Ecological Uplift in an Urban Setting

The City of Elizabeth, the fourth most populous in New Jersey, is not exactly the first place that comes to mind when envisioning a wild landscape. This bustling urban area is well known for its Port Newark-Elizabeth Marine Terminal and the Philips 66 Bayway Refinery, and sits at the intersection of several major roadways like the NJ Turnpike and the Goethals Bridge. The landscape, which was once teeming with dense wetlands and associated habitats, is now heavily urbanized with a vast mix of residential, commercial, and industrial properties. The largely channelized Elizabeth River courses through the city for 4.2 miles before draining into the Arthur Kill waterway. However, in this 14-square mile city, native flora and fauna are taking root again thanks to ecological restoration and mitigation efforts.

Urban landscapes like Elizabeth can pose significant challenges for restoration efforts, but they also provide an array of opportunity for significant ecological uplift.

In 2004, Princeton Hydro was retained to restore an 18-acre site adjacent to the Elizabeth Seaport Business Park, which is located in an area that was once part of a large contiguous wetland system abutting Newark Bay. The site was comprised of a significantly disturbed mosaic of wetland and upland areas and a monoculture of Phragmites australis, also known as Common Reed, on historic fill. Historic fill consists of non-native material, historically placed to raise grades, and typically contains contaminated material not associated with the operations of the site on which it was placed.

The highly invasive Phragmites australis had overtaken most of the wetland areas, and the upland woodland areas only contained four tree species, mostly Eastern Cottonwood, with very low wildlife value. The 18-acre site had huge potential but was significantly degraded and was being vastly underutilized. Overall, the mitigation plan focused on the enhancement of existing wetland and transition areas to increase the area’s wildlife value through the establishment of a more desirable, diverse assemblage of native species subsequent to eradication of non-native-invasive species.

2005 (Before Plantings)
2019
In 2004, Prologis hired Princeton Hydro to restore an 18-acre area adjacent to the Elizabeth Seaport Business Park, which a significantly disturbed and degraded mosaic of wetland and upland areas. This project serves as an example of how degraded urban areas can be successfully rehabilitated and the land’s natural function restored and enhanced.

The freshwater wetland aspect of the mitigation plan, which included inundated emergent, emergent, and forested habitat, was designed to be a combination of wetland creation (2.40 acres) and enhancement (8.79 acres), emphasizing the establishment of more species rich wetlands in order to increase biodiversity and improve the site’s wildlife food value.

The upland forest aspect of the mitigation plan involved the enhancement of 5.40 acres and creation of 1.45 acres of upland forest to foster the development of a species rich and structurally complex upland forest. The upland areas targeted for enhancement/creation consisted of areas where woody vegetation was lacking or forested areas that were dominated by eastern cottonwood.

2008
2019
The 18-acre site in Elizabeth, NJ had huge potential but was significantly degraded and was being vastly underutilized. The mitigation plan emphasized the establishment of more species rich wetlands in order to increase biodiversity and improve the site’s wildlife habitat value.

The project team worked to remove Phragmites australis from the site utilizing a combination of herbicide and mechanical removal techniques. Once the Phragmites australis was cleared, the team installed 27,000 two-inch native herbaceous plant plugs in the wetland portions of the mitigation site, and 2,705 native trees/shrubs throughout the site.

In order to ensure the continued success of the mitigation project, monitoring is regularly conducted at the site. A monitoring report conducted at the end of 2019 revealed a plethora of well-established habitat areas, a diverse community of plant and tree species, and a thriving, highly-functional landscape.

2004 (Before Plantings)
september 2019
In 2004, before the restoration work began, the site consisted of degraded Phragmites australis dominated wetlands and an urban woodland area dominated by Eastern cottonwood. The planting component of the mitigation project commenced in 2015, and the installation of all woody plant material began Fall 2015 and was completed in Fall 2016. The 2019 Monitoring Report revealed the plantings are well-established and the area is thriving.

Presently, the Elizabeth Seaport Business Park Mitigation Site boasts a variety of productive wildlife habitats that are rare in a highly urbanized setting and provides valuable ecosystem services, including sediment retention and roosting, foraging, and nesting opportunities for both resident and migratory bird species with over 150 bird species identified within the mitigation site.

2008
2019
The Elizabeth Seaport Business Park site was comprised of a monoculture of Phragmites australis, also known as Common Reed. The mitigation plan focused on enhancing the existing wetland by eradicating non-native-invasive plant species, like Phragmites, and establishing more diverse population of productive, native species with high ecological value.

This project serves as an example of how degraded urban areas can be successfully rehabilitated and the land’s natural function restored and enhanced.  If you’d like to learn more about this project from our Natural Resources Senior Project Manager Michael Rehman, check out the video of his presentation at the 2020 Delaware Wetlands Conference below.

We’re at the Delaware Wetlands Conference and our Senior Project Manager, Michael Rehman, is presenting on a successful urban wetland restoration in Elizabeth, NJ.

Posted by Princeton Hydro on Thursday, January 30, 2020

 

If you’re interested in learning more about our wetland restoration and mitigation services, go here!

Employee Spotlight: Meet Our New Team Members

We’re excited to announce the expansion of our growing business with the addition of six team members who have experience and qualifications in a variety of fields related to water resource management.

Meet the new team members:

alexi sanchez de boado, DC Regional Office Manager and Senior Project Manager

As DC Regional Office Manager and Senior Project Manager, Alexi focuses on watershed management and green infrastructure. For almost two decades, he has managed watershed management projects in the DC metro area, and beyond, for federal, state, county and local governments and other government entities under the authority of the Clean Water Act, National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES), and related regulations.

Serving as an urban watershed manager and regulator for six years for the District of Columbia’s Watershed Protection Division, Nonpoint Source Management Branch, Alexi managed cross-jurisdictional, urban watershed rehabilitation projects, developed and coordinated the District’s Low Impact Development (LID) Initiatives Program, and oversaw complex stream and watershed assessment projects with a huge variety of stakeholders, from local NGOs to federal land holders. Since then, he has consulted as a scientist in both large and small consulting firms focusing on stormwater pollution, stream restoration, watershed planning, and green infrastructure.

Alexi holds a Master of Science in Environmental and Forest Biology from the State University of New York (SUNY) College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) and a Master of Public Administration from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University.

In his spare time, Alexi enjoys attending concerts, biking, and traveling, especially through Latin America.

Amanda cote, regulatory specialist

Amanda graduated from Bridgewater State University in Massachusetts with a Bachelor of Science in Geography. She has background knowledge in GIS which lead her to work in college labs making maps and running various applications.  She has also participated in water resources projects and is eager to learn.

In her free time, she enjoys being in the great outdoors. Adventuring is a huge part of her life in any form that she can experience it: hiking, fishing, snowshoeing, swimming, backpacking, etc. But of all places to explore, Amanda’s favorite place to be is on top of a mountain, reflecting on and appreciating the journey she took to climb to its peak.

Matt PapPas, staff engineer

Matt is a newcomer to the engineering field, just graduating in the summer of 2018 with a Bachelor Degree in Civil Engineering and minor in Environmental Engineering from the University of Delaware. As an undergraduate, he was an active member of the UD ASCE chapter, where he was a leader in the organization and eventual captain of the concrete canoe team.

Prior to Princeton Hydro, he worked for a large construction firm in Delaware where he became quite familiar with the practical engineering world and was able to develop his working knowledge of constructability as well as hone his technical writing skills.

In his spare time, Matt enjoys cooking, hiking and wood carving.

Johnny quispe, Environmental Scientist

Johnny is a PhD candidate at Rutgers University’s Graduate Program of Ecology and Evolution investigating the effects of sea level rise on coastal ecosystems and communities. Through his research, he is identifying migration opportunity zones for marsh migration as well as areas for restoration and flood risk management. Johnny integrates social, economic, engineering, and natural systems into his projects to make coastal communities more resilient to natural disasters and climate change.

After Johnny earned his Bachelor of Science in Environmental Policy, Institutions, and Behaviors at Rutgers University, he focused on the conservation, restoration, and remediation of sites in NJ via a variety of roles in the nonprofit, public, and academic sectors. Johnny interned at the New Jersey Department of State and the Office of the Lieutenant Governor, New Jersey Future, Jersey Water Works, and at USEPA Region 2 Headquarters, where he conducted research for the Emergency and Remedial Response Division. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling, hiking, and playing board games.

Jake Schwartz, Project Engineer

Jake is a Project Engineer with a BS in Civil Engineering from Rowan University, which he earned in 2017. After graduating college, Jake worked for a civil and environmental consulting company, where he gained experience with stormwater design, flooding, grading, site layout, construction inspection/administration, and environmental regulation. Prior to his career in civil engineering, Jake worked his way up in the pool industry, starting as a swim instructor. He quickly moved up to a life guard position, and then eventually became responsible for managing 12 commercial swimming pools. As a pool manager, Jake was responsible for system upkeep and water chemistry in the swimming pools. This position enabled Jake to acquire hands on experience with water chemistry and hydraulic principles. In this position, Jake also oversaw 40 staff members, leaving him with substantial leadership experience. Jake’s goal is to use his knowledge and experience to design sustainable site plans for Princeton Hydro’s projects.

Outside of work, Jake enjoys hiking, swimming, going to the beach, and hanging out with friends.

RYAN WASIK, EIT, water resource engineer

Ryan is a Water Resource Engineer with a B.S. in Civil Engineering and a minor in Environmental Engineering from Widener University in in Chester, PA. After graduating, he worked as a highway inspector for roadway reconstruction and rehab projects in Delaware. Then, he worked as a project engineer designing and drafting for a wide range of civil/site design projects throughout the Philadelphia region and New Jersey. He has experience in roadway design, ADA ramp design, site grading and layout, utility design, erosion and sediment control measures, and stormwater design/inspections.

In his free time, Ryan enjoys playing golf, disk golf, running, and playing bass guitar.