Miry Run Ponds Master Plan Wins 2021 Landscape Architectural Chapter Award

Miry Run Ponds Master Plan - Mercer County

Over 40 years ago, Mercer County purchased 279 acres of flood-prone land along Miry Run  as part of a restoration and flood mitigation initiative. Mercer County’s Master Plan, approved in 2020, goes above and beyond the original vision, proposing considerable improvements to the area, including 34 acres of reforestation, 64 acres of new meadows, 19 acres of vernal pools, and 7.9 miles of walking trails. Mercer County Park Commission contracted Princeton Hydro and Simone Collins Landscape Architecture to develop the plan.

Today, we are thrilled to announce that the Miry Run Ponds Master Plan was awarded the 2021 Landscape Architectural Chapter Award from the New Jersey Chapter American Society of Landscape Architects (NJASLA).

Each year, the NJASLA Professional Awards honor the best in landscape architecture in the region. Only one Chapter Award is given annually for exceptional performance in any category, as determined by a unanimous vote of the jury members. This year’s jury was composed of distinguished members from the Oregon ASLA Chapter. There were 19 total projects entered into the 2021 competition.

“The Park Commission is honored to have a project recognized by the NJASLA and we look forward to acting on our plan in the years ahead,” said Park Commission Executive Director Aaron T. Watson.

When Mercer County acquired the property in 1978, the original plan was to create a recreation area and flood control site. In order to mitigate local flooding, the County Park Commission developed a dam, which created a 55-acre tree-lined lake. The rest of the property comprises undeveloped uplands, wetlands, woodlands, and open space with limited-use recreation areas primarily only used by immediate neighbors.

With 55 acres of lake space, however, Mercer County saw huge potential for what the park could provide and set out on a mission to create a Master Plan for the area with three primary regional goals:

  • Provide passive recreation to complement other County activities;
  • Preserve and enhance the habitat, water quality, and natural systems that currently exist onsite; and
  • Provide linkage to adjacent trails and parks.

The gap between the current condition and the huge potential pushed the Mercer County Park Commission to contract Princeton Hydro and Simone Collins Landscape Architecture in 2018 to assess the land area and propose a concept plan to enhance the area and create recreational lake activities.

Beginning in December 2018 and throughout the course of 2019, the project team implemented the necessary measures to fully assess the status of the expansive property. Applying expertise in science-based assessment and evaluations, our aquatic ecologists and environmental scientists performed:

These evaluations were conducted in order to better understand the existing site and area conditions, to assist in the development of the site plan, and for future incorporation into Mercer County’s Draft Master Plan.

In addition, our project team facilitated focus groups with local municipalities, residents, interest groups, and County stakeholders to seek their input and to report the site evaluation findings. In partnership with Mercer County, the team led many public community meetings that served as a platform for discussion about the project and conceptual site designs. The meetings helped to inform the process through collaboration and determine how best to manage the site moving forward in order to meet the needs of the community and future generations.

In November of 2019, a draft master plan was released, followed by a 60-day public comment period. The commission hosted a series of public meetings to solicit input for potential improvements to the park. Having reviewed and considered all comments, the Park Commission’s Steering Committee and team of expert consultants were able to finalize the plan, which focused on environmental stewardship and education paired with passive land and water-based activities.

“With input from the public, our consultants helped us create a vision for the park that will improve water quality in the lake and make it more accessible to Mercer County residents,” said Aaron T. Watson.

The Master Plan was then presented to the Park Commission for review and approved in 2020.

The improvement plans comprises:

  • Several types of trails and boardwalks that total approximately 7 miles, including a tree canopy walk-through over an area of vernal pools.
  • Parking lots and driveways
  • Small restrooms and pavilions
  • A group camping area that would accommodate about 30-40 campers
  • A nature-based playground and an ADA inclusive playground
  • Kayak launch and water trail
  • Fishing access areas
  • Protected swimming area for a limited number of swimmers each day
  • A native plant arboretum and horticultural garden

Of the total Miry Run Ponds land area, only 17 acres, or approximately 7.4 percent of the site, would be disturbed for trails, parking and other park visitor facilities. The site’s valuable natural features will be augmented through the establishment of 34 acres of new forest and 64 acres of native meadow.

The Master Plan serves as a long-term vision for improvements to the property and will be implemented over multiple phases. The construction of major park improvements is projected for 2022-2023.

To view the Final Master Plan, visit the Park Commission’s website. To learn more about the NJASLA and see a complete list of 2021 award winners, go here.

Blue Acres Floodplain Restoration in Linden Wins Award for Excellence in Water Resources

A project to increase storm resiliency and reduce flood risk through ecological and floodplain restoration on a New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) Blue Acres property in Linden, NJ was completed earlier this year. Today, we are thrilled to announce our project has received the “Excellence in Water Resources: Ecological Restoration Award” from the New Jersey Section – American Water Resources Association (NJ-AWRA).

“The Linden Blue Acres Green Infrastructure & Floodplain Restoration is an excellent model for showcasing a successful approach to the enhancement of public lands through a dynamic multidisciplinary, multi-stakeholder partnership,” said Mark Gallagher, Vice President of Princeton Hydro. “We are so proud to have seen this project through to completion and are all the more honored to be recognized by the NJ-AWRA with this prestigious award.”

The NJ-AWRA Excellence Award recognizes projects that demonstrate an innovative and effective approach to water resources management. The projects must embody the mission of the AWRA to advance multidisciplinary water resources education, management and research. The Linden Blue Acres project excelled in these areas, resulting in the successful nomination of the project to receive the award.

The City of Linden, located 13 miles southwest of Manhattan, is a highly urbanized area with a complex mix of residential, commercial, and industrial land uses. Originally settled as farmland on broad marshes, the city has deep roots in industrial production that emerged in the 19th century, and its easily accessible location on the Arthur Kill tidal straight helped fuel this industrial development.

Like other communities in the Arthur Kill Watershed, Linden also suffers severe flooding from heavy rains and storms. Due to a high percentage of impervious cover from houses, roadways, and sidewalks, even small rain events generate a significant amount of stormwater runoff. Tremley Point, a low-lying community of about 275 homes, is particularly prone to backwater flooding because of its low lying landscape position and its proximity to an extensive area of tidal wetlands associated with Marshes Creek, a tributary to the Rahway River.

In 2012, Hurricane Sandy caused widespread destruction to the City of Linden. The City’s Tremley Point neighborhood was especially storm-ravaged; local news outlets reported that a 15-foot tidal surge overtook Tremley Point homes, destroyed roads, and washed up hazardous material such as a 150-gallon diesel tank.

22 properties in Tremley Point were aquired by NJDEP Blue Acres.

To help communities like Tremley Point recover, the NJDEP launched the Blue Acres program under which NJDEP purchases homes from willing sellers at pre-Sandy market values, so residents in areas of repetitive and catastrophic flooding can rebuild their lives outside flood-prone areas. Structures are demolished and the properties are permanently preserved as open space for recreation or conservation purposes.

As part of the NJDEP Blue Acres Program, Princeton Hydro, in collaboration with the City of Linden, Rutgers University, NJDEP, Phillips 66, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, New Jersey Corporate Wetlands Restoration Partnership, and Enviroscapes, took on one of the first ecological restoration projects within Blue Acres-acquired properties. This project increased storm resiliency by reducing flooding and stormwater runoff by improving the ecological and floodplain function within the Tremley Point properties acquired by the NJDEP Blue Acres Program.

Project partners at present the project to the community in Linden, NJ

Nancy Sadlon, Manager of Public Affairs for Phillips 66-Bayway Refinery, accepted the award on behalf of the project team and said, “Our team not only made possible the first successful implementation of the floodplain restoration on Blue Acres lands but set a precedent on stakeholder engagement; we showed what is possible when all stakeholders are fully engaged and dedicated to the same goal.”

The project included the development and implementation of an on-the-ground natural green infrastructure-focused floodplain enhancement design involving the restoration of native coastal floodplain forest and meadow, as well as floodplain wetlands. The restored area provides natural buffering to storm surge and enhances floodplain functions to capture, infiltrate, store, and slow excess stormwater to reduce the risk of future flood damage. In addition, it restores natural habitat and provides public recreation access on NJDEP Blue Acres property.

Although the planning for this project occurred over many years, the project officially kicked off in December 2018.  Engineering design was finalized and permitting submissions were completed in September 2019, and construction commenced in October 2019.  The project construction was completed earlier this year.

This project embodies the NJ-AWRA mission as it focuses on restoring a floodplain and enhancing its functions by leveraging the success of the NJDEP Blue Acres buyouts to create even more flood protection for the community. This project also fulfills the NJ-AWRA criteria as several different organizations were involved in bringing it to fruition, including private entities, government agencies, universities, and nonprofit organizations.

Given that this project was the first restoration project to be completed on NJDEP Blue Acres-acquired property, the hope is that it will bring to light other possibilities for restoration work on Blue Acres land. This project can be used as an example for future projects of a similar nature.

We would also like to thank the project funders, whose support made this project possible: The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Phillips 66, and the New Jersey Corporate Wetlands Restoration Partnership.

During the award ceremony, which was held virtually, NJ-AWRA also recognized John A. Miller, PE, CFM, CSM with the Peter Homack Award for “his outstanding contributions toward a multidisciplinary understanding and management of water resources in New Jersey.” John previously worked with Princeton Hydro for 15 years as a Water Resources Engineer and now serves as the Mitigation Liaison to the State of New Jersey at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). We are so proud of John and all his accomplishments. This award is well deserved and we congratulate him on this honor.

Read more about the Linden Blue Acres project:

Setting the Precedent: Blue Acres Floodplain Restoration in Linden

PHOTOS: #BagThePhrag Update from Roebling Park

We’re gearing up for another invasive species treatment event at Roebling Park!

Located in Hamilton Township, New Jersey, Mercer County’s John A. Roebling Memorial Park offers residents in the surrounding area a freshwater marsh with river fishing, kayaking, hiking, and wildlife-watching. The park contains the northernmost freshwater tidal marsh on the Delaware River, Abbott Marshland. Since the mid-1990s, many public and private partnerships have developed to help support the preservation of this important and significant marsh.

Our Field Operations Team was recently at the project site assessing present invasive species and re-evaluating access points for our treatment equipment. Check out these photos from their visit!

 

For more information on this marsh restoration project at John A. Roebling Park, visit our original project blog:

Restoring the Northernmost Freshwater Tidal Marsh on the Delaware River

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.

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.

PHOTOS: Columbia Dam Removal

VIDEO: “Columbia Lake Dam when the water level was 18 inches to 2 feet lower”
Video courtesy of Matt Hencheck

In Northwest New Jersey on the Paulins Kill, an important tributary to the Delaware River, the century-old hydroelectric Columbia Dam is actively being removed. Princeton Hydro was contracted by American Rivers to investigate, design, and apply for permits for the removal of this dam for the New Jersey chapter of The Nature Conservancy. Our team of engineers and ecologists studied the feasibility of removal by collecting sediment samples, performing bioassay tests, and conducting a hydraulic analysis of upstream and downstream conditions. We’re excited to report that the Columbia Dam removal has officially commenced!

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection started draining water from Columbia Lake a few weeks ago, which was the first step in removing the dam. Princeton Hydro has subsequently been contracted by The Nature Conservancy to provide construction administration services.  Photos below show the water at lowered levels at the impoundments.

“Dewatering Impoundment” Photo by Princeton Hydro

“An aerial drone snapshot when water levels were down about 5 feet at the upper impoundment” Photo courtesy of the New Jersey Chapter of The Nature Conservancy

Last week, the first hammer hit the wall of a downstream dam remnant, officially starting the removal process.

“The first hammer”  Photo courtesy of Dale Bentz, RiverLogic Solutions

The dam removal process will last a few weeks, as the contractor actively knocks down the thick concrete wall.

“Pressure and time”  Photo courtesy of Dale Bentz, RiverLogic Solutions

“Halfway there”  Photo courtesy of Dale Bentz, RiverLogic Solutions

Once the dam is removed, there is a high probability that populations of American Shad and River Herring will be restored. It may also enhance American Eel migration. As a coldwater fishery, this reach also has significant potential for trout species, as well as Smallmouth Bass.

(Top) Before: Photo of the Columbia Dam before construction. (Bottom) After: Princeton Hydro’s rendering of what the river will look like once the dam is removed.

“It is very exciting to be a part of such a monumental effort for the restoration of the Paulins Kill. This river, once a major migration route for diadromous fish like American Shad, will once again be a nursery for this Delaware River icon,” said Geoffrey Goll, PE, President and co-founder of Princeton Hydro. “The removal of these dams will also restore the functions and values of a riparian corridor and floodplain, eliminate costs to the taxpayer for the maintenance of a dam and lake, and provide additional riverine recreational opportunities. I expect to see the same resilience and positive impact to the Delaware River as the recent barrier removals on another major NJ tributary, the Musconetcong River. It is a win-win for NJ, and with The Nature Conservancy at the helm and expert guidance from American Rivers, it has been an experience of a career.”

This project could not have been possible without the hard work and dedication of the following partner organizations: The Nature Conservancy of New Jersey, American Rivers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, RiverLogic Solutions, NJDEP Division of Fish and Wildlife Service, and SumCo EcoContracting.

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.


This video from 2016 features the Nature Conservancy’s New Jersey State Director Barbara Brummer, Ph.D. speaking on the Columbia Dam removal. Video credit: NJ Herald.