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!

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.

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

NJ Takes Serious Steps to Prevent Harmful Algal Blooms

Photo by: Lake Hopatcong Commission

Last year, there were more than 70 suspected and 39 confirmed Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) in New Jersey, which is significantly higher than the previous two years. New Jersey wasn’t the only state impacted by HABs. The increase caused severe impacts on lakes throughout the country, resulting in beach closures, restricting access to lake usage, and prompting wide-ranging health advisories.

In November, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy and officials from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) announced a three-pronged, $13 million initiative to reduce and prevent future HABs in the state. As part of the initiative, NJDEP hosted its first regional HABs Summit with the goal of prevention by improving communication throughout lake communities and sharing information ahead of the warmer months when HABs begin to appear.

The summit, which was held on January 28, 2020 at NJDEP’s Pequest Trout Hatchery and Natural Resource Education Center in Warren County included a Q&A panel discussion, information resource tables for one-on-one discussions, and presentations from a variety of NJDEP representatives and environmental experts. Princeton Hydro’s  Director of Aquatics and regional HABs expert Dr. Fred Lubnow’s presentation focused on how to properly and effectively manage HABs.

According to Dr. Lubnow, “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.”

In a recent press release from Governor Murphy’s office, the NJDEP Chief of Staff Shawn LaTourette said, “We will reduce HABs by working closely with our local partners on prevention and treatment techniques, while relying on the best available science to clearly communicate risk to the public. Our new HABs initiative will enhance the Department’s ability to evaluate statewide strategies and increase the capacity of lake communities to reduce future blooms.”

New Jersey’s new HABs initiative is comprised of three main components:

Providing Funding:

More than $13 million in funding will be available to local communities to assist in preventing HABs, including:

  • $2.5 million will be available as matching funds for lakes and HABs management grants, including treatment and prevention demonstration projects.

  • Up to $1 million in Watershed Grant funding will be made available for planning and projects that reduce the nonpoint source pollution, including nutrients, that contribute to HABs in surface waters of the State.

  • $10 million in principal forgiveness grants will be offered through the Clean Water State Revolving Fund for half of the cost, capped at $2 million, of sewer and stormwater upgrades to reduce the flow of nutrients to affected waterbodies.

Increasing Expertise & Implementing Prevention Tactics:

Per the Governor’s press release, “the second element of the initiative is to build upon the state’s scientific expertise and enhance its capacity to respond to HAB events. This includes establishing a team of experts from across various sectors to evaluate the state’s strategies to prevent HABs and pursuing additional monitoring, testing and data management capacity.”

Connecting with Communities:

The third component is focused on increasing NJDEP’s ability to communicate with affected communities. The regional HABs Summit held on January 28 was one of two Summits that will occur in early 2020 (the date of the next Summit has not yet been announced). NJDEP has also developed new web tools to provide HABs education, offer a forum to discuss and report potential HAB sightings, and better communicate HAB incidents.

To learn more about New Jersey’s new HABs Initiative, click here. To learn more about HABs, check out our recent blog:

Identifying, Understanding and Addressing Harmful Algae Blooms

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.

Dr. Fred Lubnow of Princeton Hydro Featured in Magazine Article on Chautauqua Lake

The U.S. is home to thousands of lakes both natural and manmade. Lakes are incredibly important features in the landscape that provide numerous beneficial services, including domestic water supply, hydro-electric power, agricultural water supply, recreation, and tourism. They also provide essential habitat for fish, wildlife and aquatic organisms.

Lakes are complex and dynamic systems, each situated in a unique landscape context. Maintaining the ecological health of a lake is no easy feat. A lot goes on behind the scenes to maintain water quality and a balanced lake ecosystem. Successful, long-term lake management requires a proactive approach that addresses the causes of its water quality problems rather than simply reacting to weed and algae growth and other symptoms of eutrophication.

Chautauqua Magazine recently published an article about the science behind the management of Chautauqua Lake, which features our Director of Aquatic Programs Dr. Fred Lubnow. We’ve included an excerpt below. Click here to view the full article and photos:

Dr. Fred Lubnow is a scientist and director of aquatic programs at Princeton Hydro, a consulting organization based in Exton, Pennsylvania, that is often called on to support lake and watershed regions that want to develop a long-term plan for lake conservation.

He says that while his firm focuses on the development of data and intelligence to inform decision making in regard to freshwater ecosystems, his work is really about coalition building.

“As a scientist and a consultant, you learn over time that you are building a coalition stakeholders and determining what we can agree on to help everyone in the community,” Lubnow said.

Ten years ago, Princeton Hydro was hired to do some stream and inlet monitoring for various stakeholders at Chautauqua Lake. More recently, they’ve been contracted to conduct third-party monitoring of the impacts of the Spring 2019 herbicide applications in the south basin of Chautauqua Lake…

Continue reading!

 

Princeton Hydro is the industry leader in lake restoration and watershed management. We have conducted diagnostic studies and have developed management and restoration plans for over 300 lakes and watersheds throughout the country. This has included work for public and private recreational lakes, major water supply reservoir, and watershed management initiatives conducted as part of USEPA and/or state funded programs. For more information about our lake management services, go here: http://bit.ly/pondlake. 

BOROUGH OF RINGWOOD INITIATES FIRST-IN-STATE REGIONAL APPROACH TO LAKE MANAGEMENT THROUGH PUBLIC-PRIVATE PARTNERSHIP

NorthJersey.com File Photo
The Borough of Ringwood initiates a unique public-private partnership
with four community lake associations to
holistically manage watershed health related to private lakes

Providing drinking water to millions of New Jersey residents, the Borough of Ringwood is situated in the heart of the New Jersey Highlands and is home to several public and private lakes that sit within the Ramapo Mountains. In order to take an active role in the management of these natural resources within multiple watersheds, the Borough of Ringwood will be the first municipality in the state of New Jersey to take a regional approach to private lake management through a public-private partnership (PPP) with four lake associations.

The four private sets of lakes targeted in the plan— Cupsaw, Erskine, Skyline, and Riconda —were created by the Ringwood Company in the 1920s and 30s to promote the municipality as a hunting and fishing retreat and a summer resort. They currently provide private beach clubs and recreational opportunities for surrounding homeowners who can opt to join as members.

Map Showing the Four Private Lakes in the PPP holistic watershed management plan

Generally, the health of a private lake is funded and managed in isolation by the governing private lake association group. Ringwood Borough Manager Scott Heck’s concept was to design and implement a municipal-wide holistic watershed management plan to use as a tool to identify capital priorities to enhance water quality throughout the community. Mr. Heck hired Princeton Hydro, a leader in ecological and engineering consulting to design this innovative project.

Cupsaw Lake “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,” said Princeton Hydro’s Senior Project Manager, Christopher Mikolajczyk, who is a Certified Lake Manager and lead designer for this initiative. “We’re thrilled to work with the Borough of Ringwood and the New Jersey Highlands Council to set a precedent for this logical watershed management strategy, which opens the door for future public-private partnerships.”

As part of this project, a Watershed-based Assessment will be completed. The following objectives will be met:

  1. Identification, quantification, and prioritization of watershed-based factors which may cause eutrophication;
  2. Identification of watershed management measures needed to address general causes of water quality impairments;
  3. Identification of the relative cost of the recommended general watershed management measures;
  4. The generation of a schedule, based on priority, for the implementation of the recommended watershed management measures; and
  5. A general assessment report will be authored at the conclusion of the study.

Skyline Lake in the FallFunding for the Watershed-based Assessment for the Lakes of the Borough of Ringwood is being provided by the New Jersey Highlands Council through a grant reimbursement to the Borough of Ringwood. As part of the PPP , the Borough of Ringwood will review and where feasible implement any suggested actions surrounding the lakes. The final report, provided to the Borough by Princeton Hydro, will identify and prioritize watershed management techniques and measures that are best suited for immediate and long-term implementation, as well as provide cost projections for implementation in both the short-term and long-term.

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.

For more information about the PPP, check out today’s NorthJersey.com news story. To learn more about Princeton Hydro’s lake and pond management services, go here: http://bit.ly/pondlake.

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.

Four Ways Climate Change Can Affect Your Lake

The Local Effects of Climate Change Observed Through our Community Lakes

Climate change is an enormous concept that can be hard to wrap your head around. It comes in the form of melting ice caps, stronger storms, and more extreme seasonal temperatures (IPCC, 2018). If you’re an avid angler, photographer, swimmer, boater, or nature enthusiast, it’s likely that because of climate change you’ll bear witness to astonishing shifts in nature throughout the greater portion of your lifetime. This is especially true with respect to lakes.

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Lakes are living laboratories through which we can observe the local effects of climate change in our own communities. Lake ecosystems are defined by a combination of various abiotic and biotic factors. Changes in hydrology, water chemistry, biology, or physical properties of a lake can have cascading consequences that may rapidly alter the overall properties of a lake and surrounding ecosystem. Most of the time the results are negative and the impacts severe.

“Managing loads of phosphorous in watersheds is even more important as the East Coast becomes increasingly warmer and wetter thanks to climate change,” said Dr. Fred Lubnow, Director of Aquatics in a recent NJ.com interview. “Climate change will likely need to be dealt with on a national and international scale. But local communities, groups, and individuals can have a real impact in reducing phosphorous levels in local waters.”

Recognizing and monitoring the changes that are taking place locally brings the problems of climate change closer to home, which can help raise awareness and inspire environmentally-minded action.

We put together a list of four inter-related, climate change induced environmental impacts that can affect lakes and lake communities:

1. Higher Temperatures = Shifts in Flora and Fauna Populations

The survival of many lake organisms is dependent on the existence of set temperature ranges and ample oxygen levels. The amount of dissolved oxygen (DO) present in a lake is a result of oxygen diffusion from the atmosphere and its production by algae and aquatic plants via photosynthesis. An inverse relationship exists between water temperature and DO concentrations. Due to the physical properties of water, warmer water holds less DO than cooler water.

This is not good news for many flora and fauna, such as fish that can only survive and reproduce in waters of specific temperatures and DO levels. Lower oxygen levels can reduce their ability to feed, spawn and survive. Populations of cold water fish, such as brown trout and salmon, will be jeopardized by climate change (Kernan, 2015).

358-001-carp-from-churchvilleAlso, consider the effects of changing DO levels on fish that can tolerate these challenging conditions. They will thrive where others struggle, taking advantage of their superior fitness by expanding their area of colonization, increasing population size, and/or becoming a more dominant species in the ecosystem. A big fish in a little pond, you might say. Carp is a common example of a thermo-tolerant fish that can quickly colonize and dominate a lake’s fishery, in the process causing tremendous ecological impact (Kernan, 2010).

2. Less Water Availability = Increased Salinity

Just as fish and other aquatic organisms require specific ranges of temperature and dissolved oxygen to exist, they must also live in waters of specific salinity. Droughts are occurring worldwide in greater frequency and intensity. The lack of rain reduces inflow and higher temperatures promote increased evaporation. Diminishing inflow and dropping lake levels are affecting some lakes by concentrating dissolved minerals and increasing their salinity.

Studies of zooplankton, crustaceans and benthic insects have provided evidence of the consequences of elevated salinity levels on organismal health, reproduction and mortality (Hall and Burns, 2002; Herbst, 2013; Schallenberg et al., 2003). While salinity is not directly related to the fitness or survival rate of all aquatic organisms, an increase in salinity does tend to be stressful for many.

3. Nutrient Concentrations = Increased Frequency of Harmful Algal Blooms

Phosphorus is a major nutrient in determining lake health. Too little phosphorus can restrict biological growth, whereas an excess can promote unbounded proliferation of algae and aquatic plants.

before_strawbridgelake2If lake or pond water becomes anoxic at the sediment-water interface (meaning the water has very low or completely zero DO), phosphorus will be released from the sediment. Also some invasive plant species can actually “pump” phosphorus from the sediments and release this excess into the water column (termed luxurious uptake). This internally released and recycled sedimentary phosphorus can greatly influence lake productivity and increase the frequency, magnitude and duration of algae blooms. Rising water temperatures, declining DO and the proliferation of invasive plants are all outcomes of climate change and can lead to increases in a lake’s phosphorus concentrations and the subsequent growth and development of algae and aquatic plants.

Rising water temperatures significantly facilitate and support the development of cyanobacteria (bluegreen algae) blooms. These blooms are also fueled by increasing internal and external phosphorus loading. At very high densities, cyanobacteria may attain harmful algae bloom (HAB) proportions. Elevated concentrations of cyanotoxins may then be produced, and these compounds seriously impact the health of humans, pets and livestock.

rain-garden-imagePhosphorus loading in our local waterways also comes from nonpoint sources, especially stormwater runoff. Climate change is recognized to increase the frequency and magnitude of storm events. Larger storms intensify the mobilization and transport of pollutants from the watershed’s surrounding lakes, thus leading to an increase in nonpoint source loading. Additionally, larger storms cause erosion and instability of streams, again adding to the influx of more phosphorus to our lakes. Shifts in our regular behaviors with regards to fertilizer usage, gardening practices and community clean-ups, as well as the implementation of green infrastructure stormwater management measures can help decrease storm-related phosphorus loading and lessen the occurrence of HABs.

4. Cumulative Effects = Invasive Species

A lake ecosystem stressed by agents such as disturbance or eutrophication can be even more susceptible to invasive species colonization, a concept coined “invasibility” (Kernan, 2015).

For example, imagine that cold water fish species A has experienced a 50% population decrease as a result of warming water temperatures over ten years. Consequently, the fish’s main prey, species B, has also undergone rapid changes in its population structure. Inversely, it has boomed without its major predator to keep it in check. Following this pattern, the next species level down – species B’s prey, species C – has decreased in population due to intense predation by species B, and so on. Although the ecosystem can potentially achieve equilibrium, it remains in a very unstable and ecologically stressful state for a prolonged period of time. This leads to major changes in the biotic assemblage of the lake and trickle-down changes that affect its recreational use, water quality and aesthetics.

• • •

Although your favorite lake may not experience all or some of these challenges, it is crucial to be aware of the many ways that climate change impacts the Earth. We can’t foresee exactly how much will change, but we can prepare ourselves to adapt to and aid our planet. How to start? Get directly involved in the management of your lake and pond. Decrease nutrient loading and conserve water. Act locally, but think globally. Get out and spread enthusiasm for appreciating and protecting lake ecosystems. Also, check out these tips for improving your lake’s water quality.


References

  1. IPCC. “Summary for Policymakers. “Global Warming of 1.5°C. An IPCC Special Report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty.” World Meteorological Organization, Geneva, Switzerland, 32 pp. 2018.
  2. Hall, Catherine J., and Carolyn W. Burns. “Mortality and Growth Responses of Daphnia Carinata to Increases in Temperature and Salinity.” Freshwater Biology 47.3 (2002): 451-58. Wiley. Web. 17 Oct. 2016.
  3. Herbst, David B. “Defining Salinity Limits on the Survival and Growth of Benthic Insects for the Conservation Management of Saline Walker Lake, Nevada, USA.” Journal of Insect Conservation 17.5 (2013): 877-83. 23 Apr. 2013. Web. 17 Oct. 2016.
  4. Kernan, M. “Climate Change and the Impact of Invasive Species on Aquatic Ecosystems.” Aquatic Ecosystem Health & Management (2015): 321-33. Taylor & Francis Online. Web. 17 Oct. 2016.
  5. Kernan, M. R., R. W. Battarbee, and Brian Moss. “Interaction of Climate Change and Eutrophication.” Climate Change Impacts on Freshwater Ecosystems. 1st ed. Chichester, West Sussex, UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010. 119-51. ResearchGate. Web. 17 Oct. 2016.
  6. Schallenberg, Marc, Catherine J. Hall, and Carolyn W. Burns. “Consequences of Climate-induced Salinity Increases on Zooplankton Abundance and Diversity in Coastal Lakes”Marine Ecology Progress Series 251 (2003): 181-89. Inter-Research Science Center. Inter-Research. Web.