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Nestled at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Smith Mountain Lake is the largest lake entirely within the Commonwealth of Virginia. Spanning over 20,000 acres with 500 miles of shoreline, the lake's northern and eastern boundary is marked by Bedford County, while Franklin and Pittsylvania counties define its southern and western edges. Created in 1963 by impounding the Roanoke River with the Smith Mountain Dam, the lake serves multiple purposes, including hydroelectric power, public water supply, and recreation.

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, the area surrounding Smith Mountain Lake was predominantly rural farmland. In the 1980s, however, the lake's natural beauty, recreational appeal, and proximity to Roanoke and Lynchburg began to draw increased attention. This surge in interest sparked a boom in residential and commercial development, transforming Smith Mountain Lake into a vibrant and bustling community.

Today, Smith Mountain Lake not only provides electricity and drinking water, it is also home to 21,000 residents and stands as a premier recreational resource. Thousands flock to Smith Mountain Lake each year to enjoy boating, swimming, fishing, and other water activities. The lake's shores are now dotted with resorts, condominiums, year-round residences, and outdoor industry businesses. The lake's waters and shoreline also provide vital habitats for aquatic plants, animals, birds, and other terrestrial wildlife.

The rapid growth of this pristine lake community underscores the importance of effective environmental management to preserve water quality, strengthen the shoreline, manage stormwater runoff, and protect the local native biodiversity of the lake and its watershed.


Identifying and Addressing Harmful Algal Blooms

The lake is fed by two main tributaries—the Blackwater River and the Roanoke River. The Roanoke River, the larger of the two, drains a watershed that includes the Roanoke Metropolitan area, while the Blackwater River flows through mostly rural and agricultural land.

In 2023, a significant outbreak of harmful algal blooms (HABs) in the Blackwater River subwatershed raised concerns for the Smith Mountain Lake Association (SMLA). These blooms, primarily driven by agricultural runoff, led to swimming advisories and highlighted the need for a comprehensive approach to managing and mitigating these environmental threats.

Recognizing the urgency of the situation, SMLA sought the expertise of Princeton Hydro. The mission: to investigate conditions that cause HABs, protect the lake from future outbreaks, and ensure the long-term health of this vital freshwater resource.


Laying the Groundwork

The project team’s approach began with a thorough review of historical water quality data. Collaborating with SMLA and regulatory bodies including the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (VDEQ), U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Princeton Hydro compiled a comprehensive dataset. This historical context was crucial for understanding past trends and informing the 2024 Watershed Assessment. SMLA and Ferrum College contributed over 38 years of data through their Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring Program, documenting crucial indicators such as nutrient levels, bacterial counts, and algal blooms. This extensive dataset has been essential in informing effective lake management practices and shaping strategies to address current environmental challenges.

Employing the MapShed model, the team carried out a comprehensive hydrologic and nutrient loading analysis of the Blackwater River subwatershed. They evaluated critical factors, including phosphorus, nitrogen, and sediment levels, to identify and prioritize areas requiring targeted nutrient and sediment management strategies.

To describe its basic function, the MapShed model applies pollutant loading rates to different land cover types, like low-density development or forested wetlands, based on their area. It then uses weather data, soil characteristics, and slopes to adjust these results. The model simulates daily pollutant loads over 30 years using actual climate records, providing monthly and annual outputs. Users can adjust various inputs, like septic system efficiency and population density, to see how the changes affect pollutant loads and water flow.

This analysis laid the foundation for determining effective, focused interventions to curb nutrient runoff and mitigate future HABs.


Understanding Cyanobacteria Behavior Through Innovative Research

In March 2024, an Overwintering Incubation Study was conducted to understand cyanobacteria behavior. Sediment and water samples were taken from six nearshore locations known for high cyanobacteria counts in Summer 2023. At each site, the team also documented temperature, dissolved oxygen, specific conductivity, pH, chlorophyll-a, phycocyanin (PC), and phycoerythrin (PE).

The map below identifies the locations of each of the six sampling sites:

This map identifies the locations of each of the six sampling sites at Smith Mountain Lake [gallery link="none" columns="2" ids="15361,15363"]

For each sample, the lake water was filtered and then incubated with respective sediments to determine the presence and what types of algae may be overwintering. The water and sediment samples were incubated over a period of 15 days at a temperature of approximately 77 degrees Fahrenheit and a light intensity of 2800 lux.

After eight days, the water and sediment samples were removed from the incubator, slightly stirred and then in-situ measurements for PC and PE were collected. These two supplemental pigments are almost exclusively produced by cyanobacteria. While PC is associated with primarily planktonic genera, PE is more associated with benthic genera. Thus, measuring the concentration of these pigments can be used to estimate cyanobacteria biomass as well as provide guidance on the monitoring and management of HABs (planktonic vs. benthic).

After 15 days, the samples were again removed from the incubator, slightly stirred, and then measured for PC and PE to identify and count any overwintering cyanobacteria and determine all the types of algae present.

This study offered critical insights into the conditions that enable cyanobacteria to endure winter and proliferate during warmer months. By understanding the connection between overwintering cyanobacteria and HABs in the lake, we can enhance predictive capabilities and develop more effective management strategies. Two particularly notable findings from the study include:

1. Sediment Composition and Cyanobacteria Growth: Sandier sediments were not conducive to overwintering cyanobacteria, suggesting blooms in these areas likely originate elsewhere in the lake. Conversely, siltier and organic-rich sediments supported cyanobacteria growth, indicating a need for targeted in-lake management measures. 2. Predictive Tools for HABs: Routine measurement of pigments like PC and PE proved effective in estimating cyanobacteria biomass. This information is crucial for long-term monitoring and management, offering predictive tools for HAB events.

Looking Ahead: Holistic Approaches to Tackling HABs

Beyond the initial assessment on the Blackwater River, ongoing monitoring of Smith Mountain Lake’s water quality is crucial for understanding and managing the conditions that trigger HABs. SMLA’s Water Quality Monitoring Program developed and managed by Ferrum College continues the work of tracking the trophic state of the lake. Algal community composition, tributary sampling, and bacterial monitoring are part of this comprehensive 38-year effort. Consistent sampling and water quality monitoring can help identify cyanobacteria and akinetes, the dormant spores that lead to bloom formation.

Because the VDEQ budget historically contains no funding for inland waterway HAB research and response, SMLA actively lobbied the Virginia General Assembly for the allocation of $150,000 for the creation of a watershed study. This request was included in the State budget signed in March of 2024 and the work to develop the objectives and scope of the study is underway now.

Community involvement is also vital for maintaining Smith Mountain Lake as a cherished resource. To this end, SMLA has launched "Dock Watch," a new community science volunteer program designed to monitor HAB activity. Beginning in May of 2024, volunteers have been collecting water samples at select docks around the lake and are examining them to better understand cyanobacteria activity levels and trends. All of the water quality data collected at the lake is from main channel locations. The primary recreational contact with the lake water by residents is at their docks. This data is uploaded to NOAA's Phytoplankton Monitoring Network, contributing to a national database used for HAB research. This collective effort ensures rapid identification and tracking of HAB activity, benefiting both the local community and environmental research on a national level.

“This project exemplifies a holistic approach to lake management and environmental stewardship, integrating historical data, advanced modeling, and community engagement to prioritize and implement innovative strategies that effectively mitigate HABs and protect water quality,” said Chris L. Mikolajczyk, Princeton Hydro’s Senior Manager of Aquatics and Client Manager for Smith Mountain Lake. “This ongoing work highlights the importance of science-based interventions in preserving our precious natural resources.”

[gallery size="medium" link="none" ids="15377,15374,15373"]

The Smith Mountain Lake Association is a 501(c)3 nonprofit with the mission to keep Smith Mountain Lake clean and safe. Founded in 1969, SMLA is the longest serving advocate for the Smith Mountain Lake community, and its focused efforts help to retain the pristine beauty of the lake and the vibrant local economy. Click here to learn more and get involved.

Over the last two decades, the Princeton Hydro team has improved water quality in hundreds of ponds and lakes, restored many miles of rivers, and enhanced thousands of acres of ecosystems in the Northeast. From species surveys to water quality monitoring, our professionals perform comprehensive assessments in order to understand the landscape. Using tools like ArcGIS, we can map and model the watershed and arrive at holistic solutions for resource management. Our natural resources and lake management experts are complemented by our field team who utilize amphibious vehicles for mechanical invasive species removal, install aeration systems to improve water quality, and conduct natural lake treatments to manage algal blooms. We have secured millions of dollars in grant funding for watershed and ecological restoration projects on behalf of our clients.

Click here to learn about the Watershed Management Program in Somerset County, for which we recently helped secure grant funding from the New Jersey Highlands Water Protection and Planning Council.

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July is Lakes Appreciation Month, an annual celebration dedicated to highlighting the value and wonder of our lakes and reservoirs. Established by the North American Lake Management Society (NALMS) in 1998, this initiative aims to foster a greater appreciation for these vital water bodies and encourage action to safeguard them. Join us this year as we explore three exciting and meaningful ways to engage with, enjoy, and protect our lakes.


1. Explore and Enjoy Your Local Lakes

[gallery link="none" ids="15299,11826,15298"]

Dive into Lakes Appreciation Month by soaking up the beauty of your local lakes. Whether you’re a bird-watching enthusiast, a kayaking adventurer, a fishing fanatic, or a nature lover who enjoys serene walks, getting outdoors for some lakeside enjoyment is the perfect way to show your appreciation for these natural treasures.

While you're out enjoying your community lakes, participate in the NALMS "Show Your Lakes Appreciation" Photo Contest Challenge! Throughout July, share a #lakeselfie or photos of your friends, family and pets, enjoying or working on a lake or reservoir. Post your pictures on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram with a fun or informative caption, the name of the lake, and the hashtag #LakesAppreciation. Be sure to tag NALMS in your post for a chance to win exciting prizes. The contest runs from July 1st to 31st, with winners announced on August 2nd.

Always remember to respect nature by following Leave No Trace principles, ensuring our lakes stay pristine and beautiful for everyone to enjoy.


2. Dive into Citizen Science: Monitor Your Lake

Monitoring the health of our lakes is essential for preserving their ecological balance and ensuring they remain vibrant, safe, and enjoyable.

You can contribute to this effort by joining the annual Secchi Dip-In, a citizen science project where volunteers across North America measure water clarity using a Secchi disk. This event, organized by NALMS, helps track changes in water quality over time. By participating, you contribute valuable data to support lake conservation efforts. It's simple to get involved: obtain a Secchi disk, measure the transparency of your lake, and submit your findings online. Check out our instruction video for more info:

[embed]https://m.youtube.com/shorts/zIkIx5uj8-8[/embed]

In addition to measuring water clarity, keep an eye out for harmful algal blooms (HABs). HABs can produce toxins that negatively impact water quality and aquatic life. To track and report HABs consider using the bloomWatch app, a crowdsourced citizen-science tool that allows you to take photos of possible blooms and submit them through the app, sending the information to relevant state officials for further action. Monitoring and reporting HABs is a crucial step in protecting our lakes.


3. Become a Steward for Your Local Lake

 

Volunteering for lake cleanups is a rewarding way to contribute to environmental stewardship, protect water quality, and enhance recreational spaces. Gather friends, family, or community members to spend a day picking up trash and debris around your favorite lake. This not only improves the health and beauty of the lake but also fosters a sense of community pride and collective responsibility. Many lake associations and environmental groups host regular cleanup events, so check their calendars or consider starting your own initiative.

For Lake Hopatcong, New Jersey's largest lake, the Lake Hopatcong Foundation, a long-time client partner of Princeton Hydro, offers a "Lake Hopatcong Water Scout" volunteer program. Water Scouts are responsible for identifying and removing instances of the invasive water chestnut species. Volunteers survey their assigned areas at least once between mid-June and mid-July. You can choose your preferred location to volunteer by reviewing the available areas on their website map. Reach out to your local lake association to find similar opportunities for cleanup and lake stewardship activities.


By raising awareness, fostering collaboration, and implementing effective strategies, we can work towards safeguarding the health and sustainability of our freshwater ecosystems. Let's come together this July to celebrate, protect, and cherish our lakes, ensuring they remain healthy and vibrant for future generations. For more ideas on how to celebrate Lakes Appreciation Month and to learn about NALMS, visit their website. For more information on Princeton Hydro's expansive lake and natural resource management services, go here.

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Welcome to the latest edition of our “A Day in the Life” blog series. Today, we explore the vibrant and creative world of landscape design through the eyes of Angelica Diaz, one of Princeton Hydro's talented Landscape Designers.

Landscape design is the discipline of organizing and modifying the features of a landscape to achieve a functional, biodiverse and visually appealing outdoor space. This process considers various factors such as climate, soil, topography, existing vegetation, and the intended use of the area. By integrating artistic and scientific principles, landscape designers develop plans that create harmonious and practical environments. These plans serve as a blueprint for projects, guiding the installation and maintenance of outdoor spaces while aiding in material selection and cost estimation.

Join us as we accompany Angelica on a day dedicated to the Trenton South Ward Community Garden project. This journey highlights her dedication to transforming natural spaces and her integral role in bringing our clients' visions to life. From client meetings and visioning sessions to detailed site analysis and creative design, Angelica's expertise showcases the diverse services and innovative solutions that Princeton Hydro offers in landscape architecture.

Let’s dive into the roots of her day!


Client Meeting and Visioning Session

This morning, Angelica begins her day at the Trenton Headquarters Office, preparing for a kickoff meeting with the Trenton South Ward Neighborhood Association (TSWNA) board, a voluntary organization of residents who work together to improve and maintain the quality of life of the south ward district of Trenton, New Jersey. This initial meeting is crucial for understanding the client’s goals and visions. Angelica is particularly excited about this community-driven project because she enjoys the inclusivity and creativity it fosters.

“Community projects are fantastic because they help people realize their creative vision and foster a sense of ownership,” says Angelica. “It’s important to have a visioning meeting to gather a wide range of thoughts and ensure everyone feels included.”

During the kickoff meeting, Angelica and the Princeton Hydro project team listen attentively to board members, taking notes and asking questions to clarify the client's vision. Together with the client, the project team brainstorms ideas, establishes clear deliverables, and discusses expectations for the project ahead. The team shared ideas for two sites in the neighborhood; one existing community garden and one undeveloped site across the street. At the Community Garden site, TSWNA has several vegetable garden beds and hosts community workshops that ecourage residents to get outside and learn the ins and outs of urban gardening. To make the space even more inviting and useful for the community, they discussed options like planting flowers, replacing the fence, and adding a storage shed.

Here are some highlights from the meeting:

Navigating and Securing Project Funding

Securing grant money can be the key to bringing your innovative project to life, but navigating the complex world of funding can be daunting. Princeton Hydro's Director of Marketing and Communications Dana Patterson Grear stumbled upon an ideal grant opportunity to kick-off the first phase of the TSWNA's vision for the exisiting Community Garden site. Facing a tight deadline, Angelica collaborated with Tyrell Smith, TSWNA Co-Founder/Board Chair, to submit an application to the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation's Mid-Atlantic Monarch And Pollinator Habitat Kit Program. This program distributes habitat kits containing native milkweed and various nectar plants to project partners ready to dedicate time, labor, and land for developing pollinator habitats in the Mid-Atlantic and New York City areas.

This year, the kits were tailored specifically for urban farms, community gardens, and other communal and educational spaces in urban settings, with a focus on benefiting historically underserved communities—a perfect match for TSWNA, which was selected to receive over 500 native plants to enhance their space and create a habitat for monarch butterflies.


Site Analysis and Planning

With a clear, collective vision in mind, Angelica heads to a project site in Trenton’s South Ward Neighborhood to conduct a comprehensive analysis in preparation for the Community Garden.

Angelica arrives at 475 Lamberton Rd, ready to assess the critical physical and environmental factors necessary for the landscape design project. She meticulously observes sun exposure and soil characteristics to understand how these conditions could affect plant growth. She evaluates water availability, considering both natural sources and potential irrigation needs to ensure the sustainability of her design. The topography of the site is mapped out, identifying slopes, elevations, and natural drainage patterns that will influence the placement of features and the overall layout. All of these components help curate the overall aesthetic experience of the space throughout the day. Angelica takes photos, makes detailed notes of these observations, gathering essential information that will inform her design process and help create a harmonious and functional outdoor space.

“Site analysis is more than just understanding the immediate environment,” Angelica explains. “It’s about considering the broader context, including the surrounding neighborhood and city. This helps identify the project's needs and how it can best integrate with the local community. By working together, we can create a beautiful and sustainable space that benefits the Trenton community.”

[caption id="attachment_15169" align="aligncenter" width="1014"] Based on the observations and analysis from her site visit, Angelica develops a detailed site visit report to share with the team.[/caption]

Drafting Concepts

Now it’s time for Angelica to draft initial concepts. Using a combination of AutoCAD, SketchUp, and Adobe Creative Suite, she begins to translate her site analysis and the client's feedback into visual designs. For the Trenton South Ward project, Angelica starts with a basemap created from field measurements and Google Earth imagery, evolving it into three distinct concepts.

“I aim to keep the concepts relatively loose at this stage,” she explains. “This helps get a reaction from the client and see which design they gravitate towards.”

Balancing aesthetics and sustainability, Angelica always prioritizes using a native plant palette, recognizing the seasonal characteristics and ecological benefits of native plants. She aims to create landscapes that are both beautiful and sustainable, supporting local wildlife and promoting biodiversity.

For this project, the plant selection came from the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. The Xerces Society supplied carefully chosen native and regionally appropriate plants from Pinelands Nursery in Columbus, NJ, one of the largest native plant nurseries in the US, supplying millions of plants for environmental restorations throughout the Mid-Atlantic states. Some of the native species selected for the community garden include Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta), Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa), Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium), and Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea). These perennial, drought-resistant plants not only enhance the aesthetic appeal of the area but also offer crucial habitats for pollinators and birds, fostering a healthier and more balanced ecosystem.

“The final design is a refinement of the concept with more detailed planting plans and site measurements,” Angelica notes. “I often visit the site again to confirm measurements and document conditions to ensure accuracy.”

Of the three concepts Angelica and the Princeton Hydro team developed, TSWNA chose design concept three, which is pictured below:


Bringing the Design to Life

The planning and design work culminated in a vibrant Community Garden, volunteer-powered planting event, which kicked off this initial phase of the revitalization of this space. Members of TSWNA, Princeton Hydro, and local volunteers came together to bring the collective landscape design vision to life, creating a thriving green oasis for the community to enjoy. Together, the group planted 550 native flowers and shrubs generously provided by the Xerces Society. Despite the heat, they worked collaboratively to turn the area into a beautiful, sustainable garden that benefits the entire Trenton community.

[gallery link="none" columns="4" ids="15166,15167,15160,15173"]

During the planting day, Angelica demonstrated proper techniques for preparing the ground for planting, installing plant plugs, and maintaining the space once all of the planting is complete. In the video below, Angelica demonstrates how to plant a plug in the ground:

  • Prepare the Soil: "First, we need to loosen and water the ground. This creates a welcoming environment for your plant plugs. Loosened soil helps plants access nutrients more easily as their roots grow."
  • Determine Hole Depth: "Use your trowel to measure the depth needed for your hole. Compare it to the plug depth. The hole doesn't need to be as deep since we'll be breaking up the roots."
  • Tickle the Roots: "If your plant is pot-bound, don’t worry! Tickle those roots. It’s okay to damage them a little bit; the plant will recover. This step is crucial for healthy root establishment."
  • Position the Plant: "Place your plant in the hole, making sure it's level with the surrounding ground. It shouldn't be depressed or sitting above the soil. Press gently and fill in soil to ensure good root-soil contact."
  • Water Thoroughly: "Give your plant a good soak! It's been through a lot and needs a thorough watering to recover and establish well."
[embed]https://youtu.be/OJxQIBZZ_QM[/embed]

Continued Learning and Inspiration

Angelica always dedicates time to staying updated on the latest trends in landscape architecture, attending industry conferences, and connecting with colleagues to share insights and ideas. This continuous learning helps her bring innovative solutions to her projects.

“I’m excited about the growing trend of sustainability in landscape design,” she says. “Incorporating green infrastructure and eco-friendly practices is essential for a sustainable future.”

Reflecting on her day, Angelica acknowledges the unique challenges (and opportunities) of landscape design, from site constraints to fulfilling client expectations. She finds great satisfaction in overcoming these obstacles and seeing designs come to life.

“There’s no such thing as the perfect site,” she admits. “Each project comes with its own challenges, but it’s incredibly rewarding to see a space transformed and to know that it will thrive and bring joy to the community for years to come.”


Angelica's journey in landscape design began at Temple University, where she pursued her graduate studies. Her professional path includes valuable experience at a small residential landscape architecture firm that also owned a native plant nursery, providing her with extensive knowledge about plant names, identification, and growth habits. Prior to this, she worked at a landscape restoration company focusing on invasive species removal and management, enriching her understanding of both native and invasive plants.

With a lifelong artistic inclination and a profound appreciation for ecology and biology, Angelica found her perfect career blend in landscape design and architecture. Although she wasn't initially exposed to landscape architecture as a career option, her graduate program welcomed individuals from diverse backgrounds, helping her realize her passion for this field.

Angelica is particularly excited about the growing trend of resilience and sustainability in landscape architecture, especially in response to climate change. She looks forward to continuing her work on projects related to green infrastructure and stormwater management, and the multidisciplinary approach to restoring ecological function.


Princeton Hydro is an expert in engineering, ecological restoration, and landscape architecture, and we’ve been incorporating green stormwater infrastructure and nature-based solutions into our designs for decades. Recently, Princeton Hydro partnered with Congregation Kol Emet to design and implement a sustainable 10-acre campus transformation, providing green infrastructure engineering, landscape architecture, and construction services to enhance the synagogue's usability and welcoming atmosphere, reduce flooding, improve water quality, and augment biodiversity. Read more.

Click here to check out another blog from our "A Day in the Life" series. For this edition, we join Marissa Ciocco, PE in our geotechnical laboratory.   [post_title] => A Day in the Life of Angelica Diaz, Landscape Designer at Princeton Hydro [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => a-day-in-the-life-landscape-designer [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2024-06-25 19:01:59 [post_modified_gmt] => 2024-06-25 19:01:59 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://princetonhydro.com/?p=15176 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [3] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 15244 [post_author] => 1 [post_date] => 2024-06-25 15:32:45 [post_date_gmt] => 2024-06-25 15:32:45 [post_content] =>

Could cows be a potential solution to climate change?

Livestock contributes significantly to climate change, with estimates ranging from 11.1% to almost 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions. This is primarily due to their methane-rich belches and flatulence. Given these substantial numbers, it may seem unlikely that cows could be part of the solution. However, Arizona State University Professor Peter Byck argues that cows themselves are not the problem but rather the manner in which they are managed and raised.

Progressive farmers can enhance soil health and increase carbon sequestration through a cattle grazing technique known as Adaptive Multi-Paddock (AMP) grazing. This practice, entailing the periodic movement of cattle between various land plots, facilitates the creation of carbon sinks by ranchers utilizing their herds. It mimics the historical grazing patterns of bison on the expansive U.S. plains, incorporating extended rest periods between grazing events to allow grass to flourish, thereby enriching the soil. Please note however, despite anecdotal evidence from scientists and farmers, comprehensive research to validate these assertions is lacking.

The extent to which traditional grazing farmers will adopt this innovative solution remains an open question. For several years, Peter Byck has dedicated himself to meeting with scientists and farmers. This journey has culminated in the creation of a four-part docuseries titled "Roots So Deep (You Can See the Devil Down There)."  This docuseries chronicles Peter Byck's experiences and the knowledge he gained along the way.

[embed]https://youtu.be/3PpPmkSAiEw?si=uE1VMnrn38A7RqJO[/embed]

The documentary features Princeton Hydro's Senior Wildlife Biologist, Michael McGraw, CSE, QAWB, and ACE. He is part of a multidisciplinary team of scientists whose research forms the basis of the documentary.

Michael's studies have focused on observing the dynamics of breeding bird populations in paddocks grazed by AMP and those continuously grazed. The documentary highlights that when managed effectively, farmland can boost productivity and profitability for farmers while simultaneously contributing positively to the environment and the diverse wildlife that shares the planet with humans.


During a screening of "Roots So Deep (You Can See the Devil Down There)," Michael discusses his deep emotional connection formed through a decade-long collaboration with scientists and farmers. This partnership aimed to explore new opportunities to enhance our soils, wildlife, and communities. He bestows upon the audience a powerful message: “It doesn’t matter if you believe in climate change because, at the end of the day, we’re supporting healthy American families and promoting biodiversity, which benefits us all.”

[embed]https://youtube.com/shorts/8efTb-ITaIw?si=fop4-ndu-vHco6ZU[/embed]

In this clip, Peter and Michael explore how individuals from diverse backgrounds and beliefs can find common ground in unexpected places. They discuss how environmental stewardship unites people, revealing shared values that transcend differences and inspire collective action towards a sustainable future.

[embed]https://youtube.com/shorts/as_woA_ElWs?si=VWvsbJ_NbFYwSIyP[/embed]

The complete docuseries is now available for rent. Learn more and watch the series at rootssodeep.org. To learn more about Senior Wildlife Biologist, Michael McGraw, a CSE, QAWB, and ACE, click here.

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On Saturday, June 15th, 2024, the Mercer County Park Festival Grounds brimmed with excitement as families, friends, merchants, musicians, and local organizations gathered to celebrate the upcoming Juneteenth holiday. Among them, Princeton Hydro proudly exhibited as a Stacey Abrams Sponsor, supporting the event hosted by the African American Cultural Collaborative of Mercer County. Composed of a diverse group of educators, executives, business representatives, and officials, the African American Cultural Collaborative strives to enhance the quality of life within their community through the mediums of arts, education, and culture. They create inclusive platforms for families from various backgrounds to gather in a safe and positive environment, fostering community bonds and cross-cultural collaboration.

During this 4th Annual Juneteenth Celebration, community members mingled, immersed in the melodies flowing from the park stage. Artists, encompassing musical performers, dancers, and poets, shared their cultural heritage through captivating performances.

"It’s an honor to be here today as a sponsor of this significant celebration of freedom and resilience. Juneteenth marks the triumph of the human spirit and the relentless pursuit of equality," said Geoffrey M. Goll, President of Princeton Hydro. "At Princeton Hydro, we are dedicated to improving our ecosystems, quality of life, and communities for the better through ecological restoration. Just as water sustains life, so does justice sustain our society. This Juneteenth, we reflect on the past, celebrate the progress, and commit to a future of environmental stewardship and social equity. Thank you for joining us in this vital journey."

Among the vibrant crowd, a booth representing Princeton Hydro stood out, adorned with an array of free native plants from Pinelands Nursery & Supply. Dedicated to fostering appreciation for environmental stewardship, we enthusiastically shared our knowledge and passion with attendees. We were delighted in distributing Scarlet Beebalm (Monarda didyma), Dense Blazing Star (Liatris spicata), Orange Coneflower (Rudbeckia fulgida), and Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) to visitors. Attendees were overjoyed by these gifts, their beaming smiles reflecting the simple joy of connecting with the earth.

As the day drew to a close, with just one crate of plants remaining, the gathering had been an undeniable success, leaving hearts filled with happiness and a renewed appreciation for those who embraced the opportunity to bring a touch of nature into their lives.

[gallery columns="2" link="none" size="medium" ids="15206,15212"]

Remembering the Meaning of Juneteenth

On June 19, 1865, federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation and free all enslaved people. This event, known as Juneteenth or June Nineteenth, marks the end of slavery in the United States. It is the longest-running African American holiday.

Although the Emancipation Proclamation was issued in January 1863, it didn't immediately free anyone. It only applied to Confederate-controlled areas and excluded slave-holding border states and rebel areas under Union control. After the Civil War ended in 1865, General Granger's arrival in Galveston meant freedom for Texas's 250,000 enslaved people. Celebrations erupted among newly freed Black people, and Juneteenth was born. The 13th Amendment formally abolished slavery in America in December of the same year.

In 1866, freedpeople in Texas held the first annual "Jubilee Day" celebration on June 19. In the following decades, Juneteenth commemorations spread as Black people migrated from Texas to other parts of the country. It was not until June 17, 2021, that Juneteenth officially became a federal holiday, recognizing its profound significance in American history.


It’s important to recognize Juneteenth, not only as a reminder of the historical injustices faced by Black Americans, but also as a symbol of the ongoing fight for racial equality. This day not only marks the triumph over adversity but also serves as a profound reminder of our immense capacity for healing and restoration. It underscores our ability to cling to hope during trying times and to emerge from the darkest depths with a reinvigorated sense of purpose and unwavering resolve. By comprehending the significance of Juneteenth, we can actively work towards creating a society where inclusivity and justice prevail for all.

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The removal of Bushkill Creek Dam #2 is now underway, marking yet another remarkable milestone in the rejuvenation of this treasured limestone stream. This achievement comes on the heels of three successfully completed dam removals since 2022, highlighting the swift progress in the revitalization efforts for Bushkill Creek.

This latest endeavor holds immense significance in facilitating the passage of migratory fish species, such as alewife and American shad, to vital upstream spawning grounds. It contributes to the recovery of ecologically-beneficial freshwater mussels and the bolstering of populations of trout and other resident fish species. And, it marks another important step in returning Bushkill Creek to its natural, free-flowing state.

During a recent site visit, Princeton Hydro President and Founding Principal Geoffrey M. Goll, P.E. took a moment to reflect on the years of hard work that have culminated in this significant milestone. Watch now:

[embed]https://youtu.be/bZs0jn6dBcQ[/embed]  

In 2022, Wildlands Conservancy enlisted the expertise of Princeton Hydro to embark on a mission to remove four dams along Bushkill Creek. The successful removal of the Crayola Dam, also known as Dam #4, marked the beginning of this transformative journey. Subsequently, in 2023, Dams #1 and #3 were dismantled. Now, we celebrate the commencement of the removal of Dam #2.

The map below shows the locations of all four dam removal locations on the Bushkill Creek:

Bushkill Creek flows 22-miles through agricultural and suburban landscape before converging with the Delaware River. Dam #2, situated upstream from the Creek’s confluence with the Delaware River, obstructed fish passage, exacerbated local flooding, and degraded water quality, much like its counterparts. Its removal represents a significant leap forward in the restoration of Bushkill Creek's ecological health.

[gallery columns="2" link="none" ids="15123,15124"]

The ongoing restoration of Bushkill Creek is a testament to the dedication of over 20 stakeholders, including, but not limited to, Wildlands Conservancy, the Delaware River Basin Commission, Lafayette College, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, and Princeton Hydro.

Funding for the projects has stemmed from various sources, including a settlement following a fly ash spill from the Martins Creek Power Plant in 2005. This settlement, coupled with contributions from organizations like NFWF’s Delaware Watershed Conservation Fund and Northampton County’s Livable Landscapes program, propelled the initiative forward.

As we celebrate the start of removing Bushkill Creek Dam #2, we anticipate continued progress in the revitalization of this vital waterway. Each dam removed brings us closer to realizing the vision of a thriving, free-flowing Bushkill Creek, benefitting both the environment and local communities.

To read more about the dam removal successes on Bushkill Creek, click here. And, be sure to stay tuned for further updates!

Wildlands Conservancy, a non-profit land trust based in eastern Pennsylvania, is dedicated to the restoration of degraded stream and wildlife habitats, with a primary focus on the Lehigh Valley and the extensive Lehigh River watershed. Spanning 1,345 square miles, this watershed eventually merges with the Delaware River.

For over a decade, Princeton Hydro has been a steadfast partner to Wildlands Conservancy in their mission, collaborating on multiple dam removal projects in the Lehigh River Valley. With expertise in design, permitting, and oversight, Princeton Hydro has played a pivotal role in the removal of over 80 small and large dams/barriers across the Northeast.

To explore Princeton Hydro's comprehensive fish passage and dam removal engineering services, click here. For more information about Wildlands Conservancy and their conservation efforts, click here.

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Welcome to the latest edition of our Client Spotlight series, which provides an inside look at our collaboration, teamwork, and accomplishments with one of our client partners.

Today, we’re shining the spotlight on Farmington River Watershed Association (FRWA).

The FRWA is a citizen-based, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization established in 1953 by a group of concerned citizens and community leaders to address the long-term degradation of the Farmington River. FRWA is committed to protecting, maintaining, and revitalizing the Farmington River and its watershed.

Farmington River runs for 46.7 miles along its main stem in northwest Connecticut, with major tributaries extending into southwest Massachusetts. Its longest route, originating from the West Branch, stretches 80.4 miles, making it the longest tributary of the Connecticut River. The watershed covers 609 square miles, supporting a variety of cold-water resident fish species and important habitats for migratory fish. It also serves as a critical public drinking water supply for hundreds of thousands of people in the Hartford region. Additionally, the West Branch of the Farmington is highly regarded for its exceptional trout fishery.

For this Client Spotlight, we spoke with FRWA Executive Director Aimee Petras via Zoom.


Q.What are FRWA’s core values?

A.

“FRWA addresses a range of challenges facing the Farmington River, including water quality, water distribution, habitat restoration, recreation, open space conservation, and the protection of wetlands and floodplains. We are dedicated to protecting and preserving the natural resources of the Farmington River Watershed through research, education, advocacy, and restoration.”

“Through research initiatives, we establish a comprehensive scientific understanding of watershed functions and health. We educate the public, government and business communities about the importance of a healthy river system. We advocate at the local, state and federal level for policies and actions that ensure the long-term protection of our watershed resources. And, we plan and implement restoration projects with long-lasting positive impacts on the river and surrounding ecosystems, engaging in hands-on stewardship through activities like fish habitat restoration, stormwater runoff reduction, and re-vegetating streambanks with native plants.”


Q. Can you tell us a little more about FRWA’s advocacy work?

A.

[embed]https://youtu.be/-3wCsQD9Y60[/embed]

"The Farmington River is one of the first designated 'Partnership Wild & Scenic Rivers.' Its protection is ensured through the combined efforts of federal, state, and local governments, along with various organizations dedicated to preserving the river's health. Currently, 78.6 miles of the Farmington River are safeguarded under two different designations. The Upper Farmington River has a 15.1-mile designation, and the Lower Farmington River and Salmon Brook, cover 61.7 miles.”

“To earn the 'Wild and Scenic' designation, a river must possess at least one 'outstandingly remarkable' natural, cultural, or recreational value as defined by the federal Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. This recognition is a significant achievement that our organization is extremely proud of."

Click here to learn about the National Wild & Scenic Rivers designation.


Q. What is one exciting initiative FRWA is currently spearheading?

A.

[embed]https://youtu.be/74s2MAGF9n4[/embed]

Click here to learn more about FRWA's Rainbow Dam removal advocacy and related river protection initiatives.

[caption id="attachment_15054" align="aligncenter" width="1419"] Rainbow Dam. Photo by Farmington River Watershed Association.[/caption]

Q. Let's delve into the collaborative history between FRWA and Princeton Hydro: Can you provide insight into our partnership?

A.

[embed]https://youtu.be/Zic5OGqDiqc[/embed]

"Removing the dam also restored natural river flow rates and enabled American shad, alewife, and blueback herring to swim upstream through Tariffville Gorge, accessing over 20 additional miles of river. Additionally, this removal uncovered a historically scenic waterfall at a popular fishing site, replacing the neglected dam with a beautiful natural feature."

Click here to learn more about the Spoonville Dam Removal project. [caption id="attachment_15046" align="aligncenter" width="1366"] Spoonville Dam prior to its removal. Photo by Farmington River Watershed Association.[/caption]

Q. What is another exciting project that FRWA and Princeton Hydro worked on together?

A.

[embed]https://youtu.be/7oGjPSzi8nQ[/embed]

“The removal of Winchell-Smith Dam restores access for aquatic organisms to a 30-mile stretch of the Farmington River upstream of the dam within the Connecticut River watershed. This area is a historic spawning habitat for species such as American shad, alewife, blueback herring, sea lamprey, and American eel. Removing the dam helps prevent local erosion and scour, clear barriers for migratory fish, eliminate hazards for river users, and repurpose existing timbers for historic preservation and educational purposes.”

[caption id="attachment_15048" align="aligncenter" width="1371"] Winchell-Smith Dam and Miss Porter’s School Administration Building. Photo by Farmington River Watershed Association.[/caption]

Q. In addition to dam removal projects, what other exciting initiatives have FRWA and Princeton Hydro collaborated on?

A.

[embed]https://youtu.be/syL-kFafl4w[/embed]

To read the complete Pequabuck River Watershed Based Plan that Princeton Hydro developed for FRWA, click here.


Q. For those interested in supporting FRWA's mission, how can individuals get involved and contribute to your efforts?

A.

“As a nonprofit organization, we continually seek support for our efforts. We encourage anyone interested to visit our website to learn about our programs, explore our research, access water quality reports, and understand our mission and priorities. There are numerous ways to get involved with FRWA, including donating, volunteering, participating in educational programs, or applying for internships. We are grateful to everyone who joins us in our mission to protect and restore our beautiful river.”


Q. Is there anything else you’d like to share with our blog readers?

A.

[embed]https://youtu.be/IVe9gO-7FwQ[/embed]
A big thanks to Aimee and FRWA for taking part in our Client Spotlight Series! To learn more about FRWA, we encourage you to visit their website.        
Click here to read the previous edition of our Client Spotlight Series featuring Karla Rossini, Executive Director of Citizens United to Protect the Maurice River and Its Tributaries (CU Maurice).   [post_title] => Client Spotlight: Farmington River Watershed Association [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => client-spotlight-farmington-river-watershed-association [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2024-07-08 15:25:59 [post_modified_gmt] => 2024-07-08 15:25:59 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://princetonhydro.com/?p=15051 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [7] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 15139 [post_author] => 1 [post_date] => 2024-06-21 17:47:10 [post_date_gmt] => 2024-06-21 17:47:10 [post_content] =>

Princeton Hydro's President and Founding Principal, Geoffrey M. Goll, PE, recently participated in the prestigious Free Flow 2024 conference in Groningen, The Netherlands. This international event, focused on protecting and restoring free-flowing rivers, gathered policy makers, river managers, ecologists, researchers, students, and industry professionals from around the globe. With 130 speakers spread across 27 sessions, the conference delved into crucial topics like dam removal, fish passage, and the ecology of free-flowing rivers.

Free Flow 2024, organized by the World Fish Migration Foundation and the Institute of Fisheries Management, highlighted the urgent need for river restoration to achieve the EU 2030 Biodiversity goal of freeing up 25,000 km (15,534 miles) of rivers. The conference aimed to connect practitioners and scientists, promote knowledge sharing, and spur the implementation of innovative river restoration projects.


Princeton Hydro's Contributions to Free Flow 2024

Geoff participated in an expert panel for the "Prioritizing Rivers and Dams for Restoration" workshop. The workshop, moderated by Joshua Royte of The Nature Conservancy and Dr. Ruben van Treeck of World Wide Fund For Nature Germany, also included esteemed panelists Dr. Carlos Garcia De Leaniz of Swansea University, Dr. Jesse O'Hanley of the University of Kent, and Dr. Paulo Branco of the University of Lisbon. The discussion focused on the most efficient means and tools for prioritizing the removal of stream and river barriers in watersheds, considering both micro- and macroscale approaches. Geoff's contribution centered on the confounding and feasibility issues of individual barriers that could influence the overall prioritization process.

[gallery link="none" columns="2" size="medium" ids="15145,15146"] (Photos by Lorenzo Quaglietta)

Geoff also led a presentation titled "Dam Removal is not just about Dam Removal," Geoff emphasized the multifaceted benefits of dam removal beyond fish passage restoration. He argued that successful dam removal projects hinge on understanding and balancing the diverse values of stakeholders, managing sediment, protecting infrastructure, and recognizing the opportunities for restoring natural capital.

During the presentation, Geoff highlighted that while many dams no longer serve their original functions, some remain integral to the communities around them, often holding deep emotional significance. His presentation illustrated the wide-ranging restoration possibilities and community benefits of dam removal, including:

  • Water Quality Improvement: Enhanced water quality through natural river flow restoration.
  • Flood Risk Reduction: Reduced flood risks and improved safety for surrounding areas.
  • Greenway Connection: Creation of greenways for recreation and community connectivity.
  • Recreation and Ecotourism: Boosted local economies through outdoor recreation and ecotourism.
  • Education and Community: Opportunities for community engagement and education around sustainability, resilience and stewardship.
  • Increased Biodiversity: Restoration of natural habitats, leading to greater biodiversity.

Additionally, Geoff's presentation reviewed the values of existing dams and their impoundments, the institutional and physical challenges of removal, and showcased successful examples of dam removal projects in the northeastern United States, providing valuable insights for European ecosystem restoration efforts.

Princeton Hydro was also proud to sponsor the Dam Removal & Small Barriers portion of the education program.


Engaging Participants with a Pre-Presentation Poll

In advance of his panel presentation, Geoff created and distributed a poll using Mentimeter to gather insights from conference attendees. This interactive approach allowed participants to share their thoughts and experiences ahead of the workshop, fostering a more engaging and tailored discussion. The questions posed in the poll were designed to capture a range of perspectives on barrier removal, a key topic at the conference.

The poll questions included:
  • What is your favorite fish (common name)?
  • Using a single word for each, what are your three biggest obstacles to barrier removal?
  • What are your primary drivers for barrier removal?

The responses collected provided valuable input that helped shape the dialogue during Geoff's presentation. Here are the visual results of the poll:

[gallery size="medium" ids="15237,15238,15239"]

More Highlights from Free Flow 2024

The creative atmosphere of the Oosterpoort venue in Groningen fostered dynamic exchanges of ideas and solutions. The conference featured over 100 presentations, divided into parallel sessions, providing a comprehensive exploration of river restoration topics, including: Ecology and hydromorphology of free-flowing rivers; freshwater fish and fisheries; hydropower development vs. free-flowing rivers; policies for free-flowing rivers; river restoration tools and projects; cultural and socio-economic aspects of free-flowing rivers; nature-based solutions; and dam removal and fish passage projects.

The conference included various networking opportunities, such as a cocktail reception on the first evening and a conference dinner on the second, allowing attendees to connect and discuss their work in a more relaxed setting. Throughout the conference, poster sessions showcased ongoing research, and an exhibitor marketplace provided an additional platform for participants to engage with the latest innovations and tools in river restoration.

[caption id="attachment_15144" align="aligncenter" width="719"] At the Princeton Hydro Free Flow 2024 Exhibitor Booth with Geoffrey M. Goll, P.E., Scholarship Ticket Recipient Martine Wijnstra, and her Advisor Anna Scaini.[/caption]  

Participants also had the opportunity to join one of five field trips organized in cooperation with the Wadden Sea Swimway project. These excursions provided a hands-on look at various river restoration and fish passage projects. For instance, one field trip followed the journey of a sea trout as it navigates to its ancestral spawning grounds, offering participants an immersive experience in understanding the challenges and successes of fish migration.


The Impact of Free Flow 2024

The Free Flow 2024 conference underscored the critical importance of river restoration in the face of climate change and biodiversity loss. By bringing together leading experts and fostering a collaborative environment, the event contributed significantly to the advancement of knowledge and the implementation of effective river restoration strategies.

"Participating in the Free Flow 2024 Conference was an incredible opportunity to collaborate with global experts dedicated to river restoration," said Geoff. "Through insightful discussions and educational sessions, we exchanged valuable knowledge and experiences, strengthening our shared commitment to protecting and restoring free-flowing rivers. It is encouraging to witness the dedication and innovative solutions being applied globally.”

Click here to learn more about Free Flow 2024, view presentation abstracts, the complete agenda, and more photos from the conference.


Princeton Hydro has successfully designed, permitted, and overseen the removal of over 84 dams to date. Geoff holds a B.S. in Civil Engineering from Rutgers University and a Master of Engineering Management from UW–Madison. His knowledge encompasses water resources and geotechnical engineering, including sediment management, stream and river restoration, stormwater management, green infrastructure, freshwater wetland and coastal marsh design, dam design, and dam removal. Geoff’s is recognized as a distinguished leader in advancing innovative and effective solutions for dam removal and river restoration. To read about a recent dam removal project that Geoff spearheaded with The Nature Conservancy in New Jersey, click here.

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We're excited to announce the newest members of our team! First, we welcome Alexandra Garnett, our new Administrative Assistant, who joins us with a wealth of experience in streamlining operations and providing invaluable support. We're also delighted to have a familiar face rejoining us; Eric Libis, who has previously contributed to our projects, is back from Alaska for the summer to support our Aquatics team. And, we're thrilled to introduce five enthusiastic interns, each with a unique blend of academic and professional interests.

We eagerly anticipate the innovative ideas and fresh perspectives of our new team members, and look forward to achieving great things together.

Let's meet them!


Alexandra Garnett, Administrative Assistant

Alexandra brings a diverse professional background to Princeton Hydro, honing organizational, time management, and problem-solving skills from various roles, including as a receptionist and student office assistant. With a foundation in Early Childhood education and seven years of teaching Middle and High School English Language Arts, she's adept at interpersonal communication and fostering a supportive environment.

Alexandra also spent eight years supervising and managing doggie daycare and boarding facilities in New York and New Jersey, showcasing her customer service and organizational prowess. Now, Alexandra is eager to leverage her skills as an Administrative Office Assistant for our team!

In her spare time, Alexandra indulges her passion for professional wrestling, comic cons, and concerts, with the ultimate goal of seeing Beyoncé live again when she tours.


Eric Libis, Aquatics Specialist

Eric is deeply passionate about the outdoors. Living in Alaska has given him extensive hands-on experience with nature in all its forms. He has held various positions, including small engine mechanic, project manager, and U.S. Army service member. Having previously worked with Princeton Hydro's Aquatics Team in 2019 as an Aquatics Specialist, Eric is excited to return. He looks forward to contributing his extensive expertise to the field operations team and making a positive impact on a variety of projects.

Eric's love for the outdoors is evident in his diverse activities, which include hiking in the backcountry, mountaineering, rock, mineral, and fossil collecting, camping (both primitive and modern), boating, fishing, trail-building, and educating future leaders on the importance of preserving nature for all to enjoy.


Francisco Batz, Landscape Architect Intern

Francisco is currently pursuing a Master of Art and Architecture in Landscape Architecture at Temple University, where he also completed a Bachelor of Science in Geoenvironmental Science. His undergraduate studies ignited a profound interest in sustainability, community engagement, map making, and botany. Throughout his academic career, Francisco has broadened his understanding of plants, soil, and ecosystems, and has refined his artistic abilities, both manually and through various software tools.

As an intern at Princeton Hydro, Francisco is keen to collaborate across multiple departments, gain practical field experience, and receive guidance from seasoned landscape architects. His acute awareness of urgent environmental issues drives his commitment to further education and his advocacy for a more sustainable and socially equitable world.

In his leisure time, Francisco is a regular at the gym and enjoys sketching trees on his hikes. Recently, he climbed Santa Maria in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala.


Jade Gallagher, Communications Intern

Jade, a 2023 graduate of Pennsbury High School, is currently pursuing studies in Virginia Commonwealth University's Art Foundation Program, specializing in graphic design and art education. She is enthusiastic about leveraging her creativity to gain insights into the dynamics of the Princeton Hydro Marketing and Communications team.

In her free time, Jade enjoys sewing, cooking, and discovering new ways to express her artistic vision.


Daniel Goll, Engineering Intern

Daniel is currently a student at Temple University majoring in Civil Engineering and will enter his third year of studies in Fall 2024. With an expected graduation date of May 2026, Daniel will utilize the knowledge and experience gained during his time at Princeton Hydro to his future endeavors both while at Temple and post-graduation. Ultimately, he hopes to pursue a career in civil engineering with a focus on the ecological resources.

During his internship, he will be applying his engineering background to work in both the field and the office. The bulk of his internship will be focused within the Ecological Engineering group, for which he’ll provide general engineering support. Potential project work includes construction oversight of ecological restoration projects, as well as support for current dam removal projects led by Princeton Hydro. Throughout his time as an intern, Daniel will work closely with licensed professional engineers and environmental scientists to see firsthand the project management process and technical skills required for successful project implementation and completion.


Kaitlyn Jones, Aquatics Intern

Kaitlyn graduated from Delaware Valley University in 2024 with a B.S. in Biology with a concentration in Botany. Prior to joining Princeton Hydro as an intern for the Aquatics Team, she interned with the Valley Forge Watershed Association, where she conducted research on water quality.

In her leisure time, Kaitlyn enjoys reading, creating ceramics, and spending time outdoors with her dog.


Rachel Trokenheim, Aquatics Intern

Rachel is an intern with Princeton Hydro's Aquatics team. This fall, she will start her junior year at the University of Vermont, where she studies Environmental Sciences with a concentration in Conservation Biology and a minor in Geospatial Technologies. During her gap year, Rachel participated in a NOLS Leadership Expedition in the Rocky Mountains and volunteered in the Seychelles and South Africa on conservation projects.

Outside of work, Rachel enjoys outdoor activities like backpacking, geocaching, and paddling, as well as cooking, baking, and reading.


Our team is composed of individuals with academic training and extensive project experience in stormwater management, geotechnical investigation, hydrology and hydrogeology, aquatic and wetland ecology, fishery biology, population and community ecology dynamics, GIS, environmental design, and landscape architecture. Click here to read more about the Princeton Hydro team.

  (Updated: June 26, 2024) [post_title] => Join us in Welcoming Our New Team Members [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => welcome-new-staff-2024 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2024-06-26 18:24:29 [post_modified_gmt] => 2024-06-26 18:24:29 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://princetonhydro.com/?p=15059 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [9] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 15106 [post_author] => 1 [post_date] => 2024-06-17 19:00:36 [post_date_gmt] => 2024-06-17 19:00:36 [post_content] =>

Get ready to explore the hidden wonders of nature right in the heart of Flemington, New Jersey!

We are thrilled to announce BioBlitz 2024, an exciting 24-hour event dedicated to discovering and documenting the diverse species that call Flemington Borough home.

Mark your calendars for this immersive citizen science experience starting on Saturday, June 22nd at 11 AM and concluding on Sunday, June 23rd at 12 PM, hosted by Flemington DIY, with experts from Princeton Hydro and Hunterdon County Queer Birders.


What is a BioBlitz?

A BioBlitz is a community-driven event where volunteers and scientists come together to identify and record as many species as possible within a designated area over a short period. Unlike traditional scientific surveys that typically must be implemented by licensed professionals, a BioBlitz invites people of all ages and backgrounds to participate, fostering a connection between the community and its local environment. The goal is to create a snapshot of biodiversity, providing valuable data for ecological studies and conservation efforts.


Reasons to Participate in Flemington's BioBlitz

Discover Local Wildlife: Whether you're a seasoned naturalist or just curious about nature, this event offers a unique opportunity to explore Flemington's urban and natural landscapes. You'll have the chance to observe a variety of plants, animals, and other organisms, some of which you may have never noticed before.

Contribute to Science: By documenting species using the iNaturalist app, your observations will contribute to a growing database that helps scientists and researchers understand and protect local biodiversity. Your findings can make a difference in ongoing conservation efforts.

Connect with the Community: BioBlitz 2024 is a chance to meet fellow nature enthusiasts, learn from experts, and work together towards a common goal. It's a fun, educational experience for families, students, teachers, and anyone interested in the natural world.


The Importance of BioBlitz for Flemington

Located in the watershed of the South Branch of the Raritan River and home to sections of watershed attached to Prescott Brook, Bushkill Creek, Walnut Brook, and the First Neshanic River, Flemington's diverse environments offer a unique setting for this event. Residents of the Borough are highly encouraged to document the wildlife in their own backyards as part of the event.

Participating in the BioBlitz will help create a comprehensive baseline species list that can be compared with future studies and historical data. This information is crucial for understanding how local biodiversity changes over time and for making informed decisions about environmental conservation.

The idea for Flemington’s BioBlitz was inspired by Princeton Hydro Aquatic Ecologist Jesse Smith. Jesse’s vision of engaging the community in a collaborative effort to explore local biodiversity led to this inaugural event, hosted by Flemington DIY.

“My idea to do this BioBlitz came from an interest in knowing more about what was present in Flemington, with a hope that this event will help others become more interested in the natural world in their backyard,” said Jesse Smith, event coordinator, Flemington DIY volunteer, and Aquatic Ecologist at Princeton Hydro.


Event Details

Participants will be guided by knowledgeable experts from Princeton Hydro and Hunterdon County Queer Birders, with additional support from field guides and taxonomic keys to assist in identifying species.

This event will span 24 hours in order to provide participants an opportunity to document species that are more active at dusk, dawn, and at night. The event is free and open to all ages. Children under 18 must be accompanied by an adult.

Location: Flemington DIY, 26 Stangl Road, Flemington, NJ

Start Date & Time: Plan to arrive at Flemington DIY on Saturday, June 22 at 11 AM to check-in and review important event details.

BioBlitz Timeframe:The documentation phase kicks off on June 22 at noon and wraps up on June 23 at noon. Although the event spans a full 24 hours, participants are not expected to be actively documenting the entire time. You can choose the times that best fit your schedule within this 24-hour window.

End Date & Time: Return to Flemington DIY on 6/23 at 12pm for the conclusion of the BioBlitz to review collected data and celebrate our findings!

What to Bring: Download the iNaturalist app on your smartphone for species identification. No prior expertise is required, and field guides will be provided. Wear comfortable shoes and bring rain gear just in case.

Princeton Hydro Environmental Scientist Ivy Babson created the logo and poster artwork for BioBlitz 2024. Designed by Princeton Hydro Environmental Scientist Ivy Babson

Whether you’re passionate about birds, plants and insects, curious about the natural world, or looking for a fun excuse to get outside, BioBlitz 2024 is the perfect opportunity to immerse yourself in Flemington’s rich biodiversity. Let’s come together to discover, learn, and contribute to our community’s natural heritage. For more information and to register for the event, please visit Flemington DIY's BioBlitz page.

We look forward to seeing you there and embarking on this exciting journey of discovery together! [post_title] => Announcing BioBlitz 2024 in Flemington: A Celebration of Local Biodiversity [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => bioblitz-2024 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2024-06-18 19:35:49 [post_modified_gmt] => 2024-06-18 19:35:49 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://princetonhydro.com/?p=15106 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [10] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 15090 [post_author] => 1 [post_date] => 2024-06-11 18:25:13 [post_date_gmt] => 2024-06-11 18:25:13 [post_content] =>

By Dr. Fred Lubnow, Senior Technical Director of Ecological Services

As we reflect on the winter of 2023-2024, it's evident that New Jersey experienced another unusually mild season, mirroring the winter of 2022-2023. Notably, Lake Hopatcong, located in Sussex and Morris Counties, remained virtually ice-free throughout the winter, with only a brief period of minor ice formation in early January. This pattern was not isolated to Lake Hopatcong; many lakes across the state and the broader Mid-Atlantic region exhibited similar ice-free conditions. Such conditions can lead to increased algal and plant growth earlier in the year.

Adding to this, from January to early June 2024, 15 of New Jersey's 21 counties recorded precipitation levels 26% to 50% higher than their long-term averages. The remaining six counties, predominantly in the southern part of the state, had precipitation increases of 11% to 25% above their long-term normals. This heightened precipitation is significant as it can transport nutrients, most notably phosphorus and nitrogen, into water bodies, potentially fueling the growth of algae.

Compounding these factors, long-range climate models and trends suggest that the summer of 2024 could rank among the hottest on record. The combination of a mild winter, increased precipitation, and anticipated high summer temperatures sets the stage for conditions similar to those experienced in 2019, a year marked by widespread harmful algal blooms (HABs) in numerous lakes.

HABs, characterized by rapid overgrowths of cyanobacteria, present serious challenges to water quality and aquatic ecosystems. Cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae, naturally occur in aquatic environments but can proliferate rapidly under warm, nutrient-rich conditions. These blooms pose risks to human health, wildlife, aquatic species, local economies, and the overall ecological balance. The interplay between climate change and HABs is undeniable: rising temperatures and altered precipitation patterns foster conditions that exacerbate bloom occurrences.

Given these circumstances, it is crucial for lake managers and water utilities to adopt proactive measures. Early and consistent sampling efforts can detect cyanobacteria and akinetes, dormant spores that contribute to bloom formation. Additionally, reducing nutrient inputs, particularly phosphorus, into waterways is essential to prevent HABs. Princeton Hydro strongly recommends that lake managers, water utilities, and concerned community members closely monitor their lakes, reservoirs, and riverways to stay as proactive as possible in managing these valuable resources.

By raising awareness, fostering collaboration, and implementing effective strategies, we can work towards safeguarding the health and sustainability of our freshwater ecosystems. Together, we can address the challenges posed by HABs and protect the integrity of our water bodies. For more information about HABs, click here.


Dr. Fred Lubnow, Princeton Hydro’s Senior Technical Director, Ecological Services, is an expert in aquatic and watershed management, restoration ecology, community and ecosystem ecology, and the use of benthic macroinvertebrate and fish in-stream bioassessment protocols. Dr. Lubnow has managed hundreds of lake projects and provides technical expertise for a variety of lake and watershed restoration projects.

His experience in lake and reservoir restoration includes the design and implementation of dredging, aeration, chemical control of nuisance species, nutrient inactivation (i.e. alum) and biomanipulation. His experience in watershed restoration includes the design and implementation of structural Best Management Practices (BMPs), the development of Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) pollutant budgets, and the design, implementation and analysis of watershed-based monitoring programs.

[post_title] => Preparing for Potential Harmful Algal Blooms: An Urgent Call to Action for NJ's Lakes and Reservoirs [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => an-urgent-call-to-action-habs [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2024-06-11 18:25:13 [post_modified_gmt] => 2024-06-11 18:25:13 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://princetonhydro.com/?p=15090 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) ) [post_count] => 11 [current_post] => -1 [before_loop] => 1 [in_the_loop] => [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 15367 [post_author] => 1 [post_date] => 2024-07-12 16:52:15 [post_date_gmt] => 2024-07-12 16:52:15 [post_content] =>

Nestled at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Smith Mountain Lake is the largest lake entirely within the Commonwealth of Virginia. Spanning over 20,000 acres with 500 miles of shoreline, the lake's northern and eastern boundary is marked by Bedford County, while Franklin and Pittsylvania counties define its southern and western edges. Created in 1963 by impounding the Roanoke River with the Smith Mountain Dam, the lake serves multiple purposes, including hydroelectric power, public water supply, and recreation.

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, the area surrounding Smith Mountain Lake was predominantly rural farmland. In the 1980s, however, the lake's natural beauty, recreational appeal, and proximity to Roanoke and Lynchburg began to draw increased attention. This surge in interest sparked a boom in residential and commercial development, transforming Smith Mountain Lake into a vibrant and bustling community.

Today, Smith Mountain Lake not only provides electricity and drinking water, it is also home to 21,000 residents and stands as a premier recreational resource. Thousands flock to Smith Mountain Lake each year to enjoy boating, swimming, fishing, and other water activities. The lake's shores are now dotted with resorts, condominiums, year-round residences, and outdoor industry businesses. The lake's waters and shoreline also provide vital habitats for aquatic plants, animals, birds, and other terrestrial wildlife.

The rapid growth of this pristine lake community underscores the importance of effective environmental management to preserve water quality, strengthen the shoreline, manage stormwater runoff, and protect the local native biodiversity of the lake and its watershed.


Identifying and Addressing Harmful Algal Blooms

The lake is fed by two main tributaries—the Blackwater River and the Roanoke River. The Roanoke River, the larger of the two, drains a watershed that includes the Roanoke Metropolitan area, while the Blackwater River flows through mostly rural and agricultural land.

In 2023, a significant outbreak of harmful algal blooms (HABs) in the Blackwater River subwatershed raised concerns for the Smith Mountain Lake Association (SMLA). These blooms, primarily driven by agricultural runoff, led to swimming advisories and highlighted the need for a comprehensive approach to managing and mitigating these environmental threats.

Recognizing the urgency of the situation, SMLA sought the expertise of Princeton Hydro. The mission: to investigate conditions that cause HABs, protect the lake from future outbreaks, and ensure the long-term health of this vital freshwater resource.


Laying the Groundwork

The project team’s approach began with a thorough review of historical water quality data. Collaborating with SMLA and regulatory bodies including the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (VDEQ), U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Princeton Hydro compiled a comprehensive dataset. This historical context was crucial for understanding past trends and informing the 2024 Watershed Assessment. SMLA and Ferrum College contributed over 38 years of data through their Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring Program, documenting crucial indicators such as nutrient levels, bacterial counts, and algal blooms. This extensive dataset has been essential in informing effective lake management practices and shaping strategies to address current environmental challenges.

Employing the MapShed model, the team carried out a comprehensive hydrologic and nutrient loading analysis of the Blackwater River subwatershed. They evaluated critical factors, including phosphorus, nitrogen, and sediment levels, to identify and prioritize areas requiring targeted nutrient and sediment management strategies.

To describe its basic function, the MapShed model applies pollutant loading rates to different land cover types, like low-density development or forested wetlands, based on their area. It then uses weather data, soil characteristics, and slopes to adjust these results. The model simulates daily pollutant loads over 30 years using actual climate records, providing monthly and annual outputs. Users can adjust various inputs, like septic system efficiency and population density, to see how the changes affect pollutant loads and water flow.

This analysis laid the foundation for determining effective, focused interventions to curb nutrient runoff and mitigate future HABs.


Understanding Cyanobacteria Behavior Through Innovative Research

In March 2024, an Overwintering Incubation Study was conducted to understand cyanobacteria behavior. Sediment and water samples were taken from six nearshore locations known for high cyanobacteria counts in Summer 2023. At each site, the team also documented temperature, dissolved oxygen, specific conductivity, pH, chlorophyll-a, phycocyanin (PC), and phycoerythrin (PE).

The map below identifies the locations of each of the six sampling sites:

This map identifies the locations of each of the six sampling sites at Smith Mountain Lake [gallery link="none" columns="2" ids="15361,15363"]

For each sample, the lake water was filtered and then incubated with respective sediments to determine the presence and what types of algae may be overwintering. The water and sediment samples were incubated over a period of 15 days at a temperature of approximately 77 degrees Fahrenheit and a light intensity of 2800 lux.

After eight days, the water and sediment samples were removed from the incubator, slightly stirred and then in-situ measurements for PC and PE were collected. These two supplemental pigments are almost exclusively produced by cyanobacteria. While PC is associated with primarily planktonic genera, PE is more associated with benthic genera. Thus, measuring the concentration of these pigments can be used to estimate cyanobacteria biomass as well as provide guidance on the monitoring and management of HABs (planktonic vs. benthic).

After 15 days, the samples were again removed from the incubator, slightly stirred, and then measured for PC and PE to identify and count any overwintering cyanobacteria and determine all the types of algae present.

This study offered critical insights into the conditions that enable cyanobacteria to endure winter and proliferate during warmer months. By understanding the connection between overwintering cyanobacteria and HABs in the lake, we can enhance predictive capabilities and develop more effective management strategies. Two particularly notable findings from the study include:

1. Sediment Composition and Cyanobacteria Growth: Sandier sediments were not conducive to overwintering cyanobacteria, suggesting blooms in these areas likely originate elsewhere in the lake. Conversely, siltier and organic-rich sediments supported cyanobacteria growth, indicating a need for targeted in-lake management measures. 2. Predictive Tools for HABs: Routine measurement of pigments like PC and PE proved effective in estimating cyanobacteria biomass. This information is crucial for long-term monitoring and management, offering predictive tools for HAB events.

Looking Ahead: Holistic Approaches to Tackling HABs

Beyond the initial assessment on the Blackwater River, ongoing monitoring of Smith Mountain Lake’s water quality is crucial for understanding and managing the conditions that trigger HABs. SMLA’s Water Quality Monitoring Program developed and managed by Ferrum College continues the work of tracking the trophic state of the lake. Algal community composition, tributary sampling, and bacterial monitoring are part of this comprehensive 38-year effort. Consistent sampling and water quality monitoring can help identify cyanobacteria and akinetes, the dormant spores that lead to bloom formation.

Because the VDEQ budget historically contains no funding for inland waterway HAB research and response, SMLA actively lobbied the Virginia General Assembly for the allocation of $150,000 for the creation of a watershed study. This request was included in the State budget signed in March of 2024 and the work to develop the objectives and scope of the study is underway now.

Community involvement is also vital for maintaining Smith Mountain Lake as a cherished resource. To this end, SMLA has launched "Dock Watch," a new community science volunteer program designed to monitor HAB activity. Beginning in May of 2024, volunteers have been collecting water samples at select docks around the lake and are examining them to better understand cyanobacteria activity levels and trends. All of the water quality data collected at the lake is from main channel locations. The primary recreational contact with the lake water by residents is at their docks. This data is uploaded to NOAA's Phytoplankton Monitoring Network, contributing to a national database used for HAB research. This collective effort ensures rapid identification and tracking of HAB activity, benefiting both the local community and environmental research on a national level.

“This project exemplifies a holistic approach to lake management and environmental stewardship, integrating historical data, advanced modeling, and community engagement to prioritize and implement innovative strategies that effectively mitigate HABs and protect water quality,” said Chris L. Mikolajczyk, Princeton Hydro’s Senior Manager of Aquatics and Client Manager for Smith Mountain Lake. “This ongoing work highlights the importance of science-based interventions in preserving our precious natural resources.”

[gallery size="medium" link="none" ids="15377,15374,15373"]

The Smith Mountain Lake Association is a 501(c)3 nonprofit with the mission to keep Smith Mountain Lake clean and safe. Founded in 1969, SMLA is the longest serving advocate for the Smith Mountain Lake community, and its focused efforts help to retain the pristine beauty of the lake and the vibrant local economy. Click here to learn more and get involved.

Over the last two decades, the Princeton Hydro team has improved water quality in hundreds of ponds and lakes, restored many miles of rivers, and enhanced thousands of acres of ecosystems in the Northeast. From species surveys to water quality monitoring, our professionals perform comprehensive assessments in order to understand the landscape. Using tools like ArcGIS, we can map and model the watershed and arrive at holistic solutions for resource management. Our natural resources and lake management experts are complemented by our field team who utilize amphibious vehicles for mechanical invasive species removal, install aeration systems to improve water quality, and conduct natural lake treatments to manage algal blooms. We have secured millions of dollars in grant funding for watershed and ecological restoration projects on behalf of our clients.

Click here to learn about the Watershed Management Program in Somerset County, for which we recently helped secure grant funding from the New Jersey Highlands Water Protection and Planning Council.

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