Deadline Approaching for Municipal Compliance on NJ Stormwater Rule

March 2, 2021 is the deadline for New Jersey’s municipalities to comply with the new stormwater management ordinances laid out in the New Jersey Stormwater Management Rule (N.J.A.C. 7:8).

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) revised the rule last year to now require construction projects to include green infrastructure in order to meet the three performance criteria that NJDEP sets forth for stormwater management. The new rule gives local governments an opening to revise their existing stormwater management ordinances to better manage flooding and improve compromised water quality.

The rule defines green infrastructure as, “a stormwater management measure that manages stormwater close to its source by: treating stormwater runoff through infiltration into subsoil; treating stormwater runoff through filtration by vegetation or soil; or storing stormwater runoff for reuse.”

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. Also included in the rule are tables outlining the application of each type of stormwater BMP.

Another update to the rule is that motor vehicle surfaces are now incorporated into the definition of major development. 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.

New Jersey municipalities need to comply with the new standards and the ordinances must be in effect by March 2nd, 2021. To make this transition a bit smoother, NJDEP 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.

The Watershed Institute also drafted its own Model Ordinance to help municipalities go beyond the updated rule and strengthen protections to benefit the environment. The Model Ordinance builds on the state’s baseline requirements with the following enhancements:

  • Reduced threshold definition for major development
  • Requirement for major developments to treat runoff from all impervious surfaces for water quality
  • Requirement for stormwater management for minor development over 250-square-feet
  • Stormwater management for redevelopment
  • The use of Low Impact Development techniques
  • Maintenance reporting requirements

At the end of last year, The Watershed Institute held a webinar about the state’s new Green Infrastructure rule. The webinar, attended by 240 people, included three presentations that provided a detailed look at the NJDEP’s rule updates and the steps needed for local governments to comply.

The presentations, given by the following green infrastructure experts, are available to view in full:

You can view the full webinar by clicking here.

 

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, and, last year, we developed the following blog to help folks garner a deeper understanding of green infrastructure, interpret the rule updates, and break down the complexities of the stormwater guidelines:

Understanding The Updated NJ Stormwater Rule

If you have further questions regarding green infrastructure or stormwater utilities, we encourage you to contact us.

Blue Acres Floodplain Restoration in Linden Wins Award for Excellence in Water Resources

A project to increase storm resiliency and reduce flood risk through ecological and floodplain restoration on a New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) Blue Acres property in Linden, NJ was completed earlier this year. Today, we are thrilled to announce our project has received the “Excellence in Water Resources: Ecological Restoration Award” from the New Jersey Section – American Water Resources Association (NJ-AWRA).

“The Linden Blue Acres Green Infrastructure & Floodplain Restoration is an excellent model for showcasing a successful approach to the enhancement of public lands through a dynamic multidisciplinary, multi-stakeholder partnership,” said Mark Gallagher, Vice President of Princeton Hydro. “We are so proud to have seen this project through to completion and are all the more honored to be recognized by the NJ-AWRA with this prestigious award.”

The NJ-AWRA Excellence Award recognizes projects that demonstrate an innovative and effective approach to water resources management. The projects must embody the mission of the AWRA to advance multidisciplinary water resources education, management and research. The Linden Blue Acres project excelled in these areas, resulting in the successful nomination of the project to receive the award.

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

Like other communities in the Arthur Kill Watershed, Linden also suffers severe flooding from heavy rains and storms. Due to a high percentage of impervious cover from houses, roadways, and sidewalks, even small rain events generate a significant amount of stormwater runoff. Tremley Point, a low-lying community of about 275 homes, is particularly prone to backwater flooding because of its low lying landscape position and its proximity to an extensive area of tidal wetlands associated with Marshes Creek, a tributary to the Rahway River.

In 2012, Hurricane Sandy caused widespread destruction to the City of Linden. The City’s Tremley Point neighborhood was especially storm-ravaged; local news outlets reported that a 15-foot tidal surge overtook Tremley Point homes, destroyed roads, and washed up hazardous material such as a 150-gallon diesel tank.

22 properties in Tremley Point were aquired by NJDEP Blue Acres.

To help communities like Tremley Point recover, the NJDEP launched the Blue Acres program under which NJDEP purchases homes from willing sellers at pre-Sandy market values, so residents in areas of repetitive and catastrophic flooding can rebuild their lives outside flood-prone areas. Structures are demolished and the properties are permanently preserved as open space for recreation or conservation purposes.

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

Project partners at present the project to the community in Linden, NJ

Nancy Sadlon, Manager of Public Affairs for Phillips 66-Bayway Refinery, accepted the award on behalf of the project team and said, “Our team not only made possible the first successful implementation of the floodplain restoration on Blue Acres lands but set a precedent on stakeholder engagement; we showed what is possible when all stakeholders are fully engaged and dedicated to the same goal.”

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

Although the planning for this project occurred over many years, the project officially kicked off in December 2018.  Engineering design was finalized and permitting submissions were completed in September 2019, and construction commenced in October 2019.  The project construction was completed earlier this year.

This project embodies the NJ-AWRA mission as it focuses on restoring a floodplain and enhancing its functions by leveraging the success of the NJDEP Blue Acres buyouts to create even more flood protection for the community. This project also fulfills the NJ-AWRA criteria as several different organizations were involved in bringing it to fruition, including private entities, government agencies, universities, and nonprofit organizations.

Given that this project was the first restoration project to be completed on NJDEP Blue Acres-acquired property, the hope is that it will bring to light other possibilities for restoration work on Blue Acres land. This project can be used as an example for future projects of a similar nature.

We would also like to thank the project funders, whose support made this project possible: The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Phillips 66, and the New Jersey Corporate Wetlands Restoration Partnership.

During the award ceremony, which was held virtually, NJ-AWRA also recognized John A. Miller, PE, CFM, CSM with the Peter Homack Award for “his outstanding contributions toward a multidisciplinary understanding and management of water resources in New Jersey.” John previously worked with Princeton Hydro for 15 years as a Water Resources Engineer and now serves as the Mitigation Liaison to the State of New Jersey at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). We are so proud of John and all his accomplishments. This award is well deserved and we congratulate him on this honor.

Read more about the Linden Blue Acres project:

Setting the Precedent: Blue Acres Floodplain Restoration in Linden

UPDATE: NJ’s Dunes at Shoal Harbor Shoreline is Restored

The Dunes at Shoal Harbor, a coastal residential community in Monmouth County, New Jersey, is situated adjacent to both the Raritan Bay and the New York City Ferry channel.  In July 2018, Princeton Hydro was contracted to restore this coastal community that was severely impacted by Hurricane Sandy. Today, we are thrilled to report that the shoreline protection design plans have been fully constructed and the project is complete.

Rendering of the shoreline protection design
September 2020
A rendering of the shoreline protection design by Princeton Hydro. A snapshot of Princeton Hydro's completed work in September 2020.

In order to protect the coastal community from flooding, a revetment had been constructed on the property many years ago. The revetment, however, was significantly undersized and completely failed during Hurricane Sandy. The community was subjected to direct wave attack and flooding, homes were damaged, beach access was impaired, and the existing site-wide stormwater management basin and outfall was completely destroyed.

July 2018
September 2020

Princeton Hydro performed a wave attack analysis commensurate with a category three hurricane event and used that data to complete a site design for shoreline protection.

The site design and construction plans included:

  • The installation of a 15-foot rock revetment (one foot above the 100-year floodplain elevation) constructed with four-foot diameter boulders;

  • The replacement of a failed elevated timber walkway with a concrete slab-on-grade walkway, restoring portions of the existing bulkhead, clearing invasive plants, and the complete restoration of the failed stormwater basin and outlet; and

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

These measures will prevent shoreline erosion, protect the community from wave attacks and flooding, and create a stable habitat for native and migratory species.

During the final walkthrough earlier this month, the Princeton Hydro team captured drone footage of the completed project site. Click below to watch the video:

For more images and background information on this project, check out the following photo gallery and read our original blog post from July 2018:

Conservation Spotlight: Dunes at Shoal Harbor Shoreline Protection

For more information about Princeton Hydro’s engineering services, go here.

Client Spotlight: Lake Hopatcong Foundation

This month we are launching the first blog in our Client Spotlight Blog Series! Each spotlight will feature one of our important client relationships in order to give you an inside look at our collaboration. We pride ourselves on forming strong ties with organizations that share our values of creating a better future for people and our planet. So we are excited to be able to share snippets of the incredible teamwork we’ve been able to accomplish over the years!

At Princeton Hydro, we value our client relationships, as the collaborative work we are able to complete with organizations like the Lake Hopatcong Foundation (LHF) reaches exponentially further than anything we could complete alone. One of the reasons our organizations have such strong symmetry is that our values align and complement each other.

As their mission states,”Lake Hopatcong Foundation dedicates itself to protecting the lake environment and enhancing the lake experience, bringing together public and private resources to encourage a culture of sustainability and stewardship on and around New Jersey’s largest lake, for this and future generations.” We are so proud to help protect New Jersey’s largest lake with LHF.

We have been working with LHF since its inception in 2012, which is why we are excited to feature them in our first client spotlight blog. We spoke with Jessica Murphy, President/Executive Director of the Foundation, and Donna Macalle-Holly, Grants and Program Director, to give you an insider look at the organization:

Q: What makes the Lake Hopatcong Foundation unique?

A: The Lake Hopatcong Foundation is unique in that our mission spans a wide spectrum of activities. In addition to projects that focus on the lake environment, we also take on initiatives that support education, safety, community-building, recreation, and even arts and culture. The lake is split between two counties and four towns, so bringing the community together for all these things is very important to us, in addition to making sure the lake itself is healthy.

Q: What does the Lake Hopatcong Foundation value?

A: During our strategic planning process, the board and staff developed a list of values that we go back to when operating and making decisions. They are:

  • Collaboration – We operate in a way that brings people together throughout the community.
  • Action – We are committed to our mission, moving quickly to take on projects that have an impact on and around the lake.
  • Sustainability – We are forward-thinking when making decisions, taking future generations into account when considering projects and initiatives.
  • Warmth – We are a friendly face to the community, showing the best of ourselves and bringing out the best in the people of Lake Hopatcong.

Q: How long have you been working with Princeton Hydro?

The Lake Hopatcong Floating Classroom ready for take off!

When we first started the Lake Hopatcong Foundation in 2012, Dr. Fred Lubnow was kind enough to do a water quality presentation as one of our very first events as an organization! In the years since, we’ve worked closely with Princeton Hydro, particularly in a support role as they conduct business with the Lake Hopatcong Commission. The Lake Hopatcong Commission is a state entity created in 2001 through the Lake Hopatcong Protection Act dedicated to protecting the water quality of Lake Hopatcong and to preserve the natural, scenic, historical and recreational resources of the lake. LHF funded Princeton Hydro’s water quality monitoring during the years that the Commission ran out of money

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

A: In addition to water quality monitoring on the lake, Princeton Hydro has led volunteer training for us in our efforts to prevent the spread of invasive species and to teach local students in our spring field trip program. Dr. Lubnow has also worked alongside us in applying for grants and in providing insight and expertise for other environmental projects at the lake, including helping guide the installation of floating wetland islands, and helping our NJ Lakes Group to work with NJDEP on Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) policies. He even did a quick fact check on our children’s book, Lake Hopatcong Speaks Out, before we published it!

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

Princeton Hydro’s Senior Project Manager, Christopher Mikolajczyk, CLM, presenting during a Water Scout training held by the Lake Hopatcong Foundation.

A: The days that Chris Mikolajczyk spent teaching our volunteers about how to find and remove water chestnuts from the lake were a lot of fun, particularly because we were kayaking on the lake for it! And, also because the kayak we provided Chris was too small for him, and he had to scrunch in to fit, but he was a trouper and paddled on.

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

A: We are working closely with Princeton Hydro and LHC on a series of projects, funded through NJDEP grants, LHC, LHF, and local governments, that we hope will prevent and mitigate HABs on the lake. Those projects include aeration systems, phosphorus-locking technologies, and stormwater infrastructure upgrades. We’re excited to see how effective each can be. Also, on August 7 at 12:30, Dr. Lubnow will be presenting the Lake Hopatcong water quality monitoring project results at LHF’s “Thirst for Knowledge” lunch-and-learn webinar series, which was created to share information and discuss topics of interest to our lake community. To register for the free webinar, visit lakehopatcongfoundation.org.

Photo by: Colleen Lyons of the Lake Hopatcong Commission

Photo by: Colleen Lyons of the Lake Hopatcong Commission

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

A: All of us at Lake Hopatcong Foundation have a passion for this lake and want to see it protected; we have a love for the community that surrounds it, too. Jessica Murphy grew up on the lake, met her husband here, and now is raising her four children to love the lake, too. Donna Macalle-Holly also met her husband on Lake Hopatcong, lives on the lake, and has worked professionally to take care of it for nearly two decades. Everyone in our office has made memories on Lake Hopatcong and developed friendships with those who live and work here. Those personal connections fuel our passion for what we do.

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

A: Continue to be the incredible resource you are! We are so fortunate to have the deep knowledge and expertise that Fred and your entire team provide, and we look forward to continuing to work together in the years ahead.

Water Scouts paddling on Lake Hopatcong.


Some recent projects we are/have been working on with LHF include installing biochar bags to help control phosphorus levels and applying Phoslock to help mitigate harmful algal blooms! Because of our history working on Lake Hopatcong, we too have gained a passion for protecting and maintaining this lake. This incredibly important work could not be done without the genuine devotion and dedication from the Lake Hopatcong Foundation. We look forward to continuing great work with this incredible group!

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.

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

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!

Setting the Precedent: Blue Acres Floodplain Restoration in Linden

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regional Watershed Planning: A Critical Strategy to Prevent HABs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Identifying, Understanding and Addressing Harmful Algae Blooms

Harmful Algae Bloom Visible in Owasco Lake. Photo by: Tim Schneider

Harmful Algae Blooms (HABs) were in the spotlight this summer due to the severe impacts they had on lakes throughout the country. The nation-wide HABs outbreak caused beach closures, restricted access to lake usage, and wide-ranging health advisories.

What exactly are HABs? Why were they so severe this summer? Will this trend continue? Can anything be done to prevent the occurrence or mitigate the impacts?

In this blog, we provide answers to all of those questions, exploring what HABs are, why they occur, why they were particularly prevalent this summer, and what we can do to combat them.

What are HABs?

Simply put, HABs are rapid, large overgrowths of cyanobacteria. Cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, aren’t actually algae, they are prokaryotes, single-celled aquatic organisms that are closely related to bacteria and can photosynthesize like algae. These microorganisms are a natural part of aquatic ecosystems, but, under the right conditions (primarily heavy rains, followed by hot, sunny days), these organisms can rapidly increase to form cyanobacteria blooms, also known as HABs.

HABs can cause significant water quality issues in lakes and ponds, often forming a visible and sometimes odorous scum on the surface of the water. They can produce toxins that are incredibly harmful (even deadly) to humans, animals, and aquatic organisms. HABs also negatively impact economic health, especially for communities dependent on the income of jobs and tourism generated through their local lakes and waterways.

What causes HABs?

HABs are caused by a complex set of conditions, and many questions remain about exactly why they occur and how to predict their timing, duration, and toxicity. Primarily, HABs are caused by warmer temperatures and stormwater run-off pollutants, including fertilizers with phosphates.

NY Times article, featuring Princeton Hydro, looks at how climate change affects lakes nationwide, using NJ as an example. Photo by: Rick Loomis, NY Times.HABs are induced by an overabundance of nutrients in the water. The two most common nutrients are fixed nitrogen (nitrates and ammonia) and phosphorus. Discharges from wastewater treatment plants, runoff from agricultural operations, excessive fertilizer use in urban/suburban areas, and stormwater runoff can carry nitrogen and phosphorus into waterways and promote the growth of cyanobacteria.

Climate change is also a factor in HAB outbreaks, which typically occur when there are heavy rains followed by high temperatures and sunshine. Climate change is leading to more frequent, more intense rainstorms that drive run-off pollutants into waterways, coupled with more hot days to warm the water. These are the ideal conditions for HABs, which in recent years have appeared in more places, earlier in the summer.

With climate change and increasing nutrient pollution causing HABs to occur more often and in locations not previously affected, it’s important for us to learn as much as we can about HABs so that we can reduce their harmful effects.

What Can I Do to Prevent HABs?

Signs on the closed beach at Hopatcong State Park warn residents of the Harmful Algae Bloom at Lake Hopatcong on July 2019, in Landing, NJ. (Photo by: Danielle Parhizkaran of NorthJersey.comThe number one thing individuals can do to protect their waterbodies and prevent HABs is to reduce phosphorous use and reduce nutrient loads to waters.

According to Dr. Fred Lubnow, Director of Aquatic Programs for Princeton Hydro, “Managing loads of phosphorous in watersheds is even more important as the East Coast becomes increasingly warmer and wetter thanks to climate change. 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.”

Here are a few steps you can take to improve water quality in your community lakes:

Controlling stormwater runoff is another critical factor in improving water quality and reducing HABs. There are a number of low-cost green infrastructure techniques that can be implemented on an individual and community-wide scale. You can read more about green infrastructure stormwater management techniques in our recent blog.

In a recent Op/Ed published on NJ.com, Princeton Hydro President Geoff Goll lists four things that residents, businesses, and local governments should do to prevent another HABs outbreak next summer:

  1. Improve aging “gray” infrastructure
  2. Invest in “green” stormwater infrastructure
  3. Implement regional/watershed-based planning
  4. Pass the Water Quality Protection and Jobs Creation Act

“By making the necessary investments, we can simultaneously create jobs, reduce flood impacts, improve fisheries, maintain or increase lakefront property values, improve water quality and preserve our water-based tourism. The time to act is literally now,” said Geoff. Go here, to read the full article.

HABs Management in Action through Floating Wetland Islands:

Nitrogen and phosphorus are utilized by plants, which means they uptake these nutrients to sustain growth. We see this naturally occurring in wetland ecosystems where wetlands act as a natural water filtration system and can actually thrive from nutrients flowing in from external sources.

This process is replicated in floating wetland islands (FWIs), where you typically have a constructed floating mat with vegetation planted directly into the material. The plants then grow on the island, rooting through the floating mat.

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

Not only do FWIs assimilate and remove excess nitrogen and phosphorus out of the water, they also provide habitat for fish and other aquatic organisms; help mitigate wave and wind erosion impacts; provide an aesthetic element; and can be part of a holistic lake/pond management strategy. Because of this, FWIs are being utilized to improve water quality and control HABs in lakes and ponds throughout the country. Princeton Hydro has designed and implemented numerous FWIs in waterbodies large and small. Go here to learn how they’re being used in Harveys Lake.

 

Recognizing and monitoring the changes that are taking place in our local waterways brings the problems of climate change, stormwater pollution and the resulting water quality issues closer to home, which can help raise awareness, inspire environmentally-minded action and promote positive, noticeable change.

If you spot what you believe to be a harmful algae bloom in your community lake, contact your local lake association right away. They, along with their lake management team, can assess the situation and determine what further actions need to be taken.

For more information about harmful algae blooms and water quality management, go here: http://bit.ly/pondlake.

Special thanks to Princeton Hydro Staff Scientist Ivy Babson for her contributions to this blog.