Managing Urban Stormwater Runoff and Revitalizing Natural Habitat at Harveys Lake

Measuring 630+ acres, Harveys Lake, located in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, just northeast of Wilkes-Barre, is the largest natural lake (by volume) within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and is one of the most heavily used lakes in the area. It is classified as a high quality – cold water fishery habitat (HQ-CWF) and is designated for protection under the classification.

Since 2002, The Borough of Harveys Lake and the Harveys Lake Environmental Advisory Council  has worked with Princeton Hydro on a variety of lake management efforts focused around maintaining high water quality conditions, strengthening stream banks and shorelines, and managing stormwater runoff.

Successful, sustainable lake management requires identifying and correcting the cause of eutrophication as opposed to simply reacting to the symptoms of eutrophication (algae and weed growth). As such, we collect and analyze data to identify the problem sources and use these scientific findings to develop a customized management plan that includes a combination of biological, mechanical, and source control solutions. Here are some examples of the lake management strategies we’ve utilized for Harveys Lake:

 

Floating Wetland Islands

Floating Wetland Islands (FWIs) are an effective alternative to large, watershed-based natural wetlands. Often described as self-sustaining, FWIs provide numerous ecological benefits. They assimilate and remove excess nutrients, like nitrate and phosphorous, that could fuel algae growth; provide habitat for fish and other aquatic organisms; help mitigate wave and wind erosion impacts; and provide an aesthetic element. FWIs are also highly adaptable and can be sized, configured, and planted to fit the needs of nearly any lake, pond, or reservoir.

Five floating wetland islands were installed in Harveys Lake 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.

Princeton Hydro worked with the Harveys Lake Environmental Advisory Council and the Borough of Harveys Lake to obtain funding for the FWIs through the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP).

 

Streambank & Shoreline Stabilization

Harveys Creek

The shoreline habitat of Harveys Lake is minimal and unusual in that a paved road encompasses the lake along the shore with most of the homes and cottages located across the roadway, opposite the lake. In addition to the lake being located in a highly populated area, the limited shoreline area adds to the challenges created by urban stormwater runoff.

Runoff from urban lands and erosion of streambanks and shorelines delivers nutrients and sediment to Harveys Lake. High nutrient levels in the lake contribute to algal blooms and other water quality issues. In order to address these challenges, the project team implemented a number of small-scale streambank and inlet stabilization projects with big impacts.

The work included the stabilization of the streambank downstream for Harveys Lake dam and along Harveys Creek, the design and installation of a riparian buffer immediately along the lake’s shoreline, and selective dredging to remove sediment build up in critical areas throughout the watershed.

 

Invasive Species Management

Hydrilla (Hydrilla verticillata), an aggressively growing aquatic plant, took root in the lake in 2014 and quickly infected 250 acres of the lake in a matter of three years. If left untreated, hydrilla will grow to the water’s surface and create a thick green mat, which prevents sunlight from reaching native plants, fish and other organisms below. The lack of sunlight chokes out all aquatic life.

In order to prevent hydrilla from spreading any further, Princeton Hydro and SePRO conducted an emergency treatment of the impacted area utilizing the systemic herbicide Sonar® (Fluridone), a clay-based herbicide. SonarOne, manufactured by SePRO, blocks hydrilla’s ability to produce chloroplasts, which in turn halts the photosynthetic process. The low-concentration herbicide does not harm fish, wildlife or people using the lake. Surveys conducted after the treatment showed it was working – the hydrilla had turned white and was dying off. Additional Sonar treatments followed and efforts to eradicate hydrilla in the lake continue.

Dr. Fred Lubnow, our Director of Aquatic Programs, estimates complete eradication of the aquatic plant could take around five years. Everyone can do their part in preventing the spread of this and other invasive species. Boaters and lake users must be vigilant and remove all vegetation from the bottom of watercrafts and trailers.

 

Stormwater Best Management Practices (BMPs)

In 2009, Princeton Hydro developed a stormwater implementation plan (SIP) for Harveys Lake. The goal of the stormwater/watershed-based efforts was to reduce the lake’s existing annual total phosphorus load to be in full compliance with the established Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL). This TMDL is related to watershed-based pollutant loads from total phosphorus (TP) and total suspended solids (TSS), which can contribute to algal blooms.

A number of structural urban runoff projects were implemented throughout the watershed. This includes the design and construction of two natural stream channel projects restoring 500 linear feet of tributaries and reducing the sediment and nutrient loads entering the lake. A series of 38 urban runoff BMPs, including nutrient separating devices and roadside infiltration, were installed in areas immediately adjacent to the lake to further reduce the loads of nutrients and other pollutants reaching the lake.

The photos below show a stormwater project that was completed in the Hemlock Gardens Section of the Watershed. Hemlock Gardens is a 28-acre section of land located in the southeastern portion of the watershed. It contains approximately 26 homes, has very steep slopes, unpaved dirt roads, and previously had no stormwater infrastructure in place.

Two structural stormwater BMPs were installed:

  • A nutrient separating baffle box, which utilizes a three-chamber basin with screens to collect leaf litter, grass clippings and trash
  • A water polishing unit that provides a platform for secondary runoff treatment

In 1994, Harveys Lake was identified as “impaired” by PADEP due to large algal blooms. In 2014, Harveys Lake was removed from the list of impaired waters. Project partners attribute the recovery of this lake to the stream restoration, urban runoff BMP implementation, and the use of in-lake nutrient reduction strategies.

The Harveys Lake Watershed Protection Plan Implementation Project proved that despite the lake being located in an urbanized watershed, it is possible to implement cost-effective green infrastructure and stormwater retrofit solutions capable of significantly decreasing pollutant loading to the lake.

To learn more about our lake and pond management services or schedule a consultation, visit: http://bit.ly/pondlake.

Efforts to Manage Hydrilla in Harveys Lake Prove Difficult but Effective

Collaboration between state agencies and local organizations in Luzerne County bring in grant money to determine Hydrilla infestation levels in Harveys Lake. Treatment efforts are scheduled for 2019.

Story provided by Princeton Hydro Senior Limnologist Michael Hartshorne, and originally published in the Pennsylvania iMapInvasives Fall 2018 Newsletter

Hydrilla (Hydrilla verticillata)

Hydrilla (Hydrilla verticillata) is a relatively new invasive plant in Pennsylvania with the first documented occurrence in 1989 in Adams County. Still, it was not until recently that lake managers, park rangers, and others in the natural resource field have turned their attention to this aggressive invader. Looking incredibly similar to our native waterweed (Elodea canadensis), hydrilla differs in that it is comprised of 4-8 whorled, toothed leaves in contrast to the smooth edged, 3-leaved whorl of E. canadensis.

 

Harveys Lake, located in the Borough of Harveys Lake (Luzerne County) is a large, deep glacial lake with limited littoral (i.e., shoreline) habitat. A significant body of work has been conducted at the lake with the original Phase I: Diagnostic-Feasibility Lake study conducted in 1992 and a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) issued for phosphorus in 2002.

From 2002 to present, Princeton Hydro has assisted the Borough in the restoration of the lake with a heavy focus on stormwater best management practices (BMPs) supplemented by routine, in-lake water quality monitoring. The goal of the storm water/watershed-based efforts was to reduce the lake’s existing, annual total Hydrilla (Hydrilla verticillata) phosphorus load so it’s in full compliance with the established TMDL.

Mapped locations noted in 2014 and 2015 of hydrilla in Harveys Lake as documented in the Pennsylvania iMapInvasives database.

Over the last 15 years, the installation of these watershed-based projects has led to improved water quality conditions; specifically, phosphorus and algae concentrations have been reduced. While water quality conditions improved Harveys Lake, it was during one of the routine, summer water quality monitoring events conducted in July 2014 that a dense stand of hydrilla was noted at the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission’s public boat launch. More than likely, the plant entered the lake as a “hitchhiker” on the boat or trailer being launched from this public boat launch by someone visiting the lake.

Hydrilla (Hydrilla verticillata) Credit: Nick Decker, DCNR Bureau of State Parks

Since the initial identification and confirmation of the hydrilla, the Borough of Harveys Lake has worked in conjunction with the Harveys Lake Environmental Advisory Council, the Luzerne County Conservation District, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, and Princeton Hydro to secure funding for additional surveys to determine the spatial extent and density of growth followed by an aggressive eradication plan.

Grant funds already allocated to Harveys Lake under the state’s Non-Point Source Pollution Program were used to conduct a detailed boat-based and diving aquatic plant survey of Harveys Lake to delineate the distribution and relative abundance of the hydrilla in 2014. During these surveys, the distribution of the hydrilla was found to be limited to the northern portion of the lake with the heaviest densities just off the boat launch with plants observed growing in waters 20-25 feet deep.

A follow-up survey had shown hydrilla coverage to increase from 38% of surveyed sites to 58% of sites in 2016 with hydrilla now present at the lake’s outlet area. Spatial coverage of hydrilla increased from approximately 50 acres in 2014 to 210 acres in 2016, an increase of 160 acres.

This map shows the 2018 proposed treatment area of Harvey’s Lake. Due to funding issues, treatment is now scheduled for 2019. The current hydrilla distribution encompasses the entire littoral zone of Harvey’s Lake.

In hopes of preventing hydrilla escaping into the lake’s outlet stream, the Borough of Harveys Lake funded an emergency treatment of the two-acre outlet area in 2016 utilizing the systemic herbicide Sonar® (Fluridone). A follow-up treatment of 159 acres was conducted in 2017, again utilizing the Fluridone-based systemic herbicide.

The next treatment, which will attempt to cover the majority of the littoral habitat covered by hydrilla, is scheduled for late spring/early summer of 2019. It should be noted that Sonar® is being applied at a low concentration that is effective at eradicating the hydrilla, but will not negatively impact desirable native plant species.

The treatments conducted to date have documented some reductions in the vegetative coverage of hydrilla as well as tuber production relative to the original plant surveys conducted in 2016. However, it is recognized that it will take multiple years of treatment to eradicate this nuisance plant from the lake, as well as a highly proactive, interactive program to educate residents as well as visitors to the lake in preventing the re-introduction of this or other invasive species to Harveys Lake.

 

The successful, long-term improvement of a lake or pond requires a proactive management approach that addresses the beyond simply reacting to weed and algae growth and other symptoms of eutrophication. Our staff can design and implement holistic, ecologically-sound solutions for the most difficult weed and algae challenges. Visit our website to learn more about Princeton Hydro’s lake management services: http://bit.ly/pondlake

Michael Hartshorne‘s  primary areas of expertise include lake and stream diagnostic studies, TMDL development, watershed management, and small pond management and lake restoration. He is particularly skilled in all facets of water quality characterization, from field data collection to subsequent statistical analysis, modeling, technical reporting, and the selection and implementation of best management practices. He has extensive experience in utilizing water quality data in concert with statistical and modeling packages to support load reduction allocations for the achievement of water quality standards or tailored thresholds set forth to reduce the rate of cultural eutrophication. He also has significant experience in conducting detailed macrophyte, fishery, and benthic surveys.