Client Spotlight: Musconetcong Watershed Association

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

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

Meet the Musconetcong Watershed Association

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

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

Q: What makes MWA unique?

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

Q: What does MWA value?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hughesville Dam Removal on the Musconetcong River

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

Posted by Princeton Hydro on Monday, December 10, 2018

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Client Spotlight: Lake Hopatcong Foundation

New Video Celebrates 50th Anniversary of Wild & Scenic Rivers Act

Credit: NPS.gov

Communities across the nation are preparing to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. This landmark legislation passed by Congress in October 1968 safeguards the free-flowing character of rivers by precluding them from being dammed, while allowing the public to enjoy them. It encourages river management and promotes public participation in protecting streams.

As part of the celebration, the National Park Service released a new video highlighting a handful of ‘Wild and Scenic’ designated rivers in the Northeast – the Farmington, Sudbury, Assabet, Concord, and Musconetcong Rivers – along with the organizations and community volunteers who work together to protect and care for these rivers.

Princeton Hydro is proud to work with two of the river stewards featured in the video: Musconetcong Watershed Association (MWA) and Farmington River Watershed Association (FRWA).

The Musconetcong River:

Designated ‘Wild and Scenic’ in 2006, the Musconetcong River is a 45.7-mile-long tributary of the Delaware River in northwestern New Jersey.

Princeton Hydro has been working with MWA in the areas of river restoration, dam removal, and engineering consulting since 2003 when the efforts to remove the Gruendyke Mill Dam in Hackettstown, NJ began. To date, Princeton Hydro has worked with MWA to remove five dams on the Musconetcong River, the most recent being the Hughesville Dam.

As noted in the video, the removal of these dams, especially the Hughesville dam, was a major milestone in restoring migratory fish passage along the Musconetcong. Only a year after the completion of the dam removal, American shad returned to the “Musky” for the first time in 250 years.

“The direction the river is moving bodes well for its recovery,” said Princeton Hydro President Geoff Goll, P.E., who was interviewed in the 50th anniversary video. “This multidisciplinary approach using ecology and engineering, paired with a dynamic stakeholder partnership, lead to a successful river restoration, where native fish populations returned within a year. ”

The Farmington River:

The Upper Farmington River, designated as ‘Wild and Scenic’ in 1994, stretches 14-miles through Connecticut starting above Riverton through the New Hardford/Canton town line. The river is important for outdoor recreation and provides critical habitat for countless wildlife.

Credit: FWRA.orgBack in 2012, Princeton Hydro worked with the FRWA and its project partners to remove the Spoonville Dam. Built in 1899 on the site of a natural 25-foot drop in the riverbed, the dam was originally a hydropower facility. The hurricanes and flood of 1955 breached the dam, opening a 45-foot gap and scattering massive dam fragments in the riverbed downstream. The remnant of the main dam persisted for decades as a 128-foot long, 25-foot high obstacle in the channel. The river poured through the breach in a steep chute that stopped American shad from proceeding further upstream to spawn.

The project was completed, from initial site investigation through engineering assessment and final design, in just six months. The dam removal helped to restore historic fish migrations in the Farmington River (including the American shad) and increase recreation opportunities.

Wild & Scenic Rivers Act:

Credit: NPS.govAs of December 2014 (the last designation), the National ‘Wild and Scenic’ System protects 12,734 miles of 208 rivers in 40 states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico; this is a little more than one-quarter of 1% of the nation’s rivers. By comparison, more than 75,000 large dams across the country have modified at least 600,000 miles, or about 17%, of American rivers.

In honor of the 50th anniversary of the Act and in an effort to designate many more miles of river as ‘Wild and Scenic,’ four federal agencies and four nonprofit groups are coordinating nationwide events and outreach. Managing agencies are the Bureau of Land ManagementFish and Wildlife ServiceForest Service, and National Park Service, along with American RiversAmerican WhitewaterRiver Network and River Management Society. Go here for more info: www.wildandscenicrivers50.us.