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:

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NJ Highlands Coalition Honors Princeton Hydro Founding Principal with “Lifetime Achievement Award”

Julia M. Somers, New Jersey Highlands Coalition Executive Director, and Dr. Stephen Souza, recipient of the NJ Highlands Coalition's Lifetime Achievement Ward
Dr. Stephen Souza, Princeton Hydro Co-Founder, awarded by
New Jersey Highlands Coalition at 4th Annual Golf Outing on May 16

New Jersey Highlands Coalition honored Dr. Stephen Souza, a Founding Principal of Princeton Hydro, with a Lifetime Achievement Award during its 4th Annual Golf Outing held on May 16 at the Hawk Pointe Golf Club. The organization awarded Dr. Souza for his dedication to preserving and protecting New Jersey’s watersheds and natural resources, and the significant improvements he’s made to water quality throughout the state.

“Of all the hydrologists, limnologists, and environmental engineers practicing in New Jersey today, I venture to say none have had the positive impact on New Jersey’s lakes and rivers that Steve has,” said Julia M. Somers, New Jersey Highlands Coalition Executive Director, when presenting the Lifetime Achievement Award to Dr. Souza. “He has personally lifted the level of knowledge and expertise needed to successfully manage, mitigate, and protect our water resources to a much higher and better place than ever before, and we owe him a huge vote of gratitude and thanks. Steve always tells his clients the truth and is uncompromising in protecting the resource. It is a pleasure to present this award to Steve today.”

When accepting the award, Dr. Souza said, “I am truly humbled by this award, and extend my sincerest thanks to everyone here today. More important than coming out for a day of golf and relaxation, is that the funds raised today will help continue to support the Coalition’s efforts to protect the Highlands region’s fragile ecology and surface and groundwater resources.”

New Jersey Highlands Coalition‘s mission is to protect, restore, and enhance the water and other natural and cultural resources of the Highlands. The organization’s Annual Golf Outing brings together environmental advocates and organizations throughout New Jersey to discuss emerging issues, learn about the Highlands Coalition’s key focus areas for the year, network, and play golf!

Princeton Hydro, a proud sponsor of the Golf Outing, has worked directly over the years with the NJ Highlands Coalition, as well as for the NJ Highlands Council and many of the municipalities located within the Highlands, to preserve, protect, and enhance the region’s water, wetland, and woodland resources and sensitive biotic communities.

“We, at Princeton Hydro, are very proud of Steve and his accomplished career, which has been dedicated to enhancing and protecting water resources. The people and ecology of New Jersey are better off because of the direct impact of his work,” said Geoffrey Goll, PE, President of Princeton Hydro. “As a mentor, business partner, and, most important of all, a friend, I am grateful for his leadership over the years.”

Scott Churm and Dr. Stephen SouzaHawk Pointe Golf Club was chosen for this event because it’s a unique setting that incorporates the landscape of the Highlands into the course and uses some of the best-available technology to recycle water and manage its footprint. The 72-par golf course features 18 holes in a beautiful natural area surrounded by wetlands, dense woods, historical landmarks, and glimpses of wildlife.

The golf outing was a scramble format with a shotgun start. In addition to golfing, the event included visual media seminars and a photo contest.

To learn more about New Jersey Highlands Coalition, visit their website.

Princeton Hydro was formed in 1998 with the specific mission of providing integrated ecological and engineering consulting services. Offering expertise in natural resource management, water resources engineering, geotechnical design & investigation, and regulatory compliance, we provide a full suite of services throughout the Mid-Atlantic and New England states. Visit PrincetonHydro.com for more details.

 

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!

 

Capture the Change at Roebling Park

By Kelsey Mattison, Marketing Coordinator

Our wetland restoration project at Roebling Park just got even cooler! The Mercer County Park Commission (MCPC) is launching a citizen science/outreach campaign to help them document the visual changes seen in the park as the restoration progresses.

MCPC invites visitors to the park to help capture the change from various vantage points within the park. There are seven photo stations spread throughout the park’s trail. All are clearly marked with signage and directions on how to participate in the Capture the Change initiative.

Because the restoration heavily involves the removal of invasive Phragmites australis, most of the vantage points currently overlook dense swaths of “phrag” overgrowth in the marsh. Once the restoration is complete, that overgrowth will give way to native flora, increased biodiversity, enhanced tidal function, more incredible viewscapes, and so much more.

Here are some photos we captured at MCPC’s guided hike through the marshland, introducing the Capture the Change initiative. These photos were taken at each Capture the Change vantage point along the trail.

First Capture the Change vantage point

Second Capture the Change vantage point

Third Capture the Change vantage point

Fourth Capture the Change vantage point

Fifth Capture the Change vantage point

Sixth Capture the Change vantage point

Seventh Capture the Change vantage point

You can join the Capture the Change initiative too by posting a photo from one of these vantage points and adding the hashtag #BagthePhrag. We can’t wait to watch this marshland transform!

For more details on this restoration project, check out this blog:

Restoring the Northernmost Freshwater Tidal Marsh on the Delaware River

Kelsey Mattison is Princeton Hydro’s Marketing Coordinator and a recent graduate of St. Lawrence University with a degree in English and environmental studies and a passion for environmental communication. Through her extracurricular work with various nonprofit organizations, she has developed expertise in social media management, content writing, storytelling, and interdisciplinary thinking. In her free time, Kelsey enjoys dancing of all sorts, going on long walks with her camera, and spending time with friends and family in nature.

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.

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

People have been building dams since prerecorded history for a wide variety of economically valuable purposes including water supply, flood control, and hydroelectric power. Back in the 1950s and 60s, the U.S. saw a boom in infrastructure development, and dams were being built with little regard to their impacts on rivers and the environment. By the 1970s, the rapid progression of dam building in the U.S. led researchers to start investigating the ecological impacts of dams. Results from these early studies eventually fueled the start of proactive dam removal activities throughout the U.S.

Despite the proven benefits of dam removal, conflicts are a prevalent part of any dam removal project. Dam removal, like any other social decision-making process, brings up tensions around economics and the distribution of real and perceived gains and losses. In this two part blog series, 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.

Why We Remove Dams

The primary reasons we remove dams are safety, economics, ecology, and regulatory. There has been a growing movement to remove dams where the costs – including environmental, safety, and socio-cultural impacts – outweigh the benefits of the dam or where the dam no longer serves any useful purpose. In some cases, it’s more beneficial economically to remove a dam than to keep it, even if it still produces revenue. Sometimes the estimated cost of inspection, repair, and maintenance can significantly exceed the cost of removal, rendering generated projected revenue insignificant.

Safety reasons are also vital, especially for cases in which dams are aging, yet still holding large amounts of water or impounded sediment. As dams age and decay, they can become public safety hazards, presenting a failure risk and flooding danger. According to American Rivers, “more than 90,000 dams in the country are no longer serving the purpose that they were built to provide decades or centuries ago.” Dam removal has increasingly become the best option for property owners who can no longer afford the rising cost of maintenance and repair work required to maintain these complex structures.

The goal of removal can be multi-faceted, including saving taxpayer money; restoring flows for migrating fish, other aquatic organisms, and wildlife; reinstating the natural sediment and nutrient flow; eliminating safety risks; and restoring opportunities for riverine recreation.

Moosup River

Common Obstacles to Dam Removal

Dam removal efforts are often subjected to a number of different obstacles that can postpone or even halt the process altogether. Reasons for retaining dams often involve: aesthetics and reservoir recreation; water intakes/diversions; hydroelectric; quantity/quality of sediment; funding issues; cultural/historic values of manmade structures; owner buy-in; sensitive species; and community politics.

Of those common restoration obstacles, one of the more frequently encountered challenges is cost and funding. Determining who pays for the removal of a dam is often a complex issue. Sometimes, removal can be financed by the dam owner, local, state, and federal governments, and in some cases agreements are made whereby multiple stakeholders contribute to cover the costs. Funding for dam removal projects can be difficult to obtain because it typically has to come from a variety of sources.

Anecdotally, opposition also stems from fear of change and fear of the unknown. Bruce Babbitt, the United States Secretary of the Interior from 1993 through 2001 and dam removal advocate, said in an article he wrote, titled A River Runs Against It: America’s Evolving View of Dams, “I always wonder what is it about the sound of a sledgehammer on concrete that evokes such a reaction? We routinely demolish buildings that have served their purpose or when there is a better use for the land. Why not dams? For whatever reason, we view dams as akin to the pyramids of Egypt—a permanent part of the landscape, timeless monuments to our civilization and technology.”

Negative public perceptions of dam removal and its consequences can seriously impede removal projects. Although there are many reasons for the resistance to dam removal, it is important that each be understood and addressed in order to find solutions that fulfill both the needs of the environment and the local communities.

Stay tuned for Part Two of this blog series in which we explore strategies for analyzing dams and what goes into deciding if a dam should remain or be removed.

Urban Wetland Restoration to Yield Flood Protection for Bloomfield Residents

As part of the Third River Floodplain Wetland Enhancement Project,
a disturbed, flood-prone industrial site will be converted into a thriving public park.

Along the Third River and Spring Brook, two freshwater tributaries of the Passaic River, a disturbed industrial site is being transformed into 4.2 acres of wetlands, restoring the natural floodplain connection, enhancing aquatic habitat, and increasing flood storage capacity for urban stormwater runoff. The groundbreaking ceremony for this important ecological restoration project for Bloomfield Township took place last month.

“The Third River Floodplain Wetland Enhancement Project is a unique, creative solution that will transform a highly-disturbed, flood-prone, former industrial site into a thriving public park allowing for both passive and active recreational activities,” said Mark Gallagher, Vice President of Princeton Hydro. “By removing a little over four acres of upland historic fill in this densely developed area and converting it to a functioning floodplain wetland, the project will restore valuable ecological functions, increase flood storage capacity, and enhance wildlife habitat.”

Princeton Hydro is serving as the ecological engineer to Bloomfield Township for the Third River Floodplain Wetland Enhancement Project. Princeton Hydro’s scientists and engineers have assisted in obtaining grants, collected background ecological data through field sampling and surveying, created a water budget, completed all necessary permitting, and designed both the conceptual and final restoration plans. Additionally, Princeton Hydro will be conducting construction oversight during the implementation of this important urban wetland creation project.

The site includes 1,360 feet along the east bank of the Third River and 3,040 feet along the banks of the Spring Brook. These waterways are freshwater tributaries of the Passaic River and share a history of flooding above the site’s 100-year flood plain. The Third River, like many urban streams, tends to be the victim of excessive volume and is subjected to erosion and chronic, uncontrolled flooding. This green infrastructure project will re-establish the natural floodplain wetland and riparian plant communities, which will lead to a species-rich forest community through the removal of invasive species, setting the stage for native plants.

“Over 500 trees and shrubs will be planted in the new wetland with additional trees and shrubs being planted along Lion Gate Drive and in existing woodlands. The selected native plant species all provide important wildlife value such as providing fruit for migratory birds,” Gallagher explained. “We are excited to work with Bloomfield Township to design an urban restoration project that will both enhance the site’s ecological and flood storage value and provide accessibility to the community of Bloomfield.”

It is estimated that Phase One of the project, which includes the wetland construction and plantings, will be completed by September 1, 2019. The maintenance building, concession stand, ball field, etc., will be constructed as part of Phase Two.

“We are very excited to break ground on this exciting project that will have tremendous public benefits, like providing much-needed open space and lowering flood insurance rates for nearby residents and businesses,” said Bloomfield Township Mayor Michael Venezia. “By taking an underutilized parcel of land and turning it into beautiful park and waterfront space to be enjoyed by the public, we are fulfilling our commitment to preserving and enhancing open space. We would not have accomplished this without the efforts of Councilman Nick Joanow, who has advocated for this park for many years, Township Administrator Matthew Watkins, our excellent contractors and environmental experts, and I would like to thank them all. I also want to thank the Department of Environmental Protection and Freshwater Wetlands Mitigation Council for their important grant assistance to help us jump start this complex which will enrich the lives of Bloomfield residents for decades to come.”

NY/NJ Baykeeper has been vital in bringing the project to fruition, having served as an advocate for the project for the last 17 years.

“Lion’s Gate natural restoration is a legitimate all-in-one project that uses green infrastructure and smart planning to address the nested set of urban land use challenges, including: stormwater management, flooding, brownfield cleanup, natural habitat restoration, and the need for both more active playing fields and more passive greenfields,” said Greg Remaud, Baykeeper and CEO, NY/NJ Baykeeper.

Together, Bloomfield Township, Strauss and Associates, ARH, and Princeton Hydro secured $1.76 million in funding for this project from the New Jersey Freshwater Wetlands Mitigation Council and another several million dollars from NJDEP’s Office of Natural Resource Restoration.

To read more about our wetland restoration work, go here: http://bit.ly/PHwetland

 

Wetland Restoration Project Wins “Land Ethics” Award of Merit

The Pin Oak Forest Conservation Area, located in a heavily developed area of northern Middlesex County, New Jersey, once 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 region of New Jersey. Thus, a dynamic partnership between government agencies, NGOs, and private industry, was formed to steward the property back to life and restore its natural function. Today, at Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve’s 19th Annual Land Ethics Symposium, Middlesex County and the project team were presented with the “Land Ethics Award of Merit” for its remarkable restoration achievements.

“In just a few years, the landscape at Pin Oak has transformed from a degraded, disconnected wetland to a healthy, high-functioning landscape,” said Mark Gallagher, Vice President of Princeton Hydro. “This restoration project exemplifies how a diverse group of public and private entities can work together to identify opportunities, overcome challenges and achieve tremendous success.”

The Pin Oak restoration team 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 Pin Oak Forest Conservation Area is a 97-acre tract of open space that contains a large wetland complex at the headwaters of Woodbridge Creek. In 2017, the 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 and a nurturing environment for 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.

The Land Ethics Award recognizes the creative use of native plants in the landscape, sustainable and regenerative design, and ethical land management and construction practices. The recipient is selected by a jury of professionals in the field of design, preservation and conservation, and the award is presented at the Annual Symposium.

Photo courtesy of Barbara Storms, Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve.

In addition to the Award of Merit, Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve’s honored Dr. Marion Kyde with the 2019 Land Ethics Director’s Award and Doylestown Township Environmental Advisory Council with the 2019 Land Ethics Award. Congratulations to all of the winners!

Established in 1934, Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve is a 134-acre nature preserve, botanical garden, and accredited museum working to inspire the appreciation and use of native plants by serving as a sanctuary and educational resource for conservation and stewardship. For more information, visit www.bhwp.org.

Read more about the Pin Oak Forest Restoration project:

Innovative and Effective Approach to Wetland Restoration

To learn more about Princeton Hydro’s wetland restoration services and recent projects, visit us here: http://bit.ly/PHwetland

 

Part Two: Reducing Flood Risk in Moodna Creek Watershed

Photo of Moodna Creek taken from the Forge Hill Road bridge, New Windsor Post Hurricane Irene (Courtesy of Daniel Case via Wikimedia Commons)

This two-part blog series showcases our work in the Moodna Creek Watershed in order to explore common methodologies used to estimate flood risk, develop a flood management strategy, and reduce flooding.

Welcome to Part Two: Flood Risk Reduction and Stormwater Management in the Moodna Creek Watershed

As we laid out in Part One of this blog series, the Moodna Creek Watershed, which covers 180 square miles of eastern Orange County, New York, has seen population growth in recent years and has experienced significant flooding from extreme weather events like Hurricane Irene, Tropical Storm Lee, and Hurricane Sandy. Reports indicate that the Moodna Creek Watershed’s flood risk will likely increase as time passes.

Understanding the existing and anticipated conditions for flooding within a watershed is a critical step to reducing risk. Our analysis revealed that flood risk in the Lower Moodna is predominantly driven by high-velocity flows that cause erosion, scouring, and damage to in-stream structures. The second cause of risk is back-flooding due to naturally formed and man-made constrictions within the channel. Other factors that have influenced flood risk within the watershed, include development within the floodplain and poor stormwater management.

Now, let’s take a closer look at a few of the strategies that we recommended for the Lower Moodna Watershed to address these issues and reduce current and future flood risk:

Stormwater Management

Damage to Butternut Drive caused when Moodna Creek flooded after Hurricane Irene (Courtesy of Daniel Case via Wikimedia Commons)

Stormwater is the runoff or excess water caused by precipitation such as rainwater or snowmelt. In urban areas, it flows over sewer gates which often drain into a lake or river. In natural landscapes, plants absorb and utilize stormwater, with the excess draining into local waterways.  In developed areas, like the Moodna Creek watershed, challenges arise from high volumes of uncontrolled stormwater runoff. The result is more water in streams and rivers in a shorter amount of time, producing higher peak flows and contributing to flooding issues.

Pollutant loading is also a major issue with uncontrolled stormwater runoff. Population growth and development are major contributors to the amount of pollutants in runoff as well as the volume and rate of runoff. Together, they can cause changes in hydrology and water quality that result in habitat loss, increased flooding, decreased aquatic biological diversity, and increased sedimentation and erosion.

To reduce flood hazards within the watershed, stormwater management is a primary focus and critical first step of the Moodna Creek Watershed Management Plan. The recommended stormwater improvement strategies include:

  • Minimizing the amount of impervious area within the watershed for new development, and replacing existing impervious surfaces with planter boxes, rain gardens and porous pavement.
  • Utilizing low-impact design measures like bioretention basins and constructed-wetland systems that mimic the role of natural wetlands by temporarily detaining and filtering stormwater.
  • Ensuring the long-term protection and viability of the watershed’s natural wetlands.

The project team recommended that stormwater management be required for all projects and that building regulations ensure development does not change the quantity, quality, or timing of run-off from any parcel within the watershed. Recommendations also stressed the importance of stormwater management ordinances focusing on future flood risk as well as addressing the existing flooding issues.

Floodplain Storage

Floodplains are the low-lying areas of land where floodwater periodically spreads when a river or stream overtops its banks. The floodplain provides a valuable function by storing floodwaters, buffering the effect of peak runoff, lessening erosion, and capturing nutrient-laden sediment.

Communities, like the Moodna Creek watershed, can reduce flooding by rehabilitating water conveyance channels to slow down the flow, increasing floodplain storage in order to intercept rainwater closer to where it falls, and creating floodplain benches to store flood water conveyed in the channel.  Increasing floodplain storage can be an approach that mimics and enhances the natural functions of the system.

One of the major causes of flooding along the Lower Moodna was the channel’s inability to maintain and hold high volumes of water caused by rain events. During a significant rain event, the Lower Moodna channel tends to swell, and water spills over its banks and into the community causing flooding. One way to resolve this issue is by changing the grading and increasing the size and depth of the floodplain in certain areas to safely store and infiltrate floodwater. The project team identified several additional opportunities to increase floodplain storage throughout the watershed.

One of the primary areas of opportunity was the Storm King Golf Club project site (above). The team analyzed the topography of the golf course to see if directing flow onto the greens would alter the extent and reach of the floodplain thus reducing the potential for flooding along the roadways and properties in the adjacent neighborhoods. Based on LiDAR data, it was estimated that the alteration of 27 acres could increase floodplain storage by 130.5 acre-feet, which is equivalent to approximately 42.5 million gallons per event.

Land Preservation & Critical Environmental Area Designation

For areas where land preservation is not a financially viable option, but the land is undeveloped, prone to flooding, and offers ecological value that would be impacted by development, the project team recommended a potential Critical Environmental Area (CEA) designation. A CEA designation does not protect land in perpetuity from development, but would trigger environmental reviews for proposed development under the NY State Quality Environmental Review Act. And, the designation provides an additional layer of scrutiny on projects to ensure they will not exacerbate flooding within the watershed or result in an unintentional increase in risk to existing properties and infrastructure.

Conserved riparian areas also generate a range of ecosystem services, in addition to the hazard mitigation benefits they provide. Protected forests, wetlands, and grasslands along rivers and streams can improve water quality, provide habitat to many species, and offer a wide range of recreational opportunities. Given the co-benefits that protected lands provide, there is growing interest in floodplain conservation as a flood damage reduction strategy.


These are just a few of the flood risk reduction strategies we recommended for the Lower Moodna Creek watershed. For a more in-depth look at the proposed flood mitigation strategies and techniques, download a free copy of our Moodna Creek Watershed and Flood Mitigation Assessment presentation.

Revisit part-one of this blog series, which explores some of the concepts and methods used to estimate flood risk for existing conditions in the year 2050 and develop a flood management strategy.

Two-Part Blog Series: Flood Assessment, Mitigation & Management

For more information about Princeton Hydro’s flood management services, go here: http://bit.ly/PHfloodplain