phosphorus in a lake, algal growth can be dense and can negatively affect water quality. This excessive plant growth, caused by eutrophication, can both cause a lack of oxygen available, leading to fish kills, as well as produce harmful algal blooms with cyanotoxins, which are harmful to humans and pets.

Photo credit: SePRO Corporation

After Phoslock is applied, it sinks through the water column, binding phosphate as it moves towards the sediment. Once settled at the bottom of the lake, it forms a very thin layer and continues to bind phosphate released from the sediment, thus controlling the release of phosphorus into the lake. One pound of phosphorus has the potential to generate up to 1,100 lbs of wet algae biomass. However, 1.1 tons of Phoslock is capable of removing 24 pounds of phosphorus — that’s over 26,000 lbs of wet algae biomass not growing in the lake for every 1.1 ton of Phoslock applied. In turn, Phoslock’s ability to suspend biologically available phosphorus is therefore a major step towards improving a lake’s water quality.

As part of the NJDEP HABs grant funding, the stakeholder group will be evaluating the relative effectiveness of this treatment strategy. Because of its shallow depth and separation from the main lake, the Landing Channel area was a good candidate for evaluation of this technology. Princeton Hydro will conduct pre- and post-treatment monitoring of the Phoslock treatment area in order to conduct an objective evaluation of the cost effectiveness of the treatment as a means of preventing the development and/or mitigation of HABs. If the study indicates that Phoslock is a cost-effective treatment, the Lake Hopatcong Commission may consider additional trials in other sections of the lake, if funding is available.

To learn more about HABs, check out our recent blog:

Identifying, Understanding and Addressing Harmful Algae Blooms

NJDEP Releases Updated Guidance for Harmful Algal Blooms

Last summer, 39 of New Jersey’s lakes were plagued with toxic algae outbreaks, also known as harmful algae blooms or HABs, causing major water quality degradation, beach closures and health advisories. In response, the NJDEP implemented a unified statewide approach to addressing HABs in freshwater recreational waters and sources of drinking water, and protecting the public from risks associated with exposure to cyanobacteria.

Last week, NJDEP announced a new component to its statewide Cyanobacterial HAB Response Strategy: a color-coded health alert index that provides precise recreational use recommendations for impacted waterbodies based on levels of cyanobacteria and/or cyanotoxins present. The index has six tiers – NONE, WATCH, ALERT, ADVISORY, WARNING, and DANGER – each providing recommendations on the specific activities that should or should not be pursued based on water monitoring results.

“Princeton Hydro is proud to be one of the contributing factors in the development of the Updated Guidance for HABs,” said said Dr. Fred Lubnow, Director of Aquatic Resources for Princeton Hydro. “We feel this updated protocol will provide the necessary and objective information for State and local organizations to make informed and rational decisions, based on sound and scientifically-based data, on how to deal with HABs in a recreational setting.

Princeton Hydro and Clean Water Consulting are the technical advisers for the New Jersey Lake Group, who have met a number of times over the last 8 to 9 months to discuss the State’s guidance on dealing with HABs.  In late 2019, on behalf of the New Jersey Lake Group, Princeton Hydro and Clean Water Consulting developed a White Paper providing recommended changes for consideration to NJDEP’s Recreational Response Strategy to HABs.

“I’m proud to say that many of the provided recommendations were integrated into NJDEP’s Updated Guidance for HABs,” explained Dr. Lubnow.

WATCH
(Suspected or confirmed HAB with potential for allergenic and irritative health effects)
This warning will be posted when HAB cell counts exceed 20,000. In this scenario, public beaches remain open, but the index instructs the public to use caution, provides information on the potential less serious health effects, and allows for more informed decision-making.

ALERT
(Confirmed HAB that requires greater observation due to increasing potential for toxin production)
This warning indicates a public bathing beach closure only and is posted when a HAB has been confirmed with cell counts between 40,000 and 80,000 and no known toxins above the public threshold. Beaches remain open (dependent upon local health authority) and monitoring for future toxin production should be increased.

ADVISORY
(Confirmed HAB with moderate risk of adverse health effects and increased potential for toxins above public health thresholds)
Signs will be posted for this warning level when cell counts exceed 80,000 or when toxin levels exceed 3 micrograms per milliliter of microcystins. Public bathing beaches will be closed, but the waterbody will remain accessible to some “secondary contact” activities, like boating.

WARNING and DANGER
(Confirmed HAB with high risk of adverse health effects due to high toxin levels)
and (Confirmed HAB with very high risk of adverse health effects due to high toxin levels)
These tiers are designed to alert the public to the presence of HABs that are producing very high levels of toxins which justify additional caution. In some instances, the entire waterbody may be closed for all public use. New Jersey has experienced approximately 12 “warning level” HAB events over the last 3 years; monitoring has never indicated a “danger level” HAB event.

According to their press release, NJDEP is committed to working with local officials to implement the index and get signage posted at lakes throughout the state as soon as possible.

In order to create the health index, NJDEP scientists carefully reviewed HABs data collected over the last three years by Lake Hopatcong Commission, Lake Hopatcong Foundation, Princeton Hydro, and other sources. The tiered warning system will enable lake communities, residents and visitors to make more individualized decisions about what risks they are willing to take and what activities they feel comfortable engaging in at the various levels of HABs.

In the coming days, the NJDEP’s Harmful Algal Bloom website will be updated to include the new health index and accompanying signage, relevant monitoring data, and other information for each of the impacted bodies of water, as well as an updated HAB Monitoring and Response Strategy. For now, you can read the full press release and additional information here: https://www.nj.gov/dep/newsrel/2020/20_0023.htm.

To learn more about HABs, check out our recent blog:

Identifying, Understanding and Addressing Harmful Algae Blooms

Volunteer Spotlight: Monitoring Baby Bird Boxes & Counting Shorebirds

We’re excited to put the spotlight on Princeton Hydro Environmental Scientist Emily Bjorhus and her admirable volunteer work.

As an Environmental Scientist, Emily Bjorhus works on a wide range of projects from flood risk management to wetland mitigation to stream restoration. She specializes in wetland and stream ecology and environmental permitting and compliance. Outside of the office, Emily is an active volunteer with Natural Lands and the Delaware Shorebird Project, working to protect natural resources, promote biodiversity, and protect important species. Emily also volunteers at Franklin Delano Roosevelt High School in Brooklyn, NY teaching Environmental Science students about wetlands. We’ve put together a snapshot of Emily’s volunteer activities:

Natural Lands – Force of Nature Volunteer

Natural Lands is a nonprofit organization that saves open space, cares for nature, and connects people to the outdoors in eastern Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey. Founded in the early 1950s, today nearly five million people live within five miles of lands under Natural Lands’ permanent protection.

As a Force of Nature volunteer with Natural Lands, Emily has been monitoring ~20 nest boxes located in meadow and forest edge habitat at Gwynedd Preserve since 2018. From April through mid-August, Emily and another volunteer visit the sites every 5-7 days to monitor the nest boxes for the types of species using the boxes, nest condition, nest materials, number of eggs laid, number of eggs that hatch, and number of chicks that fledge. Chickadees, wrens, blue birds, and tree swallows are the primary species that nest in the boxes Emily monitors.

When asked what she loves most about this volunteer work, Emily said, “I love watching how the birds build their nest week after week, seeing the eggs multiply and tracking the chicks’ growth. I even enjoy dodging dive-bombing tree swallows.”

Delaware Shorebird Project – Data Collection Volunteer

Delaware Shorebird Project is led by DNREC’s Division of Fish & Wildlife in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Delaware Museum of Natural History, British Trust for Ornithology and Wash Wader Ringing Group, with the help of experienced and dedicated volunteers like Emily.

The project monitors the health and status of migratory shorebird populations to collect data that can be applied to the conservation of these birds. The research has resulted in better understanding of the ecology of shorebirds migrating through Delaware Bay, management of the horseshoe crab harvest to sustain the shorebirds’ population, and protection of key shorebird habitat.

Emily participated in a 3-day shorebird monitoring initiative, which included counting the number of shorebirds on the beach, re-sighting birds previously marked with leg flags, participating in bird catches, and weighing and measuring birds from the catches. The data collected helps monitor trends in shorebird abundance, migratory routes, condition and other important biological data.

“It’s such a pleasure working with the amazing people that come from all over the world to run and participate in this ambitious study,” said Emily. “The data collected from this program will hopefully aid researchers and policy makers to develop strategies to better protect shorebird habitat in the future.”

Franklin Delano Roosevelt High School Environmental Studies – Guest Speaker

Ms. Hannah Goldstein and her Environmental Science students at Franklin Delano Roosevelt High School in Brooklyn, NY welcome Emily as a volunteer guest speaker to teach all about wetlands. The instruction also includes a hands-on session where students collect soil samples to determine if hydric soils are present and identify surrounding trees using a dichotomous key.

“Science is such an important subject matter for kids to be learning for a variety of reasons. Environmental science education in particular encourages thought patterns, which get kids engaged in real-world environmental protection activities,” said Emily. “I really enjoy working with Ms. Goldstein and her students. I hope my presentation inspires the students to learn more about wetlands and become ambassadors of wetland conservation.”

 

Emily earned her M.S. in Sustainable Engineering at Villanova University and holds a B.S. in Environmental Science from University of Colorado at Boulder. As an Environmental Scientist for Princeton Hydro, she coordinates, leads and assists with state environmental permitting programs and NEPA compliance and documentation, including preparation of Federal and state permit applications, Endangered Species Act 7 consultations, and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) environmental review processes. In addition, she conducts a variety of environmental field investigations such as wetland and waterbody delineations.

We’re so proud to have Emily on our team and truly value the work she does inside and outside the office.

Employee Spotlight: Meet Our New Team Members

We’re excited to announce the hiring of four new team members! The addition of this group of talented individuals strengthens our commitment to delivering exceptional service.

Laura Craig, PhD, Director of Natural Resources

Dr. Laura “LC” Craig is an aquatic ecologist and restoration practitioner with more than ten years of experience working in river conservation both as the chief scientist at a national environmental nonprofit and as a restoration practitioner. She is a big picture thinker with extensive experience in science communication, strategic planning, metrics and evaluation, project and budget management, policy, fundraising, and public engagement. Laura’s specific areas of scientific expertise are aquatic ecology, river restoration theory and practice (especially dam removal), nutrient dynamics, and climate adaptation. Laura also has a keen interest in improving how we manage existing and emerging threats to rivers. Laura earned a B.S. in Biology from Susquehanna University and a PhD in Aquatic Ecology from University of Maryland-College Park.

Laura lives in Palmyra, New Jersey where she serves on Borough Council and the Land Use Board. In her free time, Laura goes to punk rock shows with her husband and relaxes on the beach in Asbury Park.

Lori Cooper, Accounting Assistant

Lori has a diverse professional background which includes acting as an animal health technician, Director of Children’s Programming for a community organization, human resource generalist, executive assistant and as an office manager. Her well-rounded experience has effectively utilized her creativity, organizational skills, attention to detail and strength at building relationships. Lori is thrilled to play a supporting role for a company that is making a positive impact on our environment.

Outside of work, Lori enjoys spending time with her family, climbing, gardening and volunteering with various charitable organizations that pull at her heartstrings.

Jerry Vogel, Aquatic Specialist

Jerry has experience in the stormwater, wastewater, and subsurface mapping. Prior to coming to Princeton Hydro, he worked as an Intern with the Economic Geology Division at the Pennsylvania Department of Energy using geophysical logs from abandoned oil and gas wells to map subsurface stratigraphy in the Western Regions of Pennsylvania. Jerry graduated in 2018 with a Bachelors in Earth and Environmental Science from Lehigh University. As an undergraduate, in addition to extensive geology and ecology related coursework, including extensive work involving the remote sensing of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, he completed a six-week geological field camp based in the Northern Rockies, Bighorn Basin, Tetons, Yellowstone, Montana and Idaho gaining a deep understanding of the natural world from basin to mountaintop.

Jerry has a passion for fishing, hiking and being outdoors with his wife and dog. He prides himself on being an environmental steward working to conserve, preserve, and restore nature so it can be enjoyed by future generations.

Tim Cutler, Aquatic Specialist

Tim is a member of Princeton Hydro’s Field Operations Practice Area. He has ten years of experience working on the water. He is a U.S. Coast Guard veteran and served active duty from 2000-2005 as a Machinery Technician. For several years, Tim worked in emergency and marine spill response. He also has experience working with water quality analyzers as a Service Technician in the Power Generation field.

Outside of work, Tim enjoys being outdoors, seeing live music, going to the movies, and spending time with his wife and cats. He is also a drummer and illustrator in his spare time.

 

Learn more about our team.

 

 

 

Bloomfield: Restoration Efforts Transforming Industrial Site Into Thriving Public Park

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To learn more, check out the full story below:

Urban Wetland Restoration to Yield Flood Protection for Bloomfield Residents

Understanding and Addressing Invasive Species

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

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

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

Defining Invasive Species

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

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

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

Understanding How Invasives Spread

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

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

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

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

Measuring the Impacts of Invasives

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

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

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

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

Addressing Invasives

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

What Can We Do?

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

Ecological Uplift in an Urban Setting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by Princeton Hydro on Thursday, January 30, 2020

 

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