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According to American Rivers, “more than 90,000 dams in the country are no longer serving the purpose that they were built to provide decades or centuries ago.” As these dams age and decay, they can become public safety hazards, presenting a failure risk and flooding danger. Dams can also be environmental hazards, blocking the movement of fish and other aquatic species, inundating river habitat, impairing water quality, and altering the flow necessary to sustain river life.

Removing nonfunctional, outdated dams has myriad ecological benefits. Dam removal can improve water quality, restore a river back to its natural flowing state, reconnect river habitats that benefit fish and wildlife, and significantly increase biodiversity for the surrounding watershed.

Removing Dams in Lehigh Valley

For over a decade, Princeton Hydro has partnered with Wildlands Conservancy to remove dams in the Lehigh River Valley. Wildlands Conservancy, a nonprofit land trust in eastern Pennsylvania, works to restore degraded stream and wildlife habitat with a primary focus on Lehigh Valley and the Lehigh River watershed, which is a 1,345 square mile drainage area that eventually flows into the Delaware River.

Wildlands Conservancy contracted Princeton Hydro to design and permit the removal of two dams on the Little Lehigh Creek. Although it is referred to as the “Little Lehigh,” the 24-mile creek is the largest tributary of the Lehigh River. The dam removals restored the natural stream system, which hadn’t flowed freely in over a century.

Princeton Hydro also worked with Wildlands Conservancy to remove several barriers and three consecutive low-head dams on Jordan Creek, a tributary of the Little Lehigh Creek. Jordan Creek arises from a natural spring on Blue Mountain, and eventually joins the Little Lehigh in Allentown before flowing into the Lehigh River. It drains an area of 75.8 square miles.

[gallery columns="2" link="none" ids="12050,12053"] As part of the dam and barrier removal projects, Princeton Hydro: - Conducted dam and site investigations; - Oversaw structural, topographic, and bathymetric field surveys and base mapping; - Performed geomorphic assessments and sediment characterization to predict river response to dam removals and develop appropriate sediment management plans; - Performed hydrologic and hydraulic analysis to predict changes in river hydraulics; - Evaluated and addressed technical issues unique to each barrier; - Coordinated with regulatory agencies and entities; - Participated in community informational meetings; - Developed engineering design plans, documents, and permit application submissions; - Developed construction cost estimates for implementing the removal of the dams and streambank stabilization; and - Performed construction oversight during implementation.

Collectively, these dam and barrier removal projects on the Little Lehigh and Jordan Creek reconnected 15+ miles of river; restored fish passage; improved aquatic connectivity, fisheries, and benthic macroinvertebrate and wildlife habitats; reduced nonpoint source stormwater pollution; improved water quality; addressed vulnerable infrastructure; enhanced climate resiliency; and stabilized and restored the creeks’ channels and banks.

[gallery columns="2" link="none" ids="12043,12054"]

Upcoming Conservation Efforts

Building upon the successes of the Little Lehigh and Jordan Creek barrier removals, Princeton Hydro is again partnering with Wildlands Conservancy to remove three consecutive dams on Bushkill Creek in Easton, PA. The dam removal projects, which are slated for 2023, are part of a large-scale effort, involving a significant number of community and municipal partners, focused on restoring Bushkill Creek and the surrounding watershed.

The Bushkill Creek is a 22-mile long limestone stream that is designated as a “high quality, cold-water fishery.” It supports healthy populations of trout, and is treasured by anglers and the surrounding community as an important resource in an urban environment, spanning several boroughs and townships, eventually flowing into the Delaware River at Easton.

Environmental protection and restoration is a key goal of removing the dams. Removing these barriers will allow important migratory fish species to reach their spawning grounds once again, which has numerous and far-reaching ecological benefits. The project work also includes stabilizing the streambank, planting, and expanding riparian buffers, planting native trees and shrubs to filter runoff, and installing in-stream structures to restore fish habitat.

Stay tuned for more updates in 2023!

Princeton Hydro has designed, permitted, and overseen the reconstruction, repair, and removal of over 60 of small and large dams in the Northeast. To learn more about our fish passage and dam removal engineering services, click here. To learn more about Wildlands Conservancy, click here.

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This month, we’re celebrating the sixth anniversary of the Hughesville Dam Removal. The removal of the 18-foot-high, 150-foot-long dam not only marked a major milestone in restoring the Musconetcong River, it also led to the speedy return of the American shad (Alosa sapidissima), a species that had been absent from the area for 200+ years.

 

Project Background

The Hughesville Dam was constructed by John L. Riegel and the Warren Manufacturing Company in the late-1800s to provide water to power the former paper mill located in Hughesville. The dam, a 12-foot-high timber crib and rock fill dam, spanned the Musconetcong River from Holland Township, Hunterdon County to Pohatcong Township, Warren County. The structure was not in compliance with NJDEP Dam Safety Standards and was creating a blockage to catadromous and local fish passage.

Musconetcong Watershed Association hired Princeton Hydro to investigate, design, permit, and oversee the decommissioning of the Hughesville Dam, and conduct related river restoration work within the Musconetcong River. The Hughesville Dam was the fifth dam on the Musconetcong River designed for removal by Princeton Hydro.

As part of the dam removal project, Princeton Hydro completed a feasibility study in 2012 and initiated designs in 2014 to decommission the spillway and restore the impoundment. To assess potential sediment impacts, vibracoring was conducted and sediment analysis and quantification of the volume of impounded material was completed. Princeton Hydro worked with the NJDEP to assess the quality of sediment and determine its ultimate disposal.

[gallery columns="2" link="file" ids="1046,11896"]

As part of the design, the 21,000 cubic yards was proposed to be hydraulically dredged to adjacent existing on-site lagoons at this now defunct paper mill plant. The pre-existing and proposed hydraulics were assessed to understand impacts to an upstream bridge and downstream flood water surfaces following removal. Geomorphic assessments and utilization of nature-based restoration techniques were utilized to design a new river channel within the former impoundment.

Following the completion of design, applications were prepared for submission to NJDEP’s Land Use Regulation Program and Dam Safety Section, as well as the Hunterdon County Soil Conservation District (Warren County ceded jurisdiction to Hunterdon County). Princeton Hydro also applied for right-of-way permits to reinforce the foundation of an upstream county bridge as well as construct project access from a county road. Following the receipt of permits, Princeton Hydro assisted in the procurement of a contractor and provided construction administration services.

 

Bringing Down the Dam

On Thursday, Sept 8 2016, the project team made the first notches in the Dam. Sally Jewell, Secretary of the Interior during that time, toured the project site and held a press conference to commemorate the initial dam breach and celebrate the exciting news. Jewell called the project a “model for collaborative conservation.”

[caption id="attachment_5512" align="aligncenter" width="536"]Dam removal project partners and community members pose with Sally Jewell at the Hughesville Dam removal event on Sept. 8, 2016. Photo Credit: USFWS. Dam removal project partners and community members pose with Sally Jewell at the Hughesville Dam removal event on Sept. 8, 2016. Photo Credit: USFWS.[/caption]  

In addition to the Honorable Sally Jewell, NJDEP Commissioner Bob Martin, and U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, Philadelphia District Commander Lt. Colonel Michael Bliss, also participated in the press conference to discuss the importance of the Hughesville Dam removal and dam removal in general.

The entire dam removal took nearly three months, but you can watch the sped-up version here:

The project was supported by many partners and funded largely by the USFWS through the Department of the Interior (DOI) under the Hurricane Sandy Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013.

 

Conservation Success

The removal of the obsolete Hughesville Dam marked another major milestone of restoring the Musconetcong River. The removal is part of a larger partner-based effort led by the Musconetcong Watershed Association to restore the 42-mile Musconetcong - a designated “Wild and Scenic River” – to a free-flowing state.

[caption id="attachment_11894" align="aligncenter" width="672"] Photos by Musconetcong Watershed Association[/caption]  

Removing the dam opened nearly six miles of the Musconetcong to migratory fish, such as American shad, that spend much of their lives in the ocean but return to rivers and their tributaries to spawn. The removal was completed in November 2016 and in the Spring of 2017, schools of American shad were observed above the dam, after 200+ years of absence. Shad are a benchmark species indicative of the overall ecological health and diversity of the waterway.

Other benefits of the dam removal include eliminating a public hazard due to the deteriorating nature of the dam; restoring the natural of floodplain functions and values of the area; restoring native stream substrate and habitat; and increasing river fishing and recreation opportunities.

To read more about the Musconetcong Watershed Association, click here. To read about another dam removal project along the Musconetcong River, click here. [post_title] => Celebrating the 6th Anniversary of Hughesville Dam Removal [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => celebrating-the-6th-anniversary-of-hughesville-dam-removal [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2022-11-30 23:45:11 [post_modified_gmt] => 2022-11-30 23:45:11 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://princetonhydro.com/?p=11893 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [2] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 10670 [post_author] => 1 [post_date] => 2022-04-27 10:56:52 [post_date_gmt] => 2022-04-27 10:56:52 [post_content] =>

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

Today, we’re shining the spotlight on the Seatuck Environmental Association. Seatuck Environmental Association is a 501c3 nonprofit based in Islip, New York. They work on wildlife conservation and nature education across Long Island. The organization advocates for wildlife and advancing conservation projects, engages community scientists in wildlife research, and offers environmental education opportunities for Long Islanders of all ages.

For this Client Spotlight, we spoke with Seatuck’s Conservation Policy Advocate Emily Hall via zoom:

Q. What is your primary role within Seatuck?

[embed]https://youtu.be/SoAgRaypc4Q[/embed]

Q. What does Seatuck value?

Particularly in our conservation work, we really try to stay niche. We specifically focus on restoring and protecting Long Island’s wildlife and environment. We advocate for wildlife, advance restoration projects, conduct surveys, educate public officials, host workshops, lead coalitions and pursue a host of other approaches to promote wildlife conservation and habitat restoration.

Q. What makes the Seatuck Environmental Association unique?

Seatuck is really unique because we're one of the only environmental organizations that works island-wide and isn’t part of a national organization. This really gives us the opportunity to stay focused on Long Island’s wildlife and environment, and dive into a lot of different wildlife protection efforts as well as habitat restoration projects. We also offer nature-based education programs all the way from pre-k to professional teacher training.

Q. How long has Seatuck been working with Princeton Hydro?

We’ve been working with Princeton Hydro since 2018. Seatuck was awarded the NYSDEC Division of Marine Resources Grant for Tributary Restoration and Resiliency to design a fish passage at the dam intersecting Mill Pond and Bellmore Creek. We contracted Princeton Hydro to design the fish passage options. Read more about the project here:

Q. What are some key takeaways/highlights from the Bellmore Creek Fish Passage project?

[embed]https://youtu.be/E1oYOy9Y688[/embed]

Q. In what ways did you get the community involved in the Bellmore Creek Fish Passage Project?

As an organization, it’s very important for us to collaborate with the community on projects and initiatives, and to understand the perspectives of all the different stakeholders involved. For the Bellmore Creek Fish Passage Project, we brought together environmental organizations, community members and the dam owners. We began by holding in-person meetings and site visits in order to provide education around the site’s history and the project goals, and give everyone a chance to hear each other’s feedback in real-time. Then COVID forced us to go virtual so we hosted a community webinar and developed an online survey. We collected a lot of valuable feedback that we were able to bring back to the dam owners to help them make the best decision possible.

Q. Do you have a favorite or most memorable moment from the project?

Meeting with all the different stakeholders and talking to them about the project is probably one of my most rewarding parts of the project. Educating people on why these diadromous fish are important and helping them understand the different benefits of a fish passage is very important to me and incredibly rewarding.

Q. The Bellmore Creek project is part of a larger initiative called “Seatuck’s Long Island River Revival.” Can you talk more about that?

[embed]https://youtu.be/f5BV2u04Q5A[/embed]

Q. What connectivity and restoration project is coming up next for Seatuck?

[embed]https://youtu.be/wyRIHwMD5gE[/embed] To learn more, click below to explore the River Revival Story Map:

Q. How can an individual get involved with Seatuck?

[embed]https://youtu.be/rT1CinT-xKs[/embed]

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

Princeton Hydro has been a fantastic partner through the Bellmore Creek Project. We look forward to working with Princeton Hydro in the future and supporting our efforts to look at different fish passage projects, potentially dam removals, and related alternative assessments. For Bellmore Creek, Princeton Hydro provided valuable insights as to the different types of fish passage options and helped to identify the best option for our community. We’ll hopefully continue this partnership and work together to restore the ecological health of more coastal rivers and streams.

Q. What excites you about going to work everyday?

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

Thanks to Seatuck Environmental Association and Emily Hall for being a great project partner and participating in this Client Spotlight. To learn more about Seatuck, visit their website.

Click here to read a previous edition of our Client Spotlight blog series, which features Medford Lakes Colony in New Jersey:

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River herring are diadromous fish, which means they migrate between fresh and salt water. On Long Island in Nassau, New York, they migrate between Mill Pond Creek and the ocean, using Bellmore Creek as a highway. The river herring live much of their adult life in the ocean and travel to the freshwaters of Mill Pond Creek in order to spawn.

There is a dam located at the point where Bellmore Creek meets Mill Pond. When the water level isn’t high enough, the river herring can be blocked from swimming upstream to reach their spawning habitat. This not only has negative implications for river herring species, it also negatively impacts the entire ecosystem. The herring are a vital food source for countless other fish, birds and animals, and play a critical role in transferring marine derived nutrients into surrounding estuarine, freshwater and upland habitats.

River Herring have been documented at the base of the dam at Mill Pond for the past several migration seasons. Bellmore Creek is one of only two-dozen streams on Long Island where remnant runs of this ecologically valuable, diadromous fish still exist.

In 2018, Seatuck Environmental Association, a nonprofit dedicated to wildlife conservation on Long Island, was awarded the NYSDEC Division of Marine Resources Grant for Tributary Restoration and Resiliency to design a fish passage at the dam intersecting Mill Pond and Bellmore Creek. Seatuck contracted Princeton Hydro to design the fish passage options.

The project goals not only include increasing river herring spawning habitat, but also are focused on improving the ecological condition of Bellmore Creek, maintaining and enhancing recreational values, and improving site resiliency to climate change and sea level rise.

To provide guidance on the project, Seatuck assembled an advisory committee with representation from Nassau County (dam owner), New York State Office of Parks, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, Nassau County Soil and Water District, Town of Hempstead, the South Shore Estuary Reserve, Trout Unlimited, The Nature Conservancy, South Shore Audubon, and the Bellmore Civic Association.

Princeton Hydro conducted a study to understand the feasibility of enhancing fish passage to Mill Pond. The initial site investigation, in November 2020, included sediment probing and sampling, and a thorough assessment of the existing dam, spillway, water pipes, bridges and upper reaches.  [gallery ids="10580,10579,10581"]   Based on its findings, the Princeton Hydro team developed three design options to restore fish passage:
  1. A nature-like fishway, where a channel made of boulders and concrete is constructed through the dam to mimic a natural, steep stream;
  2. A technical fishway, where a pre-fabricated metal fish ladder is placed within the spillway to allow fish to swim up and into the pond; and
  3. A full or partial dam removal, where the spillway is fully or partially removed and the pond is restored to a free-flowing stream and wetland complex.

On June 8 2021, Seatuck, Nassau County and Princeton Hydro held a virtual meeting to get the public’s input on each of the fish passage designs. Emily Hall, Conservation Policy Advocate for Seatuck, also put together an informative presentation in which she provides a synopsis of Bellmore Creek's history, describes the project goals, and discusses the community engagement process and the results of the public opinion survey. Watch it now:

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CvdWsI_3MIU[/embed]

Additionally, Princeton Hydro completed a site investigation including topographic survey, sediment probing and sampling, and assessment of structures to identify project opportunities and site constraints. Sediment sampling and analysis indicated no major concerns with contamination. By performing analysis of the longitudinal profile, Princeton Hydro determined that the full dam removal (option 3 listed above) was not recommended due to the potential for initiating uncontrolled channel incision below the original river grade into Mill Pond and upstream reaches.

Ultimately, the technical fish ladder (option 2 listed above) was chosen as the most appropriate solution for restoring fish passage to Mill Pond and maintaining existing recreational values. Princeton Hydro is currently developing preliminary engineering design plans for this selected alternative as part of this phase of the project.

The focus on Bellmore Creek is just one of many projects included in Seatuck’s River Revival program, which has sought to clear similarly blocked waterways across Long Island. If you’re interested in learning more about Seatuck’s conservation work and getting involved, click here.

Princeton Hydro has designed, permitted, and overseen solutions for fish passage including the installation of technical and nature-like fishways and the removal of dozens of small and large dams throughout the Northeast. To learn more about our fish passage and dam removal engineering services, click here and check out our blog:

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The Aquetong Creek Restoration Project is situated within the former basin of Aquetong Lake, which was a 15- acre impoundment formed in 1870 by the construction of an earthen dam on Aquetong Creek. The cold-water limestone spring, which flows at a rate of about 2,000 gallons per minute at approximately 53ºf, is known to be the largest of its kind in the 5-county Philadelphia region, and one of the largest in the state of Pennsylvania.

In 2015, the Township of Solebury commenced the restoration of Aquetong Spring Park, first with a dam breach followed by a large stream restoration, reforestation, and invasive species removal. In September, the park was officially reopened to the public following a ribbon cutting ceremony. The event featured a blessing from the Lenni-Lenape Turtle Clan, the original inhabitants of the land.

 

SITE HISTORY

Prior to European settlement, the Lenni-Lenape Tribe inhabited a village close to the spring and designated the spring “Aquetong”, meaning “at the spring among the bushes." After an outbreak of smallpox, however, the tribe abandoned the village. William Penn acquired Aquetong Spring in the early 1680’s as part of his peaceful treaty with Lenni-Lenape. The park land transferred hands many times before it was owned by Aquetong Township.

The dependability of the water flow made the Aquetong Creek an ideal location for mills. As of the early 1800’s, Aquetong Spring is known to have supplied enough water to turn two grist mills regularly throughout the year, and to have concurrently powered numerous mills including a paper mill, a fulling mill, two merchant mills, four sawmills, and an oil mill.

Around 1870, the 15-acre Aquetong Lake was created by constructing a dam at the east end of the property. This provided additional power for the local mills and a recreation area for the public. A fish hatchery was constructed at the base of the spring outfall, portions of which can still be viewed today. Shad, brook trout, and terrapin turtles were raised in the hatchery, which was available for public viewing at a cost of 25 cents per person.

Then, in 1993, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission acquired the property. A few years later, with the support of Bucks County Trout Unlimited, Solebury Township began negotiating to obtain ownership of the site. Around 1996, the State performed emergency repairs on the dam; a six-foot section of the outlet structure was removed in order to take pressure off the aging barrier. This lowered the level of the lake and added about 80 feet of wetlands to the western shoreline. However, it was recognized that a complete repair of the dam could cost over $1 million and might not be the best choice for the environment.

In 2009, after almost 15 years of negotiations, Solebury Township gained control of the property, with the goal of preserving this important natural resource. It purchased the lake and surrounding properties from the state and obtained a 25-year lease. The Township’s total costs were substantially reduced because it received a large credit in exchange for its commitment to repair the dam in the future, as well as funding from the Bucks County Natural Areas Program toward the purchase.

Following the purchase, the Township engaged in a five-year process of community outreach and consultation with environmental experts in which it considered alternatives for the Aquetong Lake dam. Choices included rebuilding the dam in its then-current form, creating a smaller lake with a cold-water bypass into Aquetong Creek, or breaching the dam and restoring a free-flowing stream. Ultimately, recognizing that the lake was a thermal reservoir which introduced warm water into Aquetong Creek and eventually into the streams and river, the Township decided to breach rather than restore the dam, and return the site to its natural state.

[caption id="attachment_10303" align="aligncenter" width="832"] The Aquetong Creek restoration site is located in Solebury Township, Bucks County, PA, and encompasses the boundaries of the former Aquetong Lake. The Lake was a 15-acre impoundment formed in 1870 by the construction of an earthen dam on Aquetong Creek. The Creek flows approximately 2.5 miles from Ingham Spring to join with the Delaware River in New Hope, PA.[/caption]  

RESTORATION WORK

The Aquetong Restoration Project got underway in 2015, and Solebury Township breached the historic mill dam in Aquetong Spring Park to convert the former lake into a natural area with a free-flowing, cold water stream capable of supporting native brook trout.

After the dam breach, areas of active erosion were observed along the mainstem and a major tributary of Aquetong Creek. The steep, eroding banks, increased the sediment load to the Creek's sensitive aquatic habitat.

As with most dam removal projects, a degree of stewardship is necessary to enhance the establishment of desirable, beneficial vegetation. Additionally, Solebury Township wanted to control invasive species in Aquetong Spring Park and replant the project area with native species.

The Township secured funding to construct riparian buffers, implement streambank stabilization measures, establish trout habitat structures within the mainstem and its tributary, control invasive species, and implement a woodland restoration plan. The project was funded by a $250,000 grant from the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, with an equal match from the Township. Additional grants for the project were provided by the PA Department of Community and Economic Development and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

Solebury Township contracted Princeton Hydro to design the stabilization of the stream channel and floodplains within the former impoundment, monitor the stream and wetlands before and after implementation, and obtain the permits for the restoration of the former impoundment. Princeton Hydro team members designed the restoration of the main channel and tributary to reduce channel and bank erosion while supporting the brook trout habitat.

After gathering and reviewing the existing data for the site, Princeton Hydro conducted field investigations to inform and guide the final design including surveying cross sections and performing fluvial geomorphological assessments of the existing channel. Pebble counts were performed, cross sections were analyzed, and existing hydrological data was reviewed to inform the design. Simultaneously, an invasive species control and woodland restoration plan was developed for the park.

Data collected from the site was used to develop a geomorphically-appropriate, dynamically-stable design. The proposed channel design included excavation of impounded sediment to create stable channel dimensions, the addition of gravel, cobble, and boulder substrate where original/existing channel substrates were absent or insufficient, and the installation of large wood features to create aquatic habitat and enhance stability of channel bed and banks.

The banks and riparian corridor were vegetated with native seed, shrubs and trees to ultimately create a wooded, shaded riparian buffer. The design ultimately stabilized the streambanks with features that double as trout habitat and replanted the surrounding park with native vegetation.

The project was replanted with an incredibly diverse set of native species that included:

  • herbaceous species: swamp milkweed, blue mistflower, and butterfly weed;
  • shrub species: silky dogwood, winterberry holly, and buttonbush; and
  • tree species: red maple, american hornbeam, and pin oak.
[caption id="attachment_10301" align="aligncenter" width="763"] The forested restoration area was planted with a wide variety of native tree, herbaceous and shrub species. Shown here from top left: Canada Goldenrod, New England Aster and River Birch[/caption]  

EXPANDING THE PROJECT SCOPE

In addition to restoring the stream in the former impoundment, as a part of its Strategic Master Plan for Aquetong Spring Park, Solebury Township expanded its focus of the restoration project to include another 20 acres of forested land.

For this, Solebury developed a Woodland Restoration Plan which identified over 1,000 diseased forest trees, composed mostly of ash (Fraxinus sp.) and black walnut (Juglans nigra). It was the Township’s objective to remove the hazardous trees, re-establish a native woodland community, and establish an invasive species management program.

The trees removed as a part of this effort were repurposed for the stream restoration project and used for habitat features, stream stabilization measures, and park features (i.e. benches).

[caption id="attachment_10295" align="aligncenter" width="749"] Hazardous trees were removed and repurposed in the stream restoration construction, including the log grade control structures pictured here.[/caption]  

Princeton Hydro also provided stormwater design support for adjacent areas in Aquetong Spring Park, including multiple stormwater connections to the main tributary. After completion, Princeton Hydro provided bid assistance, developed a probable cost, drafted technical specifications, and produced a bid package to assist Aquetong Township in bringing the project to construction.

This restoration success could not have been possible without the hard work of so many dedicated project partners: Aquetong Spring Advisory Council, Bucks County Trout Unlimited, Solebury Township, Aquetong Township, Simone Collins Landscape Architects, PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, PA Department of Community and Economic Development, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Lenni-Lenape Turtle Clan, and Princeton Hydro.

Princeton Hydro specializes in the planning, design, permitting, implementing, and maintenance of ecological rehabilitation projects. To learn more about our watershed restoration services, click here.  To learn about some of our award-winning restoration projects check out our blogs about the Pin Oak Forest Conservation Area freshwater wetland restoration project:

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

Meet The Nature Conservancy in New Jersey (TNCNJ)

The Nature Conservancy began as a collaborative effort between leading scientists, committed citizens, and dedicated leaders who shared a vision to care for the world around them. Their priorities include finding innovative solutions to some of the planet’s biggest challenges: tackling climate change, protecting land and water, providing food and water sustainability, and building healthy cities.  Princeton Hydro has worked with TNCNJ on about a dozen projects since 2009. 

TNCNJ’s Director of River Restoration Beth Styler Barry and Princeton Hydro President Geoff Goll.

To develop this Client Spotlight, we spoke with TNCNJ’s Director of River Restoration Beth Styler Barry. Beth has over 18 years of experience in river restoration, water quality monitoring, community outreach, and project management. In addition to leading major stream restoration projects for TNCNJ, Beth also co-leads the statewide New Jersey Dam Removal Partnership. Beth has worked with Princeton Hydro on a number of projects, including the removal of the Columbia Dam, the largest dam removal in New Jersey's history. 

Q: What makes your organization unique?

The Nature Conservancy is a global organization and the largest environmental nonprofit in the United States, so we can make conservation happen at a continental scale. At the same time, we are structured into smaller business units that keep us nimble and relevant for handling ecological challenges that affect and resonate with people, wildlife, and habitats locally. Everyone who works here is very passionate about protecting nature. 

Q: What does your organization value?

Our conservation work is always guided by science. In fact, we have more than 400 scientists on staff around the world. We also have a knack for working with a wide range of partners and bringing about positive outcomes where they otherwise may not have been easily achieved. 

Q:   How long have you been working with Princeton Hydro?

I joined TNC in 2016, so about 4.5 years.

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

I have worked with Princeton Hydro on water and soil studies, engineering and design for dam removals, and oversight for the construction phase of river restoration.

Beth Styler Barry and Geoffrey Goll on-site during the Columbia Dam removal project.
Project partners celebrating the kick-off of the Columbia Dam Removal.
Q:  Do you have a favorite or most memorable project we’ve worked on together?

Princeton Hydro was an important partner in our effort to remove the Columbia Dam from the Paulins Kill in 2019. A study ranked the 300-foot-long, 18-foot-high structure in the top 5% of East Coast dams for removal. The impoundment of water behind the dam was unhealthy and the dam itself impeded the migration of threatened American shad for more than 100 years. With Princeton Hydro’s help, and working with a team of partners including the State of New Jersey and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, we succeeded in the largest dam removal in state history. Less than two weeks after the dam was completely removed, the shad were recorded ten miles upstream!

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

There are so many exciting projects! We are working on two more dam removals on the Paulins Kill, as part of a watershed-wide restoration.  As a part of that restoration work, we’re working on completing design and permitting on a 1,000-acre wetland and stream restoration project in the headwaters of the Paulins Kill.  We are also still working in New Jersey to protect and connect land for state-endangered Bobcat and other wildlife; to increase the use of nature as a way of building resiliency in communities dealing with flooding from storms and sea level rise; and to support a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 40% from 2006 levels by 2025.

Q: What drives you to want to go to work everyday?

I feel a deep connection to rivers, especially the rivers of New Jersey.  I’ve seen so many good restoration projects that it inspires me to keep pushing forward.  We owe that to our rivers.

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

One thing that I enjoy about working with Princeton Hydro is that staff are always ready to really walk me through a new design idea, method, or step in the regulatory process. I like the opportunity to ask a lot of questions and fully understand the work at hand.

...

To learn more about The Nature Conservancy in New Jersey, visit their website.  And, click below to read the previous edition of our Client Spotlight blog series, which features the Musconetcong Watershed Association.

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It’s been two and a half years since the removal of the Columbia Dam on the Paulins Kill in Northern New Jersey. In that time, American Shad have been discovered upstream of the former dam, a major indicator of improved water quality. The following time-lapse videos highlight the amazing efforts by the project team to reconnect the floodplain and restore fish passage, enabling the river to return to its former ecological state.

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DzIcjCRXXSA&feature=youtu.be[/embed]

Removal of the Columbia Dam. Courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Contracted by New Jersey Nature Conservancy and American Rivers, our team of engineers and ecologists designed, permitted, and oversaw the removal of the Columbia Dam, the largest dam removal to date in New Jersey. Additional project partners include U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, NJ Department of Environmental Protection, Riverlogic, and SumCo EcoContracting.

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZvRHQCXLwyg&feature=youtu.be[/embed]

Construction of fish passage structures. Courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qdkF1K8HLbQ&feature=youtu.be[/embed]

Removal of the Remnant Dam. Courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

 

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

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The Hudson River provides habitat for approximately 85% of New York State’s fish and wildlife species, 200 of which rely on the Hudson River for spawning, nursery, and forage habitat. According to Riverkeeper, a nonprofit focused on protecting and restoring the Hudson River, there are approximately 1,600 dams, mostly obsolete, fragmenting the rivers and streams of the Hudson Valley and blocking fish from reaching critical habitat.

The recent removal of two defunct dams – The Strooks Felt Dam and Furnace Brook Barrier #1 – marks an important milestone in the Riverkeeper’s journey to “Undam the Hudson River” and restore fish passage between the Hudson and the Atlantic Ocean. 

The removal of these dams, located on tributaries of the Hudson River, are especially important to depleted populations of migratory fish like river herring and American eel, who are a vital part of the coastal ecosystem and spawn in freshwater tributaries. 

Funding for both projects was provided by the Environmental Protection Fund and administered by the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). Riverkeeper led the effort to remove the obsolete dams, with Princeton Hydro providing dam and stream assessment, surveying, engineering design, and permitting assistance. 


Strooks Felt Dam

For the first time in 300 years, fish in the Quassaick Creek will be able to move upstream thanks to the dismantling of the 106-year-old, 4-foot-high Strooks Felt Dam in Newburgh, New York, located 60 miles north of New York City in the critical estuary of the Hudson River. 

The dam site was dominated by gravel, cobble, boulder, and even bedrock steps, indicating a high-energy stream with a high sediment transport potential. This dam removal, like many others, released this coarse sediment and allowed the creek to carry it to downstream reaches. This coarse sediment forms habitat features like riffes, bars, and pools that are crucial components of healthy streams and rivers. Releasing the impounded bedload by removing these dams is key to increasing the resilience of freshwater streams like Quassaick Creek. 

The dam removal, which was completed in October 2020, involved excavating the concrete spillway before reshaping and re-grading bedload sediment behind the dam.

Historically, the Strooks Felt Dam was part of a series of older dams that sat in slightly different positions in the same area and supplied former mill operations. Other nonobstructive structures associated with the former mill were left as part of an enduring history, allowing anyone who visits the site or combs through the records to visualize what was there before. The obsolete dam, however, will no longer block water, sediment, or critical fish passage

Project collaborators included: Riverkeeper, Orange County and the City of Newburgh, the Town of New Windsor, DEC Hudson River Estuary Program, Quassaick Creek Watershed Alliance, Steelways Inc, RiverLogic Solutions, and Princeton Hydro. 

Two additional dams farther upstream from the former Strooks Felt Dam site are in the early planning stages for removal.


Furnace Brook Barrier #1

The 5-foot-high, 75-foot-long Furnace Brook Barrier #1 was dismantled in Westchester County, New York in mid-November 2020. The removal of this dam brings migratory fish one-step closer to reconnecting with their ancestral habitat.

The positive results were immediate. Riverkeeper stated in a recently published article, “As soon as a path was cleared, we spotted two fish – white suckers, a freshwater species – darting up to the previously unreachable part of the brook. We can’t wait to come back in the spring and see whether herring, returning from the ocean, are migrating upstream…”

The dam clearing process at Furnace Brook involved the removal of the dam and an existing collapsed former concrete bridge span downstream of the dam. Stone masonry boulders from the former spillway were then redistributed and partially embedded in the restored channel to enhance aquatic habitat and increase bank stabilization

Project collaborators included Rivekeeper, NYSDEC’s Hudson River Estuary Program, Westchester County Parks Department, Westchester County, the dam owner, the town of Cortlandt, the Friends of the McAndrews Estate, and Princeton Hydro. 

Upstream of this project, Princeton Hydro is developing an initial engineering design and sediment management plan for the removal of another, larger dam.

 

Princeton Hydro has designed, permitted, and overseen the reconstruction, repair, and removal of dozens of small and large dams throughout the Northeast. To learn more about our dam engineering and removal services, visit: bit.ly/DamBarrier.

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

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

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

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

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

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Highland Falls, New York, which is 40 miles north of Manhattan, stretches along the Hudson River and is populated by many lakes and ponds, including the Cragston Lakes (a.k.a. Lower Cragston). For the community’s 4,000 residents, living in an area where water is abundant has many benefits, but the benefits are not without flood risk.

The 9-acre Lower Cragston Lake, the second largest lake in the Highland Falls area,   contains the Lower Cragston Dam, which is owned by the United States Military Academy at West Point and managed through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers New York District (USACE NYD). According to the Office of the New York State Comptroller, Lower Cragston Dam is classified as a “High Hazard” dam. The dam is approximately 10 feet high and 210 feet long, and consists of an earthen embankment with a concrete core wall, a concrete ogee spillway, and a low level outlet.

In order to ensure safety to the surrounding community and mitigate any potential flood risk associated with the dam's operations, Princeton Hydro was contracted by the USACE NYD to perform an Engineering Assessment for Lower Cragston Dam. Engineering Assessments and periodic safety inspections are intended to provide an independent review of an existing dam structure to ensure that all components are functioning properly and in compliance with current dam safety regulations.

Princeton Hydro utilized a multidisciplinary approach to perform the Lower Cragston Dam Engineering Assessment, which consisted of:

  • Document Review: In order to understand the site and to develop a proper drilling scope and methodology, our team conducted a thorough review of existing documentation, including historic engineering plans, dam inspection reports, and an Emergency Action Plan.
  • Geotechnical and Geophysical Investigation and Reporting: This is one of the most significant aspects of a dam safety evaluation and is often the most efficient means of obtaining critical subsurface information. The information obtained from these field studies is used to devise safety improvements if determined to be necessary.
  • Bathymetric and Topographic Survey: The bathymetric survey entails the accurate mapping of water depths and the quantification of the amount of accumulated, unconsolidated sediment. The topographic survey looks at the height, depth, size, and location of the dam and surrounding area.
  • Hydrologic & Hydraulic Analysis: This analysis looks at the watershed and spillway structure related to the extent of potential flooding from storm recurrence intervals within the study area. The data helps to evaluate measures that can reduce and mitigate existing and anticipated flood risk.
  • Structural Analysis: Our team utilized various methods, to assess the structural integrity of the dam and to evaluate the internal stresses and stability under usual, unusual, and extreme loading combinations.
  • Seepage & Stability Analysis: Seepage through an earthen dam generally correlates with the reservoir water level of the dam. A careful analysis helps to detect any abnormal seepage issues and associated consequences.
  • Dam Break Analysis: This type of analysis is used to estimate the potential hazards associated with a failure of the dam structure and features.

The geotechnical investigation for the Lower Cragston Dam Engineering Assessment involved performing soil borings and rock coring within the dam embankment, for which Princeton Hydro developed a Drilling Program Plan (DPP) to ensure the activities were performed successfully and safely. The DPP, which also required our team to have a comprehensive understanding of bedrock and surficial geologic formations in the area, was ultimately approved by the USACE Dam Safety Officer and successfully executed in the field. The collected samples were tested at Princeton Hydro’s AASHTO accredited and USACE validated soil laboratory.

Ultimately, the geotechnical investigation and subsequent soil analysis were used to inform the slope stability and seepage analysis. The geotechnical analyses, hydrologic & hydraulic study, structural inspection, bathymetry, and dam break analysis were used to provide USACE and West Point with recommendations for repair options, replacement options, and decommissioning options for the dam.

Engineering Assessments are vital to the longevity of dams and the safety of the communities they protect. By providing detailed analysis, effective repair, and management programs can be designed and implemented efficiently. This helps to ensure dam systems are providing the level of protection they were designed to deliver.

Princeton Hydro has designed, permitted, and overseen the reconstruction, repair, and removal of dozens of small and large dams. Our Geoscience and Water Resources Engineering teams perform dam inspections and conduct dam feasibility studies throughout the Northeast. For more info, visit: bit.ly/PHEngineering.

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

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

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

[embed]https://youtu.be/b6FyQTu23lM[/embed]

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

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

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

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

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

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

Images provided by the American Littoral Society. 

Photo by the American Littoral Society

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According to American Rivers, “more than 90,000 dams in the country are no longer serving the purpose that they were built to provide decades or centuries ago.” As these dams age and decay, they can become public safety hazards, presenting a failure risk and flooding danger. Dams can also be environmental hazards, blocking the movement of fish and other aquatic species, inundating river habitat, impairing water quality, and altering the flow necessary to sustain river life.

Removing nonfunctional, outdated dams has myriad ecological benefits. Dam removal can improve water quality, restore a river back to its natural flowing state, reconnect river habitats that benefit fish and wildlife, and significantly increase biodiversity for the surrounding watershed.

Removing Dams in Lehigh Valley

For over a decade, Princeton Hydro has partnered with Wildlands Conservancy to remove dams in the Lehigh River Valley. Wildlands Conservancy, a nonprofit land trust in eastern Pennsylvania, works to restore degraded stream and wildlife habitat with a primary focus on Lehigh Valley and the Lehigh River watershed, which is a 1,345 square mile drainage area that eventually flows into the Delaware River.

Wildlands Conservancy contracted Princeton Hydro to design and permit the removal of two dams on the Little Lehigh Creek. Although it is referred to as the “Little Lehigh,” the 24-mile creek is the largest tributary of the Lehigh River. The dam removals restored the natural stream system, which hadn’t flowed freely in over a century.

Princeton Hydro also worked with Wildlands Conservancy to remove several barriers and three consecutive low-head dams on Jordan Creek, a tributary of the Little Lehigh Creek. Jordan Creek arises from a natural spring on Blue Mountain, and eventually joins the Little Lehigh in Allentown before flowing into the Lehigh River. It drains an area of 75.8 square miles.

[gallery columns="2" link="none" ids="12050,12053"] As part of the dam and barrier removal projects, Princeton Hydro: - Conducted dam and site investigations; - Oversaw structural, topographic, and bathymetric field surveys and base mapping; - Performed geomorphic assessments and sediment characterization to predict river response to dam removals and develop appropriate sediment management plans; - Performed hydrologic and hydraulic analysis to predict changes in river hydraulics; - Evaluated and addressed technical issues unique to each barrier; - Coordinated with regulatory agencies and entities; - Participated in community informational meetings; - Developed engineering design plans, documents, and permit application submissions; - Developed construction cost estimates for implementing the removal of the dams and streambank stabilization; and - Performed construction oversight during implementation.

Collectively, these dam and barrier removal projects on the Little Lehigh and Jordan Creek reconnected 15+ miles of river; restored fish passage; improved aquatic connectivity, fisheries, and benthic macroinvertebrate and wildlife habitats; reduced nonpoint source stormwater pollution; improved water quality; addressed vulnerable infrastructure; enhanced climate resiliency; and stabilized and restored the creeks’ channels and banks.

[gallery columns="2" link="none" ids="12043,12054"]

Upcoming Conservation Efforts

Building upon the successes of the Little Lehigh and Jordan Creek barrier removals, Princeton Hydro is again partnering with Wildlands Conservancy to remove three consecutive dams on Bushkill Creek in Easton, PA. The dam removal projects, which are slated for 2023, are part of a large-scale effort, involving a significant number of community and municipal partners, focused on restoring Bushkill Creek and the surrounding watershed.

The Bushkill Creek is a 22-mile long limestone stream that is designated as a “high quality, cold-water fishery.” It supports healthy populations of trout, and is treasured by anglers and the surrounding community as an important resource in an urban environment, spanning several boroughs and townships, eventually flowing into the Delaware River at Easton.

Environmental protection and restoration is a key goal of removing the dams. Removing these barriers will allow important migratory fish species to reach their spawning grounds once again, which has numerous and far-reaching ecological benefits. The project work also includes stabilizing the streambank, planting, and expanding riparian buffers, planting native trees and shrubs to filter runoff, and installing in-stream structures to restore fish habitat.

Stay tuned for more updates in 2023!

Princeton Hydro has designed, permitted, and overseen the reconstruction, repair, and removal of over 60 of small and large dams in the Northeast. To learn more about our fish passage and dam removal engineering services, click here. To learn more about Wildlands Conservancy, click here.

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