Engineering Assessment of West Point’s Lower Cragston Dam

Highland Falls, New York, which is 40 miles north of Manhattan, stretches along the Hudson River and is populated by many lakes and ponds, including the Cragston Lakes (a.k.a. Lower Cragston). For the community’s 4,000 residents, living in an area where water is abundant has many benefits, but the benefits are not without flood risk.

The 9-acre Lower Cragston Lake, the second largest lake in the Highland Falls area,   contains the Lower Cragston Dam, which is owned by the United States Military Academy at West Point and managed through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers New York District (USACE NYD). According to the Office of the New York State Comptroller, Lower Cragston Dam is classified as a “High Hazard” dam. The dam is approximately 10 feet high and 210 feet long, and consists of an earthen embankment with a concrete core wall, a concrete ogee spillway, and a low level outlet.

In order to ensure safety to the surrounding community and mitigate any potential flood risk associated with the dam’s operations, Princeton Hydro was contracted by the USACE NYD to perform an Engineering Assessment for Lower Cragston Dam. Engineering Assessments and periodic safety inspections are intended to provide an independent review of an existing dam structure to ensure that all components are functioning properly and in compliance with current dam safety regulations.

Princeton Hydro utilized a multidisciplinary approach to perform the Lower Cragston Dam Engineering Assessment, which consisted of:

  • Document Review: In order to understand the site and to develop a proper drilling scope and methodology, our team conducted a thorough review of existing documentation, including historic engineering plans, dam inspection reports, and an Emergency Action Plan.
  • Geotechnical and Geophysical Investigation and Reporting: This is one of the most significant aspects of a dam safety evaluation and is often the most efficient means of obtaining critical subsurface information. The information obtained from these field studies is used to devise safety improvements if determined to be necessary.
  • Bathymetric and Topographic Survey: The bathymetric survey entails the accurate mapping of water depths and the quantification of the amount of accumulated, unconsolidated sediment. The topographic survey looks at the height, depth, size, and location of the dam and surrounding area.
  • Hydrologic & Hydraulic Analysis: This analysis looks at the watershed and spillway structure related to the extent of potential flooding from storm recurrence intervals within the study area. The data helps to evaluate measures that can reduce and mitigate existing and anticipated flood risk.
  • Structural Analysis: Our team utilized various methods, to assess the structural integrity of the dam and to evaluate the internal stresses and stability under usual, unusual, and extreme loading combinations.
  • Seepage & Stability Analysis: Seepage through an earthen dam generally correlates with the reservoir water level of the dam. A careful analysis helps to detect any abnormal seepage issues and associated consequences.
  • Dam Break Analysis: This type of analysis is used to estimate the potential hazards associated with a failure of the dam structure and features.

The geotechnical investigation for the Lower Cragston Dam Engineering Assessment involved performing soil borings and rock coring within the dam embankment, for which Princeton Hydro developed a Drilling Program Plan (DPP) to ensure the activities were performed successfully and safely. The DPP, which also required our team to have a comprehensive understanding of bedrock and surficial geologic formations in the area, was ultimately approved by the USACE Dam Safety Officer and successfully executed in the field. The collected samples were tested at Princeton Hydro’s AASHTO accredited and USACE validated soil laboratory.

Ultimately, the geotechnical investigation and subsequent soil analysis were used to inform the slope stability and seepage analysis. The geotechnical analyses, hydrologic & hydraulic study, structural inspection, bathymetry, and dam break analysis were used to provide USACE and West Point with recommendations for repair options, replacement options, and decommissioning options for the dam.

Engineering Assessments are vital to the longevity of dams and the safety of the communities they protect. By providing detailed analysis, effective repair, and management programs can be designed and implemented efficiently. This helps to ensure dam systems are providing the level of protection they were designed to deliver.

Princeton Hydro has designed, permitted, and overseen the reconstruction, repair, and removal of dozens of small and large dams. Our Geoscience and Water Resources Engineering teams perform dam inspections and conduct dam feasibility studies throughout the Northeast. For more info, visit: bit.ly/PHEngineering.

Managing Invasive Phragmites and Restoring Natural Wetland Habitat

Non-native Phragmites australis, also known as Common Reed, is a species of perennial grass found across North America, especially along the Atlantic coast, in wetlands, riparian areas, shorelines, and other wet areas like roadside ditches and drainage basins. This aggressively invasive grass can grow up to 20 feet tall, in dense groupings, and tends to spread rapidly, quickly colonizing disturbed wetlands.

Once established, the invasive plant forms a monoculture with a dense mat, outcompeting native vegetation, lowering the local plant biodiversity, and displacing native animals. These landscape changes impair the natural function of the marsh ecosystem by altering its elevations and tidal reach. A higher, drier marsh leads to less vigorous growth of native salt marsh vegetation, allowing Phragmites australis to gain a stronger foothold and continue to take over.

USDA NRCS Plants Database phragmites illustrationPhragmites australis can also eliminate small, intertidal channels and obliterate pool habitat that offers natural refuge and feeding grounds for invertebrates, fish, and birds. The spread of invasive Phragmites australis also has negative impacts on land aesthetics and outdoor recreation by obscuring views and restricting access. And, each Fall, when Phragmites australis die off, the large concentrations of dry vegetation increase the risk of fast-spreading fires near highly populated residential and commercial areas.

Over the last century, there has been a dramatic increase in the spread of Phragmites australis, partly due to an increase in residential and commercial development that resulted in disturbances to wetlands. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the rapid spread of Phragmites australis in the 20th century can also be attributed to the construction of railroads and major roadways, habitat disturbance, shoreline development, pollution, and eutrophication.

Princeton Hydro has worked in areas throughout the East Coast to address and properly manage Phragmites australis in order to restore natural habitats and enhance plant diversity, wildlife habitat, and water quality. Two recent projects include the restoration of John A. Roebling Memorial Park in Hamilton and Pin Oak Forest Conservation Area in Woodbridge, New Jersey.

John A. Roebling Memorial Park

Mercer County’s John A. Roebling Memorial Park is home to the northernmost freshwater tidal marsh on the Delaware River, the Abbott Marshlands, an area containing valuable habitat for many rare species. Unfortunately, the area experienced a significant amount of loss and degradation, partially due to the introduction of the invasive Phragmites australis.

For Mercer County Park Commission, Princeton Hydro put together a plan to reduce and control the Phragmites australis, in order to increase biodiversity, improve recreational opportunities, and enhance visitor experience at the park. This stewardship project replaced the Phragmites australis with native species in order to reduce its ability to recolonize the marsh.

By Spring of this year, the team expects to see native species dominating the landscape from the newly exposed native seed bank with minimal Phragmites australis growth.

Pin Oak Forest Conservation Area

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 New Jersey. As such, the area suffered from wetland and stream channel degradation, habitat fragmentation, ecological impairment, and decreased biodiversity due to invasive species, including Phragmites australis.

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. 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.

This award-winning restoration project converted over 30 acres of degraded freshwater wetlands, streams and disturbed uplands dominated by invasive species into a species-rich and highly functional headwater wetland complex. The resulting ecosystem provides valuable habitat for wildlife including the state-threatened Black-crowned Night-heron and Red-headed Woodpecker. Biodiversity was also increased through invasive species management, which allowed establishment of native plants such as pin oak, swamp white oak, marsh hibiscus, and swamp rose. The restored headwater wetland system provides stormwater management, floodplain storage, enhanced groundwater recharge onsite, and surface water flows to Woodbridge Creek, as well as public hiking trails, all benefiting the town of Woodbridge.

Managing and Monitoring Phragmites

Scientific field research continues to be conducted in order to identify the best way(s) to manage and control the spread of Phragmites australis. Depending on the landscape and how established the Phragmites australis population is, there are several different methods that can be effective in reducing Phragmites australis infestations in order to allow for the regeneration of native wetland plant communities and protect fish and wildlife habitat.

Recently, a group of more than 280 scientists, resource managers and policy professionals gathered together at the Hudson River Estuary Program’s (HEP) annual conference to explore how natural and nature-based solutions (i.e. building living shorelines, enhancing tidal wetlands and stream corridors, and conserving vulnerable floodplains) can be used as critical tools for addressing the impacts of climate change while also protecting and enhancing critical habitat.

The conference included six interactive workshops and dynamic panel discussions. Christiana Pollack, GISP, CFM of Princeton Hydro, Terry Doss of New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, Kip Stein from New York City Parks, and Judith Weis of Rutgers lead a panel discussion, moderated by Lisa Baron from U.S. Army Corps Engineers, on “The Yin and Yang of Estuarine Phragmites Management” to share lessons learned over many years of combating invasive species, including how sea level rise is changing minds and techniques.

Together, representing decades of experience in Phragmites australis management and research, these experts presented the evolving nature of restoration for this habitat type, common control/management methodologies, and longterm management and monitoring strategies for this reed and other invasive species. During the panel discussion, Christiana made specific mention of the Roebling Park project as one example of successful strategies in action.

If you’re interested in learning more and seeing photos from a few recent Phragmites australis management projects, click below for a free download of Christiana’s full presentation.

Through a combination of prevention, early detection, eradication, restoration, research and outreach, we can protect our native landscapes and reduce the spread of invasive species. Learn more about our invasive species removal and restoration services.

 

Conservation Spotlight: Reducing Flood Risk and Restoring Wetlands in Jamaica Bay

Located in Queens, New York on the northern shore of Jamaica Bay, Spring Creek South contains approximately 237 acres of undeveloped land, including wetlands and 2.4 miles of coastline. The site is bounded by the Howard Beach residential neighborhood in Queens, a commercial area along Cross Bay Boulevard, the Belt Parkway, and Jamaica Bay. The northwest section of Spring Creek South is part of the National Park Service’s Gateway National Recreation Area, and is largely comprised of small patches of degraded tidal marsh and disturbed and degraded upland ecosystems.

On October 29, 2012, Hurricane Sandy drove a catastrophic storm surge into the New Jersey and New York coastlines. Spring Creek South and the surrounding community of Howard Beach experienced record flooding and damage to property and critical infrastructure. Storm tides caused damage and erosion along the shoreline and in the salt marsh area, degrading important habitat and leaving the site vulnerable to invasive species.

Hurricane Sandy Aftermath at Howard Beach, taken 10/30/2012 by Pam Andrade

The New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services (NYSDHSES) was awarded funding from FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program to restore Spring Creek South. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) New York District, serving as project administrator, contracted Princeton Hydro to provide ecosystem restoration services. The goal of the project is to reduce future flood risk exposure while also protecting, restoring, and improving the quality and function of ecological systems; improving stormwater management and water quality; and enhancing the park’s visitor experience.

To achieve this goal, the project team is using an integrated approach that involves utilizing green infrastructure to create a natural barrier for the community and reduce the risks of coastal storms. Project activities include berm construction and the restoration of tidal marsh, creation of freshwater wetland forest, and creation of maritime shrub, forest, and grassland habitats, as well as stabilization of the existing shoreline.

On December 31, 2018, we completed Phase One of the project, which entails engineering design and preliminary permitting. More specifically, we’ve provided conceptual planning; analysis of subsurface soils for geotechnical properties and hazardous waste; coastal and freshwater wetland delineations; biological benchmarking analysis; and the development of sea level rise curves and two-dimensional hydrologic and hydraulic coastal modeling. As part of the hydrology study, we analyzed what the site could be expected to look like in 50 years due to climate changes and sea level rise. Our engineering design was also brought to 65% completion.

We also obtained permits, prepared the Environmental Assessment (EA), and oversaw the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process. The EA received a “Finding of No Significant Impact” (FONSI) from FEMA, which means the environmental analysis and interagency review concluded that the project has no significant impacts on the quality of the environment.

Due to the complex nature of this project and its location, we are coordinating with a variety of different entities, including the local Howard Beach Community Board, the FAA (proximity to JFK International Airport), Port Authority, USACE, NOAA Fisheries, USFWS, USEPA, NYSDEC, NYC DEP, the National Park Service, HDR Engineering and WSP Engineering.

Phase Two of the project is the construction phase, which is expected to take about two years to complete. A key part of the Spring Creek South construction activities is the restoration of approximately 40 acres of tidal marsh, which is anticipated to improve water quality locally by stabilizing sediment, reducing erosion, and filtering dissolved particulate materials. The project team will restore existing coastline areas and install a salt marsh along the shoreline. Planted with native flora, like Spartina alterniflora, a perennial deciduous grass found in intertidal wetlands, the coastal salt marsh will help to stabilize sediment. Additionally, removing invasive species like Phragmites australis from the area and replacing it with native plant species will increase the ability for native vegetation to colonize the site, improve vegetative diversity, and reduce fire risk in the park.

A forested wetland area and berm will also be created in order to provide the surrounding communities with natural shields and buffers to future storms. The berm, with an elevation of 19 feet (NAVD88), will help to manage the risk of storm surge flooding caused by coastal storms. The forested wetland area will also provide improved stormwater runoff storage, naturally filter stormwater, and, via flap gates, direct its flow toward Jamaica Bay, away from residential and commercial properties.

These measures will help to dissipate wind and wave energy, increase shoreline resilience, improve stormwater management at the site, and create habitat that increases the ecological value and biodiversity at the site, while providing resilience benefits. Restoration activities will benefit vulnerable and rare ecological communities by producing localized environmental enhancements, including improving water quality and creating and restoring habitat. The project also increases opportunities for recreational uses such as wildlife viewing/photography, fishing, and nature study.

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

 

NYSFOLA Awards Dr. Stephen Souza with Highest Honor at 2018 Annual Conference

The New York State Federation of Lake Associations (NYSFOLA) Board of Directors awarded Dr. Stephen Souza, Founder, Princeton Hydro with its ‘Lake Tear of the Clouds’ Award. This award, named after the highest lake in the state, is NYSFOLA’s highest honor. It is only given to a person who has shown the highest dedication to New York’s lakes and watersheds, assisted NYSFOLA in its mission, and produced exceptional performance in his or her field of endeavor.

In bestowing this award to Dr. Souza, NYSFOLA recognizes his accomplishments and efforts in the management and restoration of lakes throughout the State of New York and his support of the initiatives promoted by NYSFOLA. The award was presented at the NYSFOLA’s 35th annual conference, which was held on May 4th and 5th at the Fort William Henry Hotel in Lake George.

During his acceptance speech, Dr. Souza said, “I am truly humbled and appreciative to have even been considered worthy of this award.  In accepting the ‘Lake Tear of Clouds’ Award, I want to extend my deepest thanks to NYSFOLA, the NYSFOLA Board of Directors, Nancy Mueller (NYSFOLA Manager), and all of you here tonight.  It is people like yourselves, who advocate for clean lakes, that have made my career so rewarding. I would be remiss if I also did not take the time to thank my wife Maria and my family for their support over the years and of course the dedicated lake scientists that I have the pleasure to work with day in and day out at Princeton Hydro. That of course includes Dr. Fred Lubnow, who I have had the pleasure of working side-by-side with since 1992, Chris Mikolajczyk and Mike Hartshorne, both of whom are here tonight, and the rest of my Princeton Hydro colleagues.”

Dr. Souza first attended the NYSFOLA conference in 1985, and has been working to assess, restore and protect watersheds throughout the state of New York for over 35 years. Some of the notable projects managed by Dr. Souza over that time include projects conducted at Honeoye Lake, Sodus Bay, Greenwood Lake and Sleepy Hollow Lake. He is currently working with New York State Department of Environmental Conservation on a major statewide harmful algae bloom (HAB) management effort.

“We thank you for your longtime support of NYSFOLA and our member lake association, Steve,” said Nancy J. Mueller, Manager. “And, we congratulate Princeton Hydro on its 20th anniversary.”

ABOUT NYSFOLA

The New York State Federation of Lake Associations, Inc. was founded in 1983 by a coalition of lake associations concerned about water quality, invasive species, and other issues facing New York’s lakes. Today, more than 200 lake associations across the state are members of the only statewide voice for lakes and lake associations. NYSFOLA also has corporate members and individual members who support our efforts.

2018 NYSFOLA Annual Conference

The New York State Federation of Lake Associations (NYSFOLA) will host its 35th Annual Conference May 4-5 at the Fort William Henry Conference Center in Lake George.

This year’s conference, which is titled, “Protecting Our Lakes for 35 Years – Our Past, Present and Future,” will feature a diverse exhibitor hall, networking opportunities, a silent auction and a variety of educational sessions. Princeton Hydro is exhibiting and giving five presentations:

  • Nutrient Inactivation: A Pennsylvania Case Study by Dr. Fred Lubnow, Director of Aquatic Programs
  • You Have Your Lake Data, Now What? Creating a Watershed Plan by Chris Mikolajczyk, Senior Aquatic Scientist
  • One Watershed, Many Lakes: A Strategic Plan for the Kettle Lakes of Southern Onondaga and Northern Cortland Counties by Michael Hartshorne, Senior Limnologist
  • Proactive Management of Harmful Algal Blooms by Dr. Stephen Souza, Founder
  • Hydrilla Control in Harveys Lake, PA by Dr. Fred Lubnow

Environmental professionals, students, recreation enthusiasts, lakeside residents and community members are all invited to come together to explore a variety of topics related to managing and protecting watersheds. Additional educational session topics include, Citizen Science Water Quality Monitoring, Managing Water Chestnut and Other Invasives, Severe Weather Events Emergency Preparedness, and much more. Click here to view the complete agenda.

If you’re attending the conference, be sure to visit the Princeton Hydro booth to discuss the latest advancements in pond, lake and watershed management. If you’re interested in participating, you can register here. Registration closes on April 27th.

Stay tuned for a conference recap and photos!

ABOUT NYSFOLA
NYSFOLA was founded in 1983 by a coalition of lake associations concerned about water quality, invasive species, and other issues facing New York’s lakes. Today, more than 200 lake associations across the state are members of the only statewide voice for lakes and lake associations. NYSFOLA also has corporate members and individual members who support our efforts.

Lake Management and Restoration in the Hudson River Valley

Lake Management Planning in Action
at Sleepy Hollow Lake and Truesdale Lake

The Hudson River Valley encompasses 7,228 square miles along the eastern edge of New York State. It comprises 3 million residents, 133 communities and 553 significant freshwater lakes, ponds and reservoirs. Princeton Hydro has worked with municipalities and organizations in the Hudson River Valley for over 18 years actively restoring, protecting and managing waterbodies throughout the area.

Princeton Hydro is currently implementing customized Lake Management Plans at two waterbodies in the Hudson River Valley: Sleepy Hollow Lake, a 324-acre drinking water reservoir/recreational lake located in Green County, NY and Truesdale Lake, an 83-acre lake in Northern Westchester County, NY.

Sleepy Hollow Lake

Stretching over two and a half miles long and reaching depths of approximately 70 feet, Sleepy Hollow Lake is a NYSDEC Class “A” drinking water reservoir that provides potable water for the Sleepy Hollow community. The lake is also extensively used by residents for swimming, boating and water-skiing. And, it is recognized as an outstanding large-mouth bass and white crappie (current New York State record holder) fishery!

Princeton Hydro was hired by the Association of Property Owners (APO) at Sleepy Hollow Lake to develop a comprehensive lake management plan. The first step involved an in-depth analysis of the biological, chemical and physical attributes of the lake, with the goal being to generate a database that can be used to better understand the interactions defining the Sleepy Hollow Lake ecosystem.

The data collection and investigation phase includes:

  • Watershed Investigation: an in-depth assessment of the major and minor tributaries and road network in order to identify areas of stream bank and ditch erosion; sources of both sediment and nutrient loading to the lake
  • Bathymetric Survey: the accurate mapping of water depths and the quantification of the amount of accumulated, unconsolidated sediment present in the lake
  • Fisheries & Food Web Study: the collection of fish and plankton data for the purpose of creating a comprehensive fisheries management program focused on managing the lake’s outstanding fishery, further promoting the ecological balance of the lake, and enhancing lake water quality
  • Aquatic Plant Mapping: the development of detailed maps identifying the plant species present in the lake along with their relative abundance and distribution throughout the lake, but especially within the shallower coves
  • Hydrologic & Pollutant Budget: the computation of the lake’s hydrologic budget and pollutant loading budget. The hydrologic budget represents the water balance of the lake and is an estimate of all of the inputs and losses of water. The pollutant budget represents an estimate of the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus entering the lake from various sources. These data are used to evaluate the effectiveness of lake management options, enabling us to determine the best, most ecologically sound and most cost-effective approach to protect and improve the lake’s water quality now and into the future.

Princeton Hydro is now in the process of utilizing all of the data developed during the investigation phase of the project to create a comprehensive Lake Management Plan that will be used to guide the APO’s future lake restoration and protection initiatives. The Lake Management Plan and supporting data will also be used by Princeton Hydro on behalf of the APO to seek grant funding for various lake and watershed restoration projects.

Princeton Hydro is also overseeing the aquatic plant management program at Sleepy Hollow Lake, the focus of which is to control invasive plant species in a manner consistent with and complimentary of the lake’s overall ecological enhancement.

Truesdale Lake

At Truesdale Lake, Princeton Hydro is working with the Truesdale Lake Property Owners Association (TLPOA) to develop a comprehensive Lake Management Plan. The Plan provides a detailed project implementation roadmap for TLPOA, including recommendations for priority ranking of particular activities and restoration measures. A key element of the Plan are the short-term (1-year) and long-term (5-year) water quality and problematic algae and invasive aquatic plant control goals. Another highlight of the Plan is the review of Federal, State, County and local grants, programs and initiatives that may provide funding for identified lake and watershed projects.

During the Plan’s development, Princeton Hydro has provided the TLPOA with lake management consultation services such as community education initiatives, the coordination of NYSDEC permitting activities associated with the implementation of lake restoration measures, and the oversight and administration of an aquatic weed management program at the lake.

Earlier this year, Truesdale Lake experienced excessive aquatic weed growth, which significantly reduced the water quality, recreational use and aesthetics of the lake. Princeton Hydro utilized its Truxor, an eco-friendly, amphibious machine, to cut and remove the nuisance weed growth from the lake. This program helped reduce the negative impacts to the lake and lake users caused by the dense weed growth. Future use of the Truxor to remove invasive weeds is already part of the long-term Lake Management Plan for TLPOA. The Truxor will be used in concert with other measures to control invasive weed growth and restore a more balanced native aquatic plant community.

For more information about Princeton Hydro’s work in the Hudson River Valley or to discuss your project goals, please contact us.