Part Two: Damned If You Do, Dammed If You Don’t: Making Decisions and Resolving Conflicts on Dam Removal

Credit: FWRA.org

In this two part blog series piece we take a look at addressing and preventing potential conflicts and the key factors involved in dam removal decision-making – to remove or not to remove.

What to Do About Dams

Typically, the decision to remove a dam is made by varying entities, depending on the regulatory oversight of the dam. In most cases, the dam owner itself is the decision-maker, often deciding that the costs of continuing to operate and maintain the dam are more than removing the dam. State dam safety offices can sometimes order a dam to be removed or lowered if there are major safety concerns. State fish and wildlife offices and environmental organizations are also often involved in the decision-making, particularly when the goals of the project include restoration of habitat for migratory and resident aquatic species. If the dam in question is a hydropower facility, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission also has the power to order a hydropower dam under their jurisdiction to be removed for both environmental and safety reasons.

Laura Wildman, P.E., dam removal and river restoration expert and Director of Princeton Hydro’s New England Regional Office, says, “Identifying key barriers early on and understanding which of those barriers might have potential solutions versus remain an impediment, is critical to prioritizing limited ecological restoration resources.”

The careful formulation and communication of the benefits for dam removal specific to each project, adequate education of the public, and stakeholder involvement are incredibly important components to dam removal conflict resolution. As is an understanding that not all dams will or should be removed, and that the local community and stakeholders needs/concerns should be fully integrated into the decision-making process.

Key facets of stakeholder involvement, include:

  • Initial Stakeholder Discussions: Gather information and input from all stakeholders involved
  • Field Work & Initial Assessment: Know the project site inside and out, conduct an in-person inspection, and gather all of the initial data needed to have an informed discussion
  • Report Back with Results, without Judgement: Share the current state of the dam with stakeholders & regulators, without implying any solution or recommendation
  • Detailed Analysis, Feasibility & Alternatives Assessment: Collaboratively select alternative options, and include for a discussion of the alternative analysis process in the pre-application regulatory and stakeholder meetings
  • Formal Regulatory Review w/ Public Meetings: Present solution and/or submit engineering design and permit applications to regulators, and host public meetings to inform the community about the timeline and status.  Some public meetings are required as part of the regulatory process, however, it is important to keep the stakeholders involved in the process. So, additional meetings or presentations are recommend for true engagement.
  • Implementation: If the solution is to remove or repair the dam, continue to update the community about the status and timeline of construction. Local residents, elected officials, and nonprofit groups could be your best allies in keeping everyone informed.

It’s crucial to keep stakeholders and general public informed throughout the process via regular social media and traditional media outreach. Successful projects are based on a transparent process that integrates the local community.  It is the local community that then becomes the environmental stewards of the restored river system.

Celebrating the start of the Columbia Dam removal with the New Jersey Nature Conservancy, American Rivers, Princeton Hydro, USFWS, NJDEP, the local community, and other stakeholders.

 

Analyzing Dams for Removal

There are few “easy” dam removal decisions. Most dams have both positive and negative impacts. The challenge in making a sound decision about whether or not to remove a dam is to identify all of the costs and benefits of keeping (and eventually repairing or replacing) that particular structure, as well as the costs and benefits of removing it, and balance the findings to determine the best option. It is important to ensure that the full range of costs and benefits are identified.

Working through the many issues involved in deciding to keep or remove a dam can offer surprising conclusions that can lead to a reasoned approach – reducing subjectivity and increasing objectivity. The key issues typically investigated include:

  • Impounded sediment
  • Infrastructure/utility impacts
  • Current use (& economic value of dam)
  • Environmental concerns & benefits
  • Geomorphic equilibrium
  • Public health & safety
  • Flooding & hydrologic impacts
  • Aesthetic & sentimental value
  • Historic/archeological
  • Community concerns
  • Sensitive or invasive species
  • Water rights
  • Cost & funding availability

When making a final decision, it’s important to critically examine all factors to understand the influences on the decision. No matter the final outcome, at least it will be a well-informed process, and the information and understanding gained can help shape future decisions.

Although each dam removal project is unique, we developed a standard process that we follow:

While there is often no definitive answer to a question about whether a particular dam should be removed, there is a right and wrong way to go about making a dam removal decision. A good dam removal/retention decision is one that is based on an assessment of all the facts, collaboration with all stakeholders, and objective criteria.

Princeton Hydro has designed, permitted, and overseen the reconstruction, repair, and removal of dozens of dams throughout the Northeast.  To contact us and learn more about our fish passage and dam removal engineering services, visit: bit.ly/DamBarrier.

Revisit part-one of this blog series:

INSERT LINK

June 5: Restoration Ecology Course at Rutgers University

Join us on Wednesday, June 5 for a One-Day Environmental Training Course

Rutgers Office of Continuing Professional Education is offering a one-day class that explores the utilization of mitigation and sustainable design techniques to reduce stormwater impacts and increase storm resiliency.

The course, designed for ecologists, engineers, planners, and landscape architects involved in the recovery of impacted river, lake, riparian, wetland, and coastal environments, draws heavily upon real-world examples of restoration ecology in practice. This interactive course focuses specifically on the multi-disciplined recovery of degraded, damaged, or impaired ecosystems.

Dr. Stephen Souza, a founding principal of Princeton Hydro and owner of Clean Waters Consulting, LLC, is the main instructor and course coordinator. The course curriculum includes lessons from Dr. Souza and a number of experts from the Princeton Hydro team, including:

  • “River Restoration – Large Scale Dam Removal” lead by President Geoffrey Goll, P.E.
  • “Restoration of Tidal Ecosystems – The Creation of the Bayonne Golf Club” lead by Vice President Mark Gallagher
  • “Green Infrastructure and Coastal Resiliency” lead by Senior Project Manager & Environmental Scientist Christiana Pollack, GISP, CFM
  • “Does Green Infrastructure Mitigate Flooding?” lead by Dr. Souza

Course instruction will also be provided by John Miller, P.E., CFM, CSM, FEMA Mitigation Liaison; Nathaniel Burns, Langan Engineering Project Landscape Architect; and Capt. Al Modjeski, American Littoral Society Habitat Restoration Program Director.

In addition to 0.7 Rutgers CEUs, the course also awards participants with professional credits, including:

  • Landscape Architecture Continuing Education System (LA CES): 7.25 hours
  • NY Landscape Architects: 10.5 hours CL; 10 hours EA
  • NJ Public Health Continuing Education Contact Hours: 7.5
  • NJ Licensed Water & Wastewater Operators: 7 TCHs
  • NJ Certified Public Works Managers (CPWM): 5 Technical, 2 Government
  • NJ Licensed Professional Engineers: 6 Continuing Professional Competency (CPC) credits
  • NY Professional Engineers: 7 hours
  • NJ Licensed Site Remediation Professionals (LSRP): 6.5 Technical CEC’s

The course will be held on Wednesday, June 5 2019 from 8:30AM to 5:00PM at the Rutgers Continuing Education Center at the Atrium in Somerset, NJ. Register on or before May 22 to take advantage of a discounted early registration fee. Pre-registration is required. Continental breakfast and buffet lunch are provided at no additional cost.

Princeton Hydro is proud to partner with Rutgers Office of Continuing Professional Education and take part in this valuable continuing professional education course. We hope to see you there!

 

Arbor Day Bird Walk & Planting at Exton Park

On Thursday, April 25th, 2019, we teamed with the Friends of Exton Park and Homenet Automotive to host an early Arbor Day celebration at Exton Park in Exton, Pennsylvania. Paired with Bring Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day, the event drew over 35 volunteers (of all sizes) to help clean up Exton Park and plant 18 trees!

The day started with a leisurely bird walk throughout the park lead by Friends of Exton Park birders. Participants spotted Red-winged Blackbirds, a Solitary Sandpiper, a Wilson’s Snipe, a Downy Woodpecker and even a Green Heron.

After the bird walk, planting and clearing began. Together, volunteers cleared a hefty amount of multiflora rose and garlic mustard, two invasive species prevalent in the park. With the help of our Landscape Designer, Cory Speroff, MLA, ASLA, CBLP, and Senior Limnologist, Mike Hartshorne, volunteers also planted eight river birch, five red osier dogwood, and five swamp white oak trees throughout the park.

At Princeton Hydro, we value working with our clients and partners to create sustainable landscapes that include native plants that will thrive in our local ecosystems. At all our project sites, we aim to restore and maintain our natural habitats and landscapes. And, we love using teamwork to do it!

We were proud contribute the trees for this event and thank our volunteers for all their hard work. This is the second year we have participated in this Arbor Day volunteer event. We are looking forward to making it an annual tradition!

Friends of Exton Park offers weekly bird walks and volunteer opportunities throughout the year. Go here to learn more and get involved.

6 Tips To Prepare Your Pond For Spring

It’s officially time to say goodbye to winter and “spring” your pond out of hibernation mode. We’ve put together six tips for getting your pond ready for Spring and ensuring it remains healthy all year long.

1. SPRING CLEANING 

The first step in preparing your pond for Spring is to give it a thorough cleaning. Remove leaves, debris, and any surface algae that may have accumulated over the winter. For shallow ponds, you may be able to use a net or pond rake to remove debris and sediment from the bottom and along the perimeter of the pond.

2. INSPECT YOUR POND FOR DAMAGE

Inspect your pond, including berms, outlet structures, and trash racks for any damage that may have occurred over winter due to ice. If you observe any damage, we recommend contacting a professional right away. One of our engineers or certified pond managers can determine if the damage is superficial or requires more significant repairs. Also, if your pond is equipped with an aeration system, before starting it up, be sure to schedule a system inspection. A thorough inspection and proper start-up procedure will ensure the system remains fully and effectively operational for the entire summer.

3. PUT YOUR POND TO THE TEST

The routine testing of your pond’s water quality is an important part of preventing harmful algae growth, fish kills, and other problems. We recommend conducting a “Spring start up” water quality analysis of your pond. The resulting data will inform the management process and allow for the development of a pro-active, eco-friendly management plan. Maintaining your pond’s water quality helps to control nuisance aquatic species and promote environmental conditions supportive of a healthy and productive fishery.

4. AQUASCAPE YOUR SHORELINE

It’s important to check the pond’s shoreline for any signs of erosion. Mowing to the water line, especially in ponds that have fluctuating water levels, can lead to severe shoreline erosion. Eroding shorelines can be easily stabilized by planting native, riparian plants.

Deep-rooted, native emergent aquatic vegetation is able to tolerate alternating periods of exposure and dry inundation. The correct combination of native aquatic plants, emergent wetland plants, and transitional upland plants can correct or prevent chronic shoreline erosion problems. A properly planted (aquascaped) edge beautifies the shoreline, stabilizes erosion problems, creates fish and amphibian habitat, attracts pollinating species and a variety of birds, and decreases mosquito breeding.

5. CONSIDER INSTALLING AN AERATION SYSTEM

Sub-surface aeration systems eliminate stagnant water and keep your pond thoroughly mixed and properly circulated. These systems are the most cost-effective and energy-efficient way to maintain proper pond circulation. Proper aeration enhances fish habitat, minimizes the occurrence of algae blooms, and prevents mosquito breeding. It’s best to contact a certified lake/pond manager to first determine if aeration is the right solution for you. If it is, an aeration system tailored to your pond’s needs can be designed and installed.

6. HAVE AN ECOLOGICALLY BALANCED POND MANAGEMENT PLAN

There is more to pond management than weed and algae treatments alone. There is also a big difference between simple pond maintenance and ecologically-based pond management. A customized pond management plan acts as a “blueprint” that guides  proactive, long-term care for your pond.

Our certified lake and pond managers can assess the status of your pond and provide you with an environmentally holistic management plan that is based on the unique physical, hydrologic, chemical, and biological attributes of your pond. A management plan identifies the causes of your pond’s problems and provides you with the guidance needed to correct these problems. The results are far more environmentally sustainable than simple (and often unnecessary) reactive weed and algae treatments.

 

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.

Mitigation Milestone Reached at Mattawoman Creek Mitigation Site

Photo courtesy of GreenVest

Mattawoman Creek Mitigation Project will Restore and Protect 80+ Acres of Mattawoman Creek, Chesapeake Bay’s Most Productive Tributary

As one of the Chesapeake Bay’s most productive tributaries and a vital part of Maryland’s natural resources, Mattawoman Creek supports some of the largest populations of finfish, amphibians, and birds in the state. A collaborative team of private and public sector entities have designed the “Mattawoman Creek Mitigation Site” in Pomfret, Charles County, Maryland, an effort that will enhance or create 64+ acres of wetlands and restore nearly 3,800 linear feet of this perennial stream.  With over 28,500 native trees and shrubs to be planted, this mitigation project will result in 80+ acres of continuous, forested wetland with complex and diverse vegetative communities. It is expected to provide a wide array of habitat to resident and transient wildlife, including birds, reptiles, invertebrates, amphibians and rare, threatened and endangered species.

Unique to this project, Mattawoman Creek Mitigation Site is Maryland’s first-ever Umbrella Mitigation Banking Instrument (UMBI) for federal and other government agency use.   A UMBI is the bundling of multiple mitigation banks into one agreement in order to streamline the regulatory approval process, thereby eliminating steps and involving fewer resources. The Maryland UMBI document helps the USAF and other public agencies secure certainty of cost and schedule, facilitate timely permit issuance, and expedite the satisfaction of their permitted requirements for planned capital improvement projects. This approach also maximizes the scale of restoration and resulting land protection and efforts, creating contiguous blocks of habitat with greatly enhanced benefits compared to single, permittee-responsible projects. This precedent was a result of a partnership between United States Air Force (USAF) and Joint Base Andrews (JBA), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE), GreenTrust Alliance, GreenVest, and Princeton Hydro.

Projects completed under the UMBI will reduce federal and state workload expediting the regulatory review and issuance of permits by the MDE and USACE. Additionally, projects completed under this UMBI will aid in compliance with the Federal Paperwork Reduction Act where federal regulatory staff can evaluate success and performance issues for multiple permittees at one single habitat restoration or mitigation site. In addition, federal costs are capped, and liabilities  are transferred through to GreenVest, the private sector operator, and GreenTrust Alliance, the nonprofit bank sponsor, who will also serve as the long-term steward of sites restored under this program.

Pictured is the southern restoration area after
sorghum germination, prior to wetland creation
and reestablishment.
A function-based stream assessment was
performed on the degraded channel.

 

Photo courtesy of GreenVestDesign, engineering/modeling, and permitting of the site was completed by  Princeton Hydro and GreenVest under our currently Ecosystem Restoration contract with the USACE. Princeton Hydro also provided an Environmental Assessment and Environmental Baseline Survey, and conducted a geotechnical investigation, which included the advancement of test pits, visual and manual investigation techniques and logging, infiltration testing, laboratory soils testing, and seasonal high-water table estimations.

A wetland water budget was also developed for the proposed wetland creation and restoration to determine if sufficient water is available to establish or reestablish wetlands on the site. It was also used to inform design development including proposed grading and plant community composition. The establishment and re-establishment of wetlands on the site will be accomplished through directed grading, ditch plugging and stream restoration designed to maximize the retention of surface water, floodplain re-connection, and groundwater inputs.

Highlights from the Mattawoman Creek Wetland and Stream Mitigation project:
  • 80 acres of land were placed into conservation easement and removed from active row crop production and cattle pasture. The easement, which is held by GreenTrust Alliance, provides permanent protection for all 80 acres.
  • Over 64 acres of wetlands will be restored, created, enhanced or preserved, which will sequester approximately 75 tons of carbon per year.
  • 3,798 linear feet of perennial stream will be restored by re-establishing, historic floodplain access during more frequent storm events, stabilizing hydraulics and geomorphology, and adding aquatic habitat value.
  • Full integration of the wetland and stream restoration elements will occur exponentially, increasing anticipated functions and values in the post construction condition. Functions include: storm damage and flood attenuation, groundwater recharge and discharge, nutrient cycling and sequestration, local water quality improvement, and wildlife habitat enhancements.
  • This project will also create and enhance the forested wetland and stream habitat for the State-listed Threatened Selys’ Sundragon (Helocordulia selysii).
  • As part of the site design, over 28,500 native trees and shrubs will be planted.
  • The Mattawoman Creek Mitigation Site is located within a Tier 3 Biodiversity Conservation Network area. These areas are classified by the Department of Natural Resources as “highly significant for biodiversity conservation” and are priority conservation areas that support critical species and habitats.
  • The project will yield advanced mitigation values: 7.913 in wetland credits and 1,595 in stream credits. These credits are durable and will be available for JBA’s use in order to satisfy permitted impacts associated with planned capital improvement projects.

Over 6,000 acres (25%) of the Mattawoman Creek watershed has been protected by public ownership and various conservation and agricultural easements, which, in addition to the Mattawoman Creek Mitigation Site, help ensure that Mattawoman Creek forever remains a high-quality destination for outdoor recreation.

Princeton Hydro specializes in the planning, design, permitting, implementing, and maintenance of tidal and freshwater wetland rehabilitation projects. To learn more about our wetland restoration, creation, and enhancement services, visit: http://bit.ly/PHwetland

Princeton Hydro Joins American Sustainable Business Council

Princeton Hydro is proud to join the American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC), a coalition of businesses that prioritizes, “a triple bottom line of People, Planet, and Profit.” ASBC works to combat climate change by divesting from fossil fuels and investing in climate solutions, and passing carbon tax legislature at both federal and state levels. ASBC also works to address many other issues related to public health and the economy.

As a sustainable business headquartered in New Jersey, Princeton Hydro is also affiliated with the New Jersey Sustainable Business Council, the state chapter of the ASBC. In addition to joining the councils, Princeton Hydro’s President, Geoffrey Goll, P.E. joined the steering committee for ASBC’s “Clean Water is Good for Business” campaign.

“At Princeton Hydro, we are passionate about the protection of natural resources, fostering stewardship, and designing and conducting business in a sustainable manner. We believe in affecting positive change in our world for people and the environment,” said Goll. “We’re excited to align ourselves with an organization that reflects our core values, and we look forward to future sustainable business opportunities.”

The Clean Water is Good for Business campaign focuses on the Delaware River Watershed, a region that Princeton Hydro is actively working to protect and enhance. The campaign focuses on the importance of clean water, not just for human health, but for business health as well. Even companies that don’t directly rely on clean water for production of goods still need it to sustain day-to-day functions and keep employees healthy. ASBC recently released its Business Case where it lists the top priorities of the campaign as creating a comprehensive strategy, growing funding for conservation, and decreasing stormwater runoff.

Clean water is not only the key foundation to life itself, but a sustainable economy as well. Without clean water, we put our natural resources, businesses, and communities at risk. Protecting water quality is a long-term effort that requires continued investment, monitoring, and evaluation.

Princeton Hydro offers expertise in water resources management and engineering, ecosystems, and geotechnical investigations and design. Our staff provides a full suite of services throughout the Mid-Atlantic and New England states. Our capabilities are reflected in our award-winning projects that consistently produce real-world, cost-effective solutions. If you’re interested in learning how Princeton Hydro can help you, please contact us.

Innovative and Effective Approach to Wetland Restoration

The Pin Oak Forest Conservation Area is a 97-acre tract of open space that contains an extremely valuable wetland complex at the headwaters of Woodbridge Creek. The site is located in a heavily developed landscape of northern Middlesex County and is surrounded by industrial, commercial, and residential development. As such, the area suffered from wetland and stream channel degradation, habitat fragmentation, decreased biodiversity due to invasive species, and ecological impairment. The site was viewed as one of only a few large-scale freshwater wetland restoration opportunities remaining in this highly developed region of New Jersey.

Recognizing the unique qualities and great potential for rehabilitating and enhancing ecological function on this county-owned parkland, a dynamic partnership between government agencies, NGOs, and private industry, was formed to restore the natural function of the wetlands complex, transform the Pin Oak Forest site into thriving habitat teeming with wildlife, and steward this property back to life. The team designed a restoration plan that converted 28.94 acres of degraded freshwater wetlands, 0.33 acres of disturbed uplands dominated by invasive species, and 1,018 linear feet of degraded or channelized streams into a species-rich and highly functional headwater wetland complex.

BEFORE
View of stream restoration area upon commencement of excavation activities. View of containerized plant material staged prior to installation.

 

We used an innovative approach to restore the hydraulic connection of the stream channel with its floodplain in order to support wetland enhancement. Additionally, to further enhance wetlands with hydrologic uplift, the team incorporated microtopography techniques, which creates a variable surface that increases groundwater infiltration and niches that support multiple habitat communities. This resulted in a spectrum of wetland and stream habitats, including the establishment of a functional system of floodplain forest, scrub shrub, emergent wetlands and open water. Biodiversity was also increased through invasive species management, which opened the door for establishing key native flora such as red maple, pin oak, swamp white oak, and swamp rose. The restored headwater wetland system also provides stormwater quality management, floodplain storage, enhanced groundwater recharge onsite, and surface water flows to Woodbridge Creek.

Completed in 2017, the integrated complex of various wetland and upland communities continues to provide high quality habitat for a wide variety of wildlife species including the state-threatened Black-crowned Night heron and Red-headed Woodpecker. The work done at the site significantly enhanced ecological function, providing high-quality habitat on indefinitely-preserved public lands that offer countless benefits to both wildlife and the community.

AFTER
Post-restoration in 2018, looking Northeast. View of wetland enhancement approximately 2 months after completion of seeding and planting activities.

 

Public and private partnerships were and continue to be critical to the success of this project. The diverse partnership includes Middlesex County Office of Parks and Recreation, Woodbridge Township, Woodbridge River Watch, New Jersey Freshwater Wetlands Mitigation Council, GreenTrust Alliance, GreenVest, and Princeton Hydro. The partners joined together as stakeholders to identify long term restoration and stewardship goals for Pin Oak Forest Preserve, and nearly four years later, the partners all remain involved in various aspects of managing the property and this project itself, ranging from fiscal oversight by New Jersey Freshwater Wetland Mitigation Council and GreenTrust Alliance, to permit and landowner access coordination performed by Woodbridge Township and Middlesex County, or the ongoing stewardship, maintenance, and monitoring of the project and the larger park, being conducted by being conducted by GreenTrust Alliance, GreenVest, and NJ Department of Environmental Protection.

This project was funded through the New Jersey Freshwater Wetland In-Lieu Fee program. In 2014, GreenTrust Alliance, GreenVest, and Princeton Hydro secured $3.8 million dollars of funding on behalf of the Middlesex County Parks Department to restore three wetland sites, which included Pin Oak Forest.

The Pin Oak Forest project is a great model for showcasing a successful approach to the enhancement of public lands through a dynamic multidisciplinary, multi-stakeholder partnership. And, because of proper planning and design, it has become a thriving wildlife oasis tucked in the middle of a densely-populated suburban landscape.

Princeton Hydro specializes in the planning, design, permitting, implementing, and maintenance of wetland rehabilitation projects. To learn more about our wetland restoration, creation, and enhancement services, visit: bit.ly/PHwetland

Restoring and Revitalizing Freshwater Mussels

Freshwater mussels are among the oldest living and second most diverse organisms on Earth with over 1,000 recognized species. Here in the eastern part of the U.S., we have more species of freshwater mussels than anywhere in the world. Unfortunately, freshwater mussels are one of the most rapidly declining animal groups in North America. Out of the 300 species and subspecies found on the continent, 70 (23%) have been federally listed as “Threatened” or “Endangered” under the Endangered Species Act. And, in the last century, over 30 species have become permanently extinct. So, why are populations declining so fast?

Freshwater mussels are filter feeders and process large volumes of the water they live in to obtain food. This means of survival also makes them highly susceptible to industrial and agricultural water pollution.  Because they are constantly filtering water, the contaminants and pathogens that are present are absorbed into the mussel’s tissues. As such, mussels are good indicators of water quality and can greatly contribute to improving water quality by filtering algae, bacteria and organic matter from the water column.

Not only do freshwater mussels rely on water quality, they are dependent on fish and other aquatic organisms for reproductive success. In order for a freshwater mussel to complete the reproduction process, it must “infect” a host fish with its larvae. The method depends on the specie of mussel. Some species lure fish using highly modified and evolved appendages that mimic prey. When a fish goes into investigate the lures, the female mussel releases fertilized eggs that attach to the fish, becoming temporarily parasitic. Once the host fish is infected, it can transfer the mussel larvae upstream and into new areas of the river.

Both habitat loss from dam construction and the introduction of pesticides into the water supply has contributed to the decline of freshwater mussels. With approximately 300 mussel species in the U.S. alone, a critical component of restoring and revitalizing mussel populations is truly understanding their biology, which begins with the ability to properly differentiate each species and properly identify and catalog them. Princeton Hydro’s Senior Scientist Evan Kwityn, CLP and Aquatic Ecologist Jesse Smith recently completed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service‘s Fresh Water Mussel Identification Training at the National Conservation Training Center in West Virginia.

Through hands-on laboratory training, Evan and Jesse developed their freshwater mussel identification skills and their knowledge of freshwater mussel species biology. Course participants were tasked with mastering approximately 100 of the most common freshwater mussel species in the United States. They also learned about proper freshwater mussel collection labeling, the internal and external anatomy and meristics of a freshwater mussel, and distributional maps as an aid to freshwater mussel identification.

In a recently published press release, Tierra Curry, a senior scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity was quoted as saying, “The health of freshwater mussels directly reflects river health, so protecting the places where these mussels live will help all of us who rely on clean water. This is especially important now, when we see growing threats to clean water from climate change, agriculture and other sources.”

Princeton Hydro is committed to protecting water quality, restoring habitats, and managing natural resources. Read about some of our recent projects and contact us to discuss how we can help you.

To learn more about freshwater mussels, check out this video from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service:

UPDATE: The Columbia Dam Is Coming Down

It’s happening! The Columbia Dam on the Paulins Kill in Northern New Jersey is finally coming down thanks to a successful collaboration between The Nature Conservancy, American Rivers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, NJDEP Division of Fish and Wildlife Service, and Princeton Hydro. The first cut on the main dam wall was made just two weeks ago, and the water has started flowing downstream as the concrete is slowly being removed by the contractors RiverLogic Solutions and SumCo Eco-Contracting.

“In New Jersey, successful dam removal projects are often the result of partnerships between nonprofit organizations, federal and state agencies, consultants, and others working together toward the common goal of river restoration,” exclaimed Dr. Laura Craig, Director of River Restoration, American Rivers. “The first day of dam demolition is always a joyous occasion for project partners, but I was especially happy to see the river flowing through the breached Columbia Dam for the first time after working so intensely on this project for the last few years.”

Princeton Hydro has been involved with the engineering and restoration design from the beginning, so we’re very excited to report on this major update.  Our team of engineers and ecologists studied the feasibility of removal as requested by American Rivers in partnership with the New Jersey chapter of The Nature Conservancy.  We investigated, designed, and prepared the necessary permits for the removal of this dam. And, now we’ve been subsequently been hired to provide construction administration services during the removal process, which means we get to see the dam come down firsthand, piece by piece!

“It is truly amazing and exciting to finally see the main and remnant dams come down, as I have been involved in this restoration effort since the feasibility stage,” said Kelly Klein, Senior Project Manager, Princeton Hydro. “I am so honored to be part of this dynamic team and to collaborate with our project partners during every stage of this dam removal.”

Geoff Goll, Princeton Hydro and Beth Styler Barry, The Nature Conservancy on site August 3, 2018. Photo credit: Laura Craig, American Rivers

“On Friday, August 3rd 2018, we began demolition of the 300 foot-long, 18 foot-high Columbia Dam. The Paulins Kill will run freely to meet the Delaware River for the first time in 109 years,” said New Jersey Nature Conservancy’s Beth Styler Barry. “The benefits of reconnecting these two freshwater ecosystems will be immediate and impact creatures that live in and near the stream, as well as people who come out to paddle, fish or enjoy the wildlife. Dam Removal projects are exciting, ecologically important and also a challenge, this project is a good example of partners coming together to get a great restoration project done.”

Because this is a big deal, we want to keep *YOU* updated on what’s happening from the field. Moving forward, we’ll post weekly blogs with scenes from the site.  Here’s a snapshot of what’s been happening over the last last two weeks:

August 1, 2018. Photo credit: Casey Schrading, Princeton Hydro

In order to make the first saw cut into the dam, Princeton Hydro and RiverLogic Solutions first identified the locations of the drill holes. These drill holes are used to feed the diamond wire through the dam for saw cutting.

August 1, 2018. Photo credit: Casey Schrading, Princeton Hydro

The crew placed the saw cutter machine on the staging area on top of the apron and prepared for the cut.

August 3, 2018. Photo credit: Princeton Hydro

In order to create a notch in the dam, the crew supplemented the saw cutting with hammering.

August 3, 2018. Photo Credit: The Nature Conservancy, Columbia Dam Volunteer Drone Team

August 3, 2018. Photo credit: Erik Sildorff, Delaware Riverkeeper Network

August 7, 2018. Photo credit: Casey Schrading, Princeton Hydro

Since the high water level was now higher than the bottom of the breach, water is able to flow in and over the notched section.

August 14, 2018. Photo credit: RiverLogic Solutions

Because of high flows of water from recent storm events, the dam breach is being widened to allow for larger flows of water to move downstream during high flow events. 

Additionally, a few weeks ago we reported on the lowering of the water levels and removal of the remnant dam downstream (below).

PHOTOS: Columbia Dam Removal

Since then, the remnant dam has been completed removed and the area has been stabilized.

July 23, 2018. Photo credit: Casey Schrading, Princeton Hydro

Now, the water can freely flow through this section of the Paulins Kill.

And, in case you missed it, we celebrated the commencement of the Columbia Dam removal with NJDEP’s Commissioner Catherine McCabe and our project partners. Full story below:

Celebrating the Columbia Dam Removal

Princeton Hydro has designed, permitted, and overseen the reconstruction, repair, and removal of a dozens of small and large dams in the Northeast. To learn more about our fish passage and dam removal engineering services, visitbit.ly/DamBarrier.