UPDATE: Hudson River Habitat Restoration Study Completed & Chief’s Report Signed

Photo from USACE

As part of the multi-faceted effort to restore the vital Hudson River ecosystem, the USACE New York District launched the Hudson River Habitat RestorationPrinceton Hydro led the Hudson River Habitat Restoration Integrated Feasibility Study and Environmental Assessment for USACE. For this project, we established and evaluated baseline conditions through data collection and analysis; developed restoration objectives and opportunities; prepared an Environmental Assessment; and designed conceptual restoration plans for eight sites.

This week, Lt. Gen. Scott A. Spellmon, USACE Commanding General and 55th U.S. Army Chief of Engineers, signed the Hudson River Habitat Restoration Ecosystem Restoration Chief’s Report, which represents the completion of the study and makes it eligible for congressional authorization.

As stated in the USACE-issued news release, “The Chief’s Report recommends three individual ecosystem restoration projects including Henry Hudson Park, Schodack Island Park, and Moodna Creek within the 125-mile study area from the Federal Lock and Dam at Troy, NY to the Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge. These projects would restore a total of approximately 22.8 acres of tidal wetlands, 8.5 acres of side-channel and wetland complex, and 1,760 linear feet of living shoreline with 0.6 acres of tidal wetlands. The plan would also reconnect 7.8 miles of tributary habitat to the Hudson River through the removal of 3 barriers along Moodna Creek.”

“The signing of this Chief’s Report is a significant milestone for the HRHR Project,” said Col. Matthew Luzzatto, USACE New York District Commander. “This has truly been a team effort and I want to thank our non-federal sponsors, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and New York State Department of State, and all of our engineers, scientists, and partners at the local, state and federal level for their unwavering support.”

Read the full press release here. And, for more background information on the Feasibility Study and proposed restoration work, check out our original blog post:

Feasibility Study Identifies Key Opportunities for Hudson River Habitat Restoration

After 100 Years, Fish Passage is Restored at Critical Migratory Fish Spawning Grounds in NJ

Photo by the American Littoral SocietyFor over 100 years, the Old Mill Pond Dam in Spring Lake Heights, New Jersey has blocked critical anadromous fish species from reaching optimal spawning habitat. Today, we are thrilled to announce that, thanks to a fish ladder installed by the American Littoral Society (ALS), migratory fish can now scale the dam and access upstream spawning grounds.

The 60-foot-long fish ladder is a device that allows a channel of water to flow through it and is engineered to create both the proper water depth and velocity for fish to navigate through. In this case, it will enable fish to scale the 10-foot-high dam and go deeper into Wreck Pond Brook.

This video from ALS provides an up-close look at the Alaska-Steeppass Fish Ladder and more details about the project:

Re-opening river passage for migratory species improves not only the health of Wreck Pond Brook and its watershed, but it also benefits the overall ecosystem of the Atlantic shoreline and its coastal rivers. It also supports important recreational and commercial species, such as cod, haddock, and striped bass, which leads to a healthier economy.

For over a century, the dam blocked anadromous fish like Alewife and Blueback river herring, from entering the Wreck Pond Brook Watershed. These fish spend most of their lives in the ocean but need freshwater in order to spawn. The Old Mill Pond Dam, an impassable obstruction for these migrating fish, was identified as a key contributor to the decline of Atlantic coast river herring populations. Subsequently, river herring were classified as National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Species of Special Concern and identified as requiring Concentrated Conservation Actions.

Design rendering provided by the American Littoral SocietyThe fish ladder, which was funded through the US Fish and Wildlife Service and implemented by ALS along with a variety of project partners, including Princeton Hydro, is one more major step in the ongoing effort to restore critical migratory fish spawning grounds, support a vibrant food web to the area, and rehabilitate Wreck Pond and its watershed.

According to the ALS, “Now, instead of Old Mill Dam acting as the furthest migration destination for Alewife and Blueback river herring, these fish have the ability to navigate up the dam through the fish ladder and utilize roughly an additional mile of optimal spawning habitat. The ALS will add the Old Mill Dam fish ladder and newly accessible spawning habitat into its ongoing river herring monitoring surveys.”

American Littoral Society promotes the study and conservation of marine life and habitat, protects the coast from harm, and empowers others to do the same. Learn more and get involved: littoralsociety.org.

Princeton Hydro has designed, permitted, and overseen solutions for fish passage including the installation of technical and nature-like fishways and the removal of dozens of small and large dams throughout the Northeast. To learn more about our fish passage and dam removal engineering services, visit: bit.ly/DamBarrier.

Images provided by the American Littoral Society. 

Photo by the American Littoral Society

Client Spotlight: Musconetcong Watershed Association

In this photo, Princeton Hydro team member gathers data on the Hughesville Dam removal, using GPS to check the elevation of the constructed riffle on the beautiful Musconetcong River.

Welcome to the latest edition of our Client Spotlight Blog Series! Each spotlight provides an inside look at our collaboration, teamwork, and accomplishments with a specific client. We value our client relationships and pride ourselves on forming strong ties with organizations that share our values of creating a better future for people and our planet.

Meet the Musconetcong Watershed Association

The Musconetcong Watershed Association (MWA) is an independent, non-profit organization dedicated to protecting and improving the quality of the Musconetcong River and its watershed, including its natural and cultural resources. Members of the organization are part of a network of individuals, families, and companies that care about the Musconetcong River and its watershed, and are dedicated to improving the watershed resources through public education and awareness programs, river water quality monitoring, promotion of sustainable land management practices, and community involvement.

Princeton Hydro has been working with MWA in the areas of river restoration, dam removal, and engineering consulting since 2003. To develop this Client Spotlight, we collaborated with MWA’s Executive Director Cindy Joerger and Communications Coordinator Karen Doerfer:

Q: What makes MWA unique?

A: As a watershed association, we focus on a specific place. This includes the Musconetcong River, a National Wild and Scenic River, as well as the area’s cultural, historical, recreational, and natural resources. We take a watershed focus, seeking to monitor the river and upstream areas to ensure it maintains good water quality.

Q: What does MWA value?

A: MWA values community. Our membership is mostly grassroots, including residents, riverfront landowners, farmers, and local businesses. We value the long-term community of people who have helped form the organization, improve the river, and protect the scenic and historic resources that make our watershed unique.

Q: How long has MWA been working with Princeton Hydro?

Dam removal project partners and community members pose with Sally Jewell at the Hughesville Dam removal event on Sept. 8, 2016. Photo Credit: USFWS.

Project partners pose with Sally Jewell at the Hughesville Dam removal event in 2016. Photo Credit: USFWS.

A: Princeton Hydro has helped MWA with dam removal projects since the very first one, the Gruendyke Mill Dam, which was an obsolete dam on the border of Hackettstown and Mount Olive. Since then, Princeton Hydro has helped with four other dam removal projects and is currently assisting in the removal and restoration of the Beatty’s Mill Dam in Hackettstown, providing engineering plans and project management support.

The dam removals in the lower Musconetcong River have created a free-flowing passage to the Delaware River, and the removal of the Hughesville Dam welcomed the return of American shad less than a year after its removal.

Q: What types of services have Princeton Hydro provided to your organization?

A: Princeton Hydro has provided MWA with dam removal services on the Musconetcong River, most notably, the removal of Hughesville Dam, which brought Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell, out for its notching. Princeton Hydro has also helped us with the engineering and design for the Musconetcong Island Park Project, which involves the demolition of a building in a Historic District and the replacement of new, safer stairs.

We value Princeton Hydro’s expertise in environmental permitting, hydrology, and fisheries, as we have utilized this expertise to review development proposals and conduct fish surveys.

Q: Do you have a favorite or most memorable project we’ve worked on together?

A: The Hughesville Dam removal saw many successes and a few challenges we had to overcome as a team. After the initial removal and restoration, we worked together on another streambank restoration project to further stabilize the streambank near the dam removal site. This dam removal restored over 5 miles of free-flowing river to the Delaware River and will help lay the groundwork for the Warren Glen Dam removal, which is the largest dam on the Musconetcong River.

Hughesville Dam Removal on the Musconetcong River

Bringing fish back to native spawning grounds always makes us feel good! After Superstorm Sandy, millions of dollars were spent to remove dams from coastal waters and since then, species like American Shad, Eastern Brook Trout, and River Herring are making a comeback in our fresh water bodies. We had the pleasure of working on two of the projects mentioned: the removal of the Hughesville Dam on the Musconetcong River (video below) and Wreck Pond in Spring Lake, NJ. Full story: http://bit.ly/2SFtaEb

Posted by Princeton Hydro on Monday, December 10, 2018

 

Q: What are some exciting things your organization is working on right now?

Photo from Princeton Hydro led volunteer clean-up effort on the Musconetcong River in 2018. The team picked-up garbage along the road and riverbank, and pulled trash from the riverbed.

Photo from a Princeton Hydro-led volunteer cleanup effort on the Musconetcong River in 2018.

A: MWA is still working to restore the Asbury Mill, which we plan to use as an educational and eco-tourism hub for the community, as well as a much-needed office space for our growing staff.

We’ve also received some exciting new grants that will help us continue to involve the community in efforts to protect and improve water quality. Our “Push Back the Lawn” campaign will allow us to reach out to small landowners and educate them on the importance of riparian buffers.

This year has also brought some challenges for our organization, but we are excited to be picking up our River Cleanup again this fall. Normally, we conduct a watershed-wide cleanup in April, but due to COVID-19, we had to push it back. However, families and small groups are glad to be able to get out and give back by picking up trash that has collected with increasing staycations and small trips.

Q: What drives you to want to go to work every day?

A: Working for such a small organization, it is easier and more gratifying to see the impact it’s making. Our staff gets to see a lot of projects from start to finish, so it’s rewarding to be able to have your stamp on something you watched grow from its inception to conclusion.

Q: How can Princeton Hydro support you/your organization in the future?

A: In the upper watershed, we are hoping that Princeton Hydro, in concert with others, can continue to help guide improvements to the water quality of Lake Hopatcong. The lake acts as our headwaters and is the largest in New Jersey. Last year, it suffered a serious issue with Harmful Algal Blooms.

We are also looking forward to the Beatty’s Mill Dam removal project, where we will remove a remnant dam and reduce streambank erosion. We hope this will roll into another similar project at Newburgh, which should improve water quality and fish habitat and decrease flooding severity in the Hackettstown area.

Delaware River Watershed Forum participants tour dam removal sites along the Musconetcong River.

Delaware River Watershed Forum participants tour dam removal sites along the Musconetcong River in 2019.

Click below to read the previous edition of our Client Spotlight blog series, which features the Lake Hopatcong Foundation:

Client Spotlight: Lake Hopatcong Foundation

FREE DOWNLOADS: Mid-Atlantic Stream Restoration Conference Presentations

The Resource Institute hosted its 9th Annual Mid-Atlantic Stream Restoration Conference in Baltimore, Maryland, where water resource professionals, researchers, and practitioners come together for three days to share ideas and learn about stream restoration planning, assessment, design, construction, evaluation, and other topical stream issues. The conference, which was themed Building Resilient Streams in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions, included presentations, discussions, exhibits, and pre-conference workshops. Princeton Hydro participated in three presentations on a variety of topics. Below, we provide a synopsis and free download of each presentation:

Innovative Design and Funding Approaches for Dam Removal Projects Where an Unfunded Mandate Exists

Lead Presenter: Kirk Mantay, PWS, GreenTrust Alliance, Inc.
Co-Authors: Geoffrey Goll, P.E.; Princeton Hydro President; John Roche, Maryland Department of Environment; and Brett Berkley, GreenVest.

The presentation provides a detailed look at the removal of the Martin Dam in Fallston, Maryland, and how project partners were able to drastically expand the footprint of this emergency dam removal to generate enough ecological restoration benefits to adequately fund the dam removal itself.

The Martin Dam was constructed in 1965 as part of USDA’s sustainable farms pond construction initiative, which promoted aquaculture and subsistence fish production on small farms across the region as an income source for agricultural producers. Dam-related impacts included the permanent loss of spring-fed sedge wetlands, ditching of forested floodplain wetlands, pollution from stream bank entrenchment, and thermal impacts to a wild brook trout population downstream.

Overtime, the dam structure began to degrade. With each state and local agency inspection that was conducted, the dam increased in hazard category. In 2016, the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) was forced to list the dam as a, “public safety hazard at risk of immanent failure.” The landowner, unable to fund the dam removal, contacted GreenTrust Alliance (GTA), a regional green infrastructure nonprofit organization, for help.

By emphasizing the ecological benefits of restored wetlands and streams above and below the dam as well as the critical public safety hazard faced by residents and motorists downstream, GTA, in partnership with Princeton Hydro and GreenVest, was able to secure restoration funding for the site. The design and permitting was lead by Princeton Hydro, and the dam was safely breached as part of restoration construction in January 2019.

Learn more and download the full presentation.

 

Columbia Lake Dam Removal; Using Drones for Quantitative Evaluation of River Restoration

Lead Presenter: Beth Styler-Barry of The Nature Conservancy
Co-Authors from Princeton Hydro: Geoffrey Goll, P.E., President; Casey Schrading, EIT, Staff Engineer; Kelly Klein, Senior Project Manager, Natural Resources; and Christiana Pollack, CFM, GISP, Senior Project Manager, Environmental Scientist.

In order to explore the use of drone or UAV technology to evaluate the effects of dam removals, the presentation showcases the Columbia Lake Dam removal, the largest dam removal in New Jersey to date.

The Columbia Lake Dam, built in 1909, was 18 feet high, 330 feet long dam, and stretched more than 1.5 miles on the Paulins Kill less than 0.25 miles upstream from its confluence with the Delaware River. As part of The Nature Conservancy’s (TNC) mission to improve the quality of the Paulins Kill, removing this “first blockage” was the cornerstone of the larger mission. Princeton Hydro served as the engineer-of-record, designing and permitting this project. Dam removal activities commenced in 2018 and were finalized in 2019. Its removal opens 10 miles of river for fish migration and improves recreation access, floodplain reconnection, habitat enhancement and higher water quality.

TNC will conduct five years of monitoring, a vitally important component of this project, to determine long-term ecological uplift, short-term positive and negative effects, and to develop data to provide information for future dam removals. And, as a result of the programmable and repeatable nature of drone flight paths, such monitoring will be able to be conducted for years and decades, producing invaluable data for research and future project design.

The presentation reviews the various parameters investigated, the results and significance of the data retrieved, and recommendations for the use of drone technology for future ecosystem restoration projects.

Learn more and download the full presentation.

Modeling 3D Rivers in AutoCAD to Enhance Design and Deliverables

Lead Presenter: Daniel Ketzer, PE, Princeton Hydro Senior Project Manager, River Restoration
Co-Authors from Princeton Hydro: Eric Daley, Water Resources Engineer; Cory Speroff, MLA, ASLA, CBLP, Landscape Designer; and Sumantha Prasad, PE, ENV SP, Water Resource Engineer

This presentation provides an overview on how to create 3D river models based on geomorphic input to enhance the overall accuracy and quality of a river restoration project.

In river restoration, the proposed geometry of the river channel is the key part of the design. It impacts earthwork, utility conflicts, plan set layout, and many other aspects of the project. In larger projects with reaches measuring thousands of feet and greater, manual grading is extremely time consuming and tedious; and determining the entire implication of the proposed design is difficult to achieve when simply analyzing proposed cross-sections and profiles. To increase efficiency and maintain uniformity throughout the subject reach developing a 3D-surface model of the proposed restoration reduces design time and increases quality. AutoCAD Civil 3D can be used to convert the proposed profiles and cross-sections from a geomorphic design into a 3D surface of the river corridor.

The presentation goes through the key steps that need to be taken and strategic questions that need to be asked when modeling 3D rivers in AutoCAD along with important tips and reminders.

Learn more and download the full presentation.

Stay tuned for our Spring Events Spotlight to learn how you can participate in upcoming environmental events! Click here to read more about Princeton Hydro’s river restoration services.

Feasibility Study Identifies Key Opportunities for Hudson River Habitat Restoration

Hudson River Bear Mountain Bridge (Photo from Wikipedia)

The Hudson River originates at the Lake Tear of the Clouds in the Adirondack Mountains at an elevation of 4,322 feet above sea level. The river then flows southward 315 miles to New York City and empties into the New York Harbor leading to the Atlantic Ocean. The Hudson River Valley lies almost entirely within the state of New York, except for its last 22 miles, where it serves as the boundary between New York and New Jersey.

Hudson River Basin (Image by USACE)Approximately 153 miles of the Hudson River, between the Troy Dam to the Atlantic Ocean, is an estuary. An estuary is defined by the USEPA as “a partially enclosed, coastal water body where freshwater from rivers and streams mixes with salt water from the ocean. Estuaries, and their surrounding lands, are places of transition from land to sea. Although influenced by the tides, they are protected from the full force of ocean waves, winds and storms by landforms such as barrier islands or peninsulas.”

The Hudson River’s estuary encompasses regionally significant habitat for anadromous fish and globally rare tidal freshwater wetland communities and plants, and also supports significant wildlife concentrations. As a whole, the Hudson River provides a unique ecosystem with highly diverse habitats for approximately 85% of New York State’s fish and wildlife species, including over 200 fish species that rely on the Hudson River for spawning, nursery, and forage habitat.

The Hudson is an integral part of New York’s identity and plays a vital role in the lives of the people throughout the area. Long valued as a transportation corridor for the region’s agricultural and industrial goods, and heavily used by the recreation and tourism industries, the Hudson plays a major role in the local economy. It also provides drinking water for more than 100,000 people.

At the end of the American Revolution, the population in the Hudson River Valley began to grow. The introduction of railroad travel in 1851 further accelerated development in the area. Industrial buildings were erected along the river, such as brick and cement manufacturing, which was followed by residential building. Along with the aforementioned development, came the construction of approximately 1,600 dams and thousands of culverts throughout the Hudson River.

According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), these human activities have significantly degraded the integrity of the Hudson River ecosystem and cumulatively changed the morphology and hydrology of the river. Over time, these changes have resulted in large-scale losses of critical shallow water and intertidal wetland habitats, and fragmented and disconnected habitats for migratory and other species. Most of this loss and impact has occurred in the upper third portion of the estuary.

As part of the effort to restore the vital river ecosystem, the USACE New York District launched a Hudson River Habitat Restoration Feasibility Study, which helps to establish and evaluate baseline conditions, develop restoration goals and objectives, and identify key restoration opportunities. Princeton Hydro participated in data collection and analysis, conceptual restoration designs, and preparation of the USACE Environmental Assessment for the Hudson River Habitat Restoration Ecosystem Restoration Draft Integrated Feasibility Study and Environmental Assessment.

Basic map depicting project sites (Created by Princeton Hydro)The study area includes the Hudson River Valley from the Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge downstream to the Troy Lock and Dam upstream. The primary restoration objectives include restoring a mosaic of interconnected, large river habitats and restoring lost connectivity between the Hudson River and adjacent ecosystems.

A total of six sites were evaluated using topographic surveys, installation and monitoring of tide gauges, evaluation of dam and fish barrier infrastructure, and field data collection and analysis to support Evaluation of Planned Wetlands (EPW) and Habitat Suitability Indices (HSI) functional assessment models. Literature reviews were also completed for geotechnical, hazardous toxicity radioactive waste, and aquatic organism passage measures.

Multiple alternatives for each of the six sites were created in addition to the preparation of conceptual designs, quantity take-offs, and cost estimates for construction, monitoring and adaptive management, and long-term operation and maintenance activities.

Princeton Hydro also prepared an environmental assessment in accordance with NEPA standards, addressing all six sites along the Hudson River and its tributaries. This assessment served to characterize existing conditions, environmental impacts of the preferred Proposed Action and No Action Alternatives, and regional cumulative environmental impacts. Our final report was highlighted by USACE at the 2019 Planning Community of Practice (PCoP) national workshop at the Kansas City District as an example of a successfully implemented Ecosystem Restoration Planning Center of Expertise (ECO-PCX) project.

USACE’s specific interest in Hudson River restoration stems from the aforementioned dramatic losses of regional ecosystems, the national significance of those ecosystems, and the apparent and significant opportunity for measurable improvement to the degraded ecological resources in the river basin.

The feasibility study is among the first of several critical steps in restoring the Hudson River’s ecosystem function and dynamic processes, and reestablishing the attributes of a natural, functioning, and self-regulated river system. Stay tuned for more updates on the Hudson River restoration efforts.

Delaware River Watershed Forum Participants Tour Musconetcong River Dam Removals

The 7th Annual Delaware River Watershed Forum, a two-day conference hosted by The Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed, brought together organizations, consultants, and individuals spanning the four watershed states of PA, NY, NJ, and DE. This year’s Forum included presentations, interactive discussions, capacity-building workshops, and site visits that highlighted local conservation projects.

One of the site visits, led by Musconetcong Watershed Association (MWA) Executive Director Alan Hunt, toured dam removal sites along the Musconetcong River. The field trip visited the Finesville Historic District, where a dam was removed in 2012, and the village of Warren Glen, where the Hughesville dam was removed in 2016. Trip participants heard from project partners including Princeton Hydro President Geoff Goll, P.E., Beth Styler Barry of New Jersey Nature Conservancy,  Dale Bentz of RiverLogic Solutions, Beth Frieday of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Jacob Helminiak of U.S Army Corps of Engineers, and Christine Hall of USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.

“We really appreciate everyone who, despite the rainy weather, participated in the Musconetcong River Restoration field trip to learn about how dam removals are helping to restore the river back to it’s natural free-flowing state and the numerous resulting environmental benefits,” said Geoff. “This river restoration work exemplifies how a diverse group of public and private entities can work together to overcome challenges and achieve tremendous success.”

Princeton Hydro President Geoff Goll, P.E. provides field trip participants with information about the Hughesville Dam removal project and the adaptive management work currently happening at the site.Princeton Hydro has been working with MWA in the areas of river restoration, dam removal, and engineering consulting since 2003, when the efforts to remove the Gruendyke Mill Dam in Hackettstown, NJ began. To date, Princeton Hydro has investigated, designed, and permitted five dam removals along the Musconetcong River, the most recent being the Hughesville Dam. This 16’ dam was removed in 2016 and, one year later in 2017, American Shad returned to the site for the first time in at least 100 years, and the removal was credited by the State as a contributing factor for the increase in Delaware River shad population. There is an ongoing project to monitor fishery and aquatic habitat recovery at the site. The next Musconetcong dam targeted for removal is the 32-foot high Warren Glen Dam. It is the largest dam in the river; by comparison, the Hughesville Dam was 15-feet tall.

The Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed was formed in 2012, the Coalition works to raise awareness of the river and its surrounding landscape by bringing together groups already working to restore degraded resources, safeguard vulnerable assets, and educate their communities. The Coalition is committed to protecting and restoring the Delaware River, its tributaries, and more than 13,500 square miles of forests, wetlands, communities, and other distinctive landscapes in the watershed so that clean water and valued resources are secured for generations to come.

MWA is an independent, non-profit organization dedicated to protecting and improving the quality of the Musconetcong River and its Watershed, including its natural and cultural resources. Members of the organization are part of a network of individuals, families and companies that care about the Musconetcong River and its Watershed, and are dedicated to improving the watershed resources through public education and awareness programs, river water quality monitoring, promotion of sustainable land management practices and community involvement.

Princeton Hydro has designed, permitted, and overseen the reconstruction, repair, and removal of dozens of small and large dams in the Northeast. To learn more about our fish passage and dam removal engineering services, visit: bit.ly/DamBarrier. To learn more about our Musconetcong River restoration work, go here:

The Return of the American Shad to the Musconetcong River

 

 

Laura Wildman Awarded for “Bringing the Presumpscot River Back to Life”

Photo provided by the Friends of the Presumpscot River

The Friends of the Presumpscot River (The Friends) Board of Trustees awarded Laura Wildman, P.E., Princeton Hydro’s New England Regional Office Director and Water Resources and Fisheries Engineer, with its “Chief Polin Award.” The award recognizes Laura for her accomplishments and efforts in bringing life back to the Presumpscot River and rivers across the nation. The award was presented at The Friends’ Three Sisters Harvest Dinner & Annual Celebration.

The Chief Polin Award recognizes those who are making significant efforts to restore fish passage, improve water quality and bring back the natural character of the Presumpscot river.During her acceptance speech, Laura thanked The Friends for its continued dedication to restoring fish passage and revitalizing the river. “I am so proud to be part of the ‘river warriors’ team,” Laura said. “Our collective efforts to protect and restore the river have resulted in invaluable benefits to fish, aquatic organisms, wildlife, and the surrounding communities.”

The award is named after local Abanaki tribe leader Chief Polin, who led the first documented dam protest in New England during the mid-1700s, advocating for fish passage, which had been compromised by the first dams built along the river. The award recognizes those who are making significant efforts to restore fish passage, improve water quality, and bring back the natural character of the Presumpscot River. Sean Mahoney from the Conservation Law Foundation also received the Chief Polin Award during the Annual Celebration.

Map provided by The Friends of the Presumpscot RiverLocated in Cumberland County, Maine, the Presumpscot is a 25.8-mile-long river and the largest freshwater input into Casco Bay. The river has long been recognized for its vast quantity of fish. According to The Friends, when Europeans first arrived, they reported that “the entire surface of the river, for a foot deep, was all fish.”

In the 1730s, however, the construction of dams halted the passage of fish up the river. As more dams sprung up in the following centuries, the ecological vitality of the river steadily declined.

For more than 250 years, people have advocated for the unobstructed passage of fish up the Presumpscot River. Over the last 50 years, the river has undergone profound transformation due to the enactment of the Clean Water Act, the removal of a few dams, and the installation of fish passages on existing dams. Fish passage at Cumberland Mills Dam, which was completed in 2013, restored critical habitat to sea run fish such as shad, American eel, and river herring, and allowed them to move upstream again.

Saccarappa Falls dam removal in actionIn July, work began to restore a large reach of the river through Westbrook, Maine. The project involves the removal of two dam spillways from the upper Saccarappa Falls and the construction of a fishway around the lower falls. The project, which was three years in the making, was finally approved to move forward once the City of Westbrook, Sappi Fine Paper, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Maine Department of Marine Resources, and the nonprofits, Friends of the Presumpscot River and Conservation Law Foundation, were able to reach a ground breaking settlement. The Saccarappa Falls project is a major step in restoring the river and was a focal point of the Three Sisters Harvest Dinner, celebrating decades of effort on the parts of the Friends of the Presumpscot along with their numerous project partners, including Princeton Hydro.

About the Friends of the Presumpscot River: A nonprofit organization founded in 1992, supported primarily by membership dues and small donations. Its mission is to protect and improve the water quality, indigenous fisheries, recreational opportunities and natural character of the Presumpscot River.
Learn more: presumpscotriver.org

About Princeton Hydro: Princeton Hydro has designed, permitted, and overseen the removal of dozens of small and large dams along the East Coast. To learn more about our fish passage and dam removal engineering services, visit: bit.ly/DamBarrier.

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:

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

Spring Events Spotlights: Earth Day, Arbor Day, Conferences, & More!

Princeton Hydro is participating in lots of interesting events this Spring; here’s a snapshot of what’s to come:

 April 22, 2019:  Slade Dale Restoration Volunteer Day

Celebrate Earth Day a few days early with a fun Jersey Shore volunteer event! The American Littoral Society, in partnership with Princeton Hydro, Borough of Point Pleasant, and the local Rotary Club, is organizing dozens of volunteers to restore the shoreline and prevent further erosion at the Slade Dale Sanctuary using recycled Christmas trees, a technique that is groundbreaking for New Jersey.  Help us transport donated/recycled Christmas trees to the marsh to breakwater sections, stuffed them between the pilings, and securely tie them down. The volunteer is from 10 AM to 4 PM and water and light refreshments will be served.  Dress to get wet and mess and don’t forget to bring sunscreen, lunch, and waders (if you have them!). Street parking is available along Sea Point Drive.

Register here.

 

April 25, 2019: Arbor Day Celebration with Friends of Exton

We’re celebrating Arbor Day with Friends of Exton Park! Join us on Thursday, April 25 for a bird walk and native tree and shrub planting. During the bird walk, which runs from 8:30 – 10:30 am, we hope to spot spring migrants. Planting will take place between 10:30 am and 12:30 pm, and then lunch will be provided.

We hope you’ll join us for a fun and productive day in Exton Park. Birders and nature enthusiasts of all skill levels are welcome!

RSVP here: friendsofextonpark@gmail.com 

 

May 1, 2019:  SAME NJ POST 2019 Small Business Council Breakfast 

Princeton Hydro is proud to be attending, sponsoring, and our Communications Strategist Dana Patterson is emceeing this year’s Society for American Military Engineers (SAME) NJ Post 2019 Small Business Council Breakfast, which is being held at the Forsgate Country Club in Monroe. The program consists of networking opportunities, a variety of speakers, and breakfast (of course!). SAME gives leaders from the A/E/C, environmental, and facility management industries the opportunity to come together with federal agencies in order to showcase best practices and highlight future opportunities for small businesses to work in the federal market.

May 3-4, 2019: New York State Federation of Lake Associations Annual Conference

New York State Federation of Lake Associations (NYSFOLA) will host its 36th Annual Conference May 3-4 at the Fort William Henry Conference Center in Lake George. This year’s conference, which is titled, “Empowering Lake Associations in Challenging Times,” will feature a diverse exhibitor hall, networking opportunities, a silent auction and a variety of educational sessions. Princeton Hydro is exhibiting and giving presentations on the following topics:

    • Development of a HABS/Cyanotoxin Management Plan by Dr. Fred Lubnow, Director of Aquatics
    • A Layman’s Guide on How Land Practices Impact Water Quality by Chris Mikolajczyk, CLM, Senior Aquatic Scientist
    • Dr. Stephen Souza, a founding principal of our firm, is giving two presentations: “Small Footprint Green Infrastructure Stormwater Management for Lake Communities” and  “Impacts of Carp on Water Quality.”
Learn More & Register

 

May 4, 2019: 10th Annual Sustainable South Jersey Earth Festival

Hosted by the nonprofit Sustainable South Jersey, the Sustainable South Jersey Earth Festival is the largest eco-event in the region, drawing 5000 visitors annually. This year’s festival is themed “Reduce Plastic – Fantastic!” and will feature a family-fun bike ride, musical entertainment, perennial native plant swap, exhibits from a variety of earth-friendly, eco-conscious vendors, outdoor arts & crafts, and more. Admission is free and everyone is welcome to attend. Advanced registration is required for the family-fun bike ride. Our Communications Strategist Dana Patterson recently joined the board of Sustainable South Jersey, and will be hopping around the event. We hope to see you there!

Learn More & Register to Ride

 

May 16, 2019: NJ Highlands Coalition 4th Annual Sustainable Golf Outing

New Jersey Highlands Coalition‘s mission is to protect, restore and enhance the water and other natural and cultural resources of the Highlands for the benefit of all citizens and businesses throughout the state. The organizations 4th Annual Golf Outing will be held at Hawk Pointe Golf Club, a unique golf course 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. During this year’s event, Princeton Hydro founder Dr. Stephen Souza will be honored for his dedication to preserving and improving New Jersey’s watersheds and natural water resources.

Learn More

 

May 20 – 22, 2019: 10th Annual Choose Clean Water Conference

The Choose Clean Water Coalition is hosting its 10th Annual Choose Clean Water Conference at the Baltimore Marriott Inner Harbor at Camden Yards.  This year’s conference, themed Clean Water. Healthy Communities, will feature workshops and breakout sessions on topics including stormwater, agriculture, communications and public engagement, and innovation and technology. Princeton Hydro is a proud sponsor of the event.

This year, an additional day has been added to the conference. On Monday, May 20 from 12 – 4pm, the Coalition, in partnership with the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, will host a A ForumPlus event focused on “Microplastics and Trash: A Local Look at a Regional Issue.”

Learn More & Register

 

May 23, 2019: Hydrilla Workshop
Our Director of Aquatic Programs, Dr. Fred Lubnow, is presenting on the control and eradication of hydrilla, an aquatic invasive plant, at a workshop in Wayne County! Hydrilla has been identified in Wayne County’s Lake Alden and recorded by the PA Natural Heritage Program in the PA iMapInvasives database. This workshop, hosted Wayne Conservation District, will focus on identification of Hydrilla and management options as well as methods to prevent the spread of aquatic invasives between waterbodies.
Learn More & Register

 

 

May 28, 2019: REI Inspirational Women Speaker Series: Restoring Nature
Engineers and dam removal experts Sally Harold, Director of River Restoration & Fish Passage for the Nature Conservancy;  Gwen Macdonald, Director of Green Projects for Save the Sound; and our very own Laura Wildman, PE will join together at the West Hartford REI to discuss their unique skills and passions around river restoration and dam removal, and provide tips on how to get started with environmental efforts in your community. Registration is required for this free event, all are welcome.
Learn More & Register

Fish Passage Restored on the Paulins Kill

A view of where the Columbia Lake Dam used to reside. February 19, 2019. Photo courtesy of Casey Schrading, Staff Engineer, Princeton Hydro

On the Paulins Kill, the 100-year old Columbia Lake Dam has almost been completely removed, and fish passage has been restored!  Since the first cut was executed on the main dam in August, many exciting advances have been made towards restoring the Paulins Kill back to its natural state. Check out the video below, courtesy of the New Jersey Nature Conservancy Volunteer Drone Team. 

Piece by piece, the dam was notched out throughout the fall season and is now completely removed with the exception of the dam apron, the horizontal concrete structure that sits downstream of the dam, and the section of the dam that sits below the riverbed. The part of the dam in the riverbed is now being removed all the way down  to three feet under the ground. The full removal is estimated to be complete by mid-March. In mid-August, the first cut was widened to 80 feet, allowing for better management of high flows during storm events, which had been posing a challenge immediately following the first cut.

In late August, the installation of rock vanes at the Brugler Road Bridge began. Rock vanes are engineered, in-stream structures that help to stabilize a channel while enhancing aquatic habitat and movement.

A generic schematic example of cross vanes, this is not the exact engineering plan for this specific project. Photo courtesy of North Carolina Cooperative Extension.

The rock vanes installed at the Brugler Road Bridge site are cross vanes. Cross vanes consist of a set of boulders angled upstream on a river, with another section of smaller rocks placed upstream. The taller sections of the cross vanes deflect the streamflow away from the banks, decreasing scouring effects. Instead, the flow travels over the rock walls and concentrates down the center of the channel, creating a deep and elongated pool in the middle of the stream.  

Velocities between the notches in the rock vanes were evaluated using a velocity meter in accordance with the design specifications originally proposed. Based on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service fish passage design criteria, velocities in the notches could not be greater than 8.25 feet per second. All of the velocity measurements in this rock vane were below the maximum thresholds, ensuring no blockage of fish passage is made through the vanes.

Since the removal of the dam began, vegetative growth from the natural seedbed of the upper impoundment has been observed (see photo below).

In October, scour protection installation commenced at the Warrington Road Bridge site. After the team conducted geotechnical test pits, they discovered that a concrete scour wall that slopes out to the Paulins Kill was present and deep enough to be able to install rock at the necessary depth. They also found that the existing gabions, caged baskets filled with rock or concrete often used to protect against erosion, were intact and could be left in place. The team installed four (4) feet of riprap under and around the bridge in the riverbed and tied it into the existing grade of the banks.

The original notch in the dam was lowered one foot per day starting in mid-December, reducing water surface elevations down to the apron elevation during the month of January.

To accommodate NJ Fish and Wildlife’s request for animal passage under the I-80 bridges, an area of the previously installed riprap on the northwest abutment wall was flattened out and filled in with river cobble. This path will promote wildlife movement under the bridge as opposed to through the existing tunnel.

Currently, rock vanes are being installed under the I-80 bridges specifically to enhance fish passage. These structures vary slightly from the rock vanes at the Brugler Road Bridge site, as they are designed to slow river flow, helping migrating fish travel upstream and traverse a 5-foot elevation difference in the streambed, much like a fish ladder

These rock vanes are more than halfway completed and are on track to be finished in time for fish populations to make full use of them.  The next steps are to finish the demolition of the dam and the construction of the fish passage rock vanes under the I-80 bridges, plant vegetation throughout the upper impoundment, create a recreational trail through the upper impoundment, and plan for fishing and boating access! Stay tuned for more exciting developments on this incredible project.

Thank you to our project partners: The Nature Conservancy, American Rivers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and NJDEP Division of Fish and Wildlife Service.

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.