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It’s River’s Month in Pennsylvania! To celebrate, the nonprofit Schuylkill River Greenways, in partnership with Berks Nature, Bartram’s Garden, The Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education, Stroud Water Research Center, and Princeton Hydro launched a new interactive ArcGIS StoryMap web page that reveals local perceptions of the Schuylkill River and documents the ecological status of the main stem through a year-long water quality and trash monitoring project: bit.ly/schuylkillriver. The ultimate goal of this new publicly-available resource is to connect residents and communities with the Schuylkill River and to encourage engagement with this special resource.

“For decades we have heard misgivings from residents throughout the watershed about the water quality of the Schuylkill River, and unfortunately the terrible reputation that the river had from years of polluting continues to linger. But the truth is that today the river is actually quite healthy and clean,” said Tim Fenchel, Deputy Director of Schuylkill River Greenways. “In this project we set out to work with our partners and community members to finally set the record straight with solid data about the health of the river.”

“This project brought together the conservation community and community scientists to understand the water quality and social perceptions of the Schuylkill River,” said Michael Hartshorne, Director of Aquatics at Princeton Hydro. "The results showed that the river, while having challenges as many waterbodies do, is a vibrant corridor that offers many recreational and environmental opportunities for those that live in the region.”

To understand local perceptions of the Schuylkill River’s residents, we first conducted a community opinion survey. Over 300 community members from Berks, Chester, Montgomery, and Philadelphia Counties participated. Overall, we found that a majority of people do care about the river (56%) and bike or walk along it (60%). However, many are not confident whether the river is clean or safe to use for recreational activity, clean enough to swim in, or safe to eat fish from. When asked about the cause of river contamination, an overwhelming majority (85%) cited "Trash and Litter" as the problem. This insight was used to drive the priorities for water quality monitoring and inspired the launch of a new Community Science trash monitoring program.

To determine the ecological status of the river, we collected water quality data for one year. Water temperature, dissolved oxygen, turbidity, and conductivity were continuously measured at four locations. Bacteria sampling for Enterococci coli (E. coli) was also conducted at each station over the course of the study.

“Protecting safe recreational access to rivers and streams is one of the most important contributions we as environmental stewards can make to local communities. This project has made great strides in supporting this cause on the Schuylkill River,” said David Bressler, Project Facilitator at Stroud Water Research Center.

To complement the water quality sampling, the team recruited “Community Scientists” to monitor and measure trash along the river by conducting 5-minute visual assessments. It aimed to document critical areas of trash accumulation or dumping points in order to guide management efforts to better deal with this pollution. Over 100 responses were logged by volunteers. Overall, the results were positive; between 73% and 90% of sites on the main stem of the Schuylkill River were rated as optimal. The participants deemed the study reach to be clean and safe for both human and aquatic life, however, there are certainly locations along the Schuylkill River that could be cleaned up.

The data collected tells the tale of a vibrant river corridor with numerous opportunities for kayaking, fishing, bird watching, hiking, and biking. The dry weather data showed water quality conditions to be ideal during the time periods most people would utilize the river. E. coli concentrations were low, and transparency is high as shown by turbidity levels. Still, the river is constrained within an environment that spans the more agriculturally rich upstream reaches down to urbanized Philadelphia. Agricultural erosion, stormwater, and suburban pollutants are a challenge upstream, while stormwater runoff, litter, and sewer overflows are a primary concern during rainfall events in the more urbanized portions of the river. During rainfall, we measured elevated E. coli, turbidity, and trash which causes poor water quality conditions. However, this should not deter those who love and enjoy the river from using it, understanding that the safest conditions are likely following periods of dry weather.

“Our coordinated monitoring effort has been a special opportunity to capture snapshots of the river from top to bottom at specific points in time. The data we collected drives home that the Schuylkill is by many measures a healthy river bouncing back from intense industrial pollution. Different issues affect different locations along its 135 miles, but we are all connected upstream and downstream!,” said Chloe Wang, River Programs Coordinator at Bartram's Garden. “In addition to our learnings about water quality, having water samples analyzed at both a professional lab and using DIY methods at our own sites helped us to understand the accuracy of the low-cost tools we can use in community science and education programs.”

Additionally, the project partners were able to put the collected data to action by submitting it to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, one of the regulatory agencies responsible for implementing the Clean Water Act for the Schuylkill. “There is so much more to learn about the river, but I hope this work helps people make informed decisions about when to get out on the water, and draws attention to opportunities to continue improving river health,” expressed Wang.

[caption id="attachment_10966" align="alignleft" width="242"] Photo courtesy of Schuylkill River Greenways.[/caption]

The water quality and trash assessment sampling protocol and interactive ArcGIS Story Map was designed by Princeton Hydro, with input from all the project partners. Detailed results and data from the perception and options survey, water quality monitoring, and trash assessment monitoring can be found on the StoryMap.

“Land and water are intrinsically connected – you can’t have healthy landscapes without healthy watersheds. Supporting this relationship is core to Berks Nature’s mission and conservation work, and through our 74-year tenure as Berks County’s land trust, we’ve seen the Schuylkill River flow cleaner and cleaner,” said Michael Griffith, Education & Watershed Specialist at Berks Nature. “We were thrilled to participate in this project not only as an opportunity to deepen our understanding of this regionally significant waterway, but also to shift public perceptions of the Schuylkill River as a community asset.”

“As we had hoped, we found that the river is indeed in great shape and we are now trying to spread the good news that all kinds of recreation on the river are safe and encouraged – including kayaking, boating, and fishing,” said Fenchel. “We have an incredible recreational and environmental asset in this river and we want everyone to know about it.”

This project was truly a team effort, with collaboration and engagement from all project partners. It was funded by the William Penn Foundation who has long been a supporter of this and similar projects throughout the Schuylkill and Delaware River Watersheds.

ABOUT SCHUYLKILL RIVER GREENWAYS: The mission of the Schuylkill River Greenways National Heritage Area is to connect residents, visitors and communities to the Schuylkill River and the Schuylkill River Trail by serving as a catalyst for civic engagement and economic development in order to foster stewardship of the watershed and its heritage.

ABOUT BARTRAM'S GARDEN: Bartram’s Garden is a 45-acre National Historic Landmark, operated by the John Bartram Association in cooperation with Philadelphia Parks and Recreation. It is a destination and an outdoor classroom, living laboratory, and membership organization for ever-expanding audiences―over 95,000 each year and counting.

ABOUT STROUD WATER RESEARCH CENTER: Stroud Water Research Center seeks to advance knowledge and stewardship of freshwater systems through global research, education, and watershed restoration. Since 1967, Stroud Water Research Center has been leading the effort to produce innovative solutions for preserving and restoring fresh water. The organization believes in an independent voice — and in adventure, inspiration, perseverance, and integrity.

ABOUT BERKS NATURE: As a nonprofit conservation organization, Berks Nature has been serving the Berks County community since 1974. Land preservation, water protection, trail management, community gardens, education programs, State of the Environment, Eco-Camp and valued partnerships are at the center of Berks Nature’s work every day.

ABOUT SCHUYLKILL CENTER FOR ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION: Founded in 1965, the Schuylkill Center is one of the first urban environmental education centers in the country, with 340 acres of fields, forests, ponds, and streams in northwest Philadelphia. They work through four core program areas: environmental education, environmental art, land stewardship, and wildlife rehabilitation.

ABOUT PRINCETON HYDRO: Princeton Hydro is committed to improving our ecosystems, quality of life, and communities for the better. The firm was formed in 1998 with the specific mission of providing integrated ecological and engineering consulting services. Offering expertise in natural resource management, water resources engineering, geotechnical design & investigation, and regulatory compliance, their staff provide a full suite of environmental services throughout the Northeast for the public and private sectors.

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Princeton Hydro is dedicated to protecting our natural resources and changing our ecosystems, quality of life and communities for the better. Our team members are passionate about continuing to learn new technologies, staying ahead of regulatory changes, and expanding their knowledge.

Today, we are proud to put the spotlight on seven team members who recently achieved new professional certifications.

 
 

We are thrilled to announce that six team members earned their Professional Engineer (PE) license in four states:

  • Andrew Simko in Maryland;
  • Jake Dittes in Connecticut;
  • Ryan Wasik in Delaware, and;
  • Jake Schwartz, Robert Costello, and Stephen Duda in New Jersey.

The PE license is the engineering profession’s highest standard of competence, a significant symbol of achievement and assurance of quality. To become licensed, engineers must complete a four-year college degree, work under a Professional Engineer for at least four years, pass two intensive competency exams, and earn a license from their state's licensure board. Then, to retain their licenses, PEs must continually maintain and improve their skills throughout their careers.

Andrew Simko, who works in our Bowie, Maryland office, has extensive experience in floodplain and stormwater management, and is proficient in hydrologic and hydraulics computer modeling and GIS. Before arriving to Princeton Hydro, Andrew worked as a water resources engineer developing FEMA flood insurance rate maps and helping to design stormwater management projects.

Jake Dittes is passionate about restoring the habitat and natural functions of aquatic systems. As a Water Resources Engineer, Jake works on hydrologic and hydraulic modeling, project design, drafting and construction management on ecological restoration projects. He is based in our New England field office. 

Jake Schwartz is a Staff Engineer with a B.S. in Civil Engineering with experience in stormwater design, site layout, construction inspection, environmental regulation, as well as water chemistry and hydraulic principles. Jake uses his knowledge and experience to design sustainable site plans for a variety of projects.

Water Resource Engineer Robert Costello uses his knowledge and experience to provide the best possible outcomes for our clients in every one of his projects. Robert received his degree from the University of Delaware, with a major in Environmental Engineering and a Minor in Civil Engineering. Robert has experience in subsurface geotechnical investigations, hydrologic and hydraulic modeling of water conveyance systems, stormwater BMP design, as well as the complete design, modeling, and supervision of Green Infrastructure Systems.

Ryan Wasik is a Water Resource Engineer with a B.S. in Civil Engineering and a minor in Environmental Engineering from Widener University in in Chester, PA. He has professional experience in roadway design, ADA ramp design, site grading and layout, utility design, erosion and sediment control measures, and stormwater design/inspections.

Staff Engineer Stephen Duda is a civil engineer with expertise in grading and stormwater design, drafting, permitting, soil testing and construction inspection. Prior to Princeton Hydro, he worked for a small land development firm in South Jersey, where he worked on multiple aspects of land development projects, construction management and municipal engineering. He holds an Associate degree in General Engineering and Engineering Technologies/CAD, as well as a B.S. in Civil Engineering from Rowan University.

 
 

Jake Dittes also earned the New Jersey Watershed Institute Green Infrastructure (WIGI) certification. WIGI is an adapted version of the Level 1 training to landscape professionals in New Jersey who design, install, and maintain stormwater best management practices (BMPs) and conservation landscapes.

The achievement of the WIGI certification demonstrates an advanced level of professionalism and knowledge of sustainable landscaping practices for healthier watersheds. Certification is voluntary and candidates must pass a comprehensive exam that assesses an individual’s command of sustainable practices in the design, installation, and maintenance of landscapes. WIGI-certified professionals have in-depth knowledge of sustainable landscape best practices and a focus on maintenance of stormwater best management practices.

Jake recently led a webinar for The Watershed Institute about stream bank stabilization and restoration. Check it out here:

 
 

Christiana Pollack, GISP, CFM, Senior Project Manager, Ecologist and Certified Floodplain Manager, is now a Certified Ecological Restoration Practitioner (CERP) through the Society for Ecological Restoration (SER).

SER’s CERP program encourages a high professional standard for those who are designing, implementing, overseeing, and monitoring restoration projects. Only senior level practitioners who have achieved the knowledge requirements and have greater than five years of full-time experience with restoration can be certified.

Christiana has 15+ years of expertise in hydrologic modeling and ecological restoration, with a focus on freshwater and tidal habitats, living shorelines using natural and nature-based features, spatial analysis, and environmental mapping. She performs flood mitigation and wetland hydrology modeling in riverine systems, and, as a project manager, she oversees numerous ecological restoration design and geospatial projects, including vulnerability assessments and hazard mitigation planning mapping. Additionally, Christiana manages several wetland restoration projects that provide ecosystem services to mitigate flood risks, improve water quality, and strengthen storm resiliency.

CERP is designed to ensure that certified practitioners are up to date on the new and important developments in the field of ecological restoration – both from the scientific and the practical perspectives. The certification is valid for 5 years after approval, and recertification requires that CERPs earn a minimum of 50 continuing education credits within the five-year period since they were last certified.

If you’re interested in learning more the Princeton Hydro team, click here. [post_title] => Employee Spotlight: Seven Team Members Earn New Professional Certifications [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => employee-spotlight-2022 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2022-03-09 14:19:21 [post_modified_gmt] => 2022-03-09 14:19:21 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://princetonhydro.com/?p=10181 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [2] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 9785 [post_author] => 1 [post_date] => 2021-10-20 20:54:23 [post_date_gmt] => 2021-10-20 20:54:23 [post_content] =>

As of October 1, the Maryland State Programmatic General Permit (MDSPGP), which is used to authorize all types of work in all waters, including wetlands, has been reissued. In this blog, Princeton Hydro’s Senior Environmental Scientist Duncan Simpson, PWS, provides a breakdown of the newly revised terms and conditions of the permit. 

Let’s dive in.

What is the Maryland State Programmatic General Permit?

The MDSPGP was developed with the Maryland Department of Environment (MDE), which has regulatory authority over all waters throughout the state of Maryland. The MDSPGP helps to ensure a streamlined authorization process for certain work in waterbodies and waterways, and is designed to improve the regulatory process for applicants, reduce unnecessary duplicative project evaluations, and promote more effective and efficient use of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) resources while providing equivalent environmental protection for aquatic resources.

The sixth MDSPGP was issued on October 1, 2021 by the USACE Baltimore District and is titled the “MDSPGP-6.” The prior permit, MDSPGP-5, expired on September 30, 2021. 

Projects approved under the MDSPGP-5 permit that commenced prior to September 30, 2021 have been given 12 months to complete the work under the terms and conditions of the old permit. Projects that started after September 30, 2021 must meet the terms and conditions of MDSPGP-6 and in some cases receive written re-authorization.

What are the most significant changes in the MDSPGP-6?

The revised permit allows for activities that have minimal adverse environmental effects, and like MDSPGP-5, splits the review of activities into two categories: Category A and Category B. If proposed activities meet the provided Category A conditions and requirements, no USACE review is required.  

The most significant change is the eligibility for Category B activities. The eligibility is no longer determined based on total temporary and permanent impacts. Instead, the primary threshold measurement for determining whether a project qualifies for authorization under the MDSPGP-6 is the total acreage of “loss of Waters of the United States.” The loss threshold is generally one-half-acre of total tidal and non-tidal waters, including streams, wetlands, and open waters. And, the loss of streams may not exceed 1,000 linear feet. 

Another important revision changes how the USACE assesses permanent wetlands conversion. Under the MDSPGP-5, the permanent conversion of wetland type (e.g., forested to emergent) is considered a temporary impact and counted towards the Category B thresholds. Under MDSPGP-6, however, the conversion is considered a temporary impact but DOES NOT count towards the Category B thresholds, though the USACE may require compensatory mitigation for the loss of function. 

Additionally, under the MDSPGP-6, the USACE now allows dredged material to be placed in a beneficial reuse site, under activity A(10) New Minor Dredging in Tidal Waters Category B. The material must be tested and shown to be clean in compliance with Evaluation of Dredged Material Proposed for Discharge in Waters of the United States-Testing Manual: Inland Testing Manual. The applicant must identify the intent to place the dredged material in Water of the U.S. at the proposed placement site and provide exact quantities of those dredged materials. And, the discharge of dredged or fill material must be authorized under activity f(2) Living Shorelines/Beach Nourishment Category B. 

Activity f(2) has been renamed from "Tidal Marsh Creation/Beach Nourishment” to “Living Shorelines/Beach Nourishment.” Under f(2) Living Shorelines/Beach Nourishment, the Category A review now allows for vegetated wetlands impacts up to one-square-foot per linear foot of activity along the shoreline. The Category B review of this activity allows for impact to Submerged Aquatic Vegetation (SAV) but the applicant must show that the impacts were minimized to the maximum extent practicable. 

Category B also now allows up to one-half-acre of tidal wetland loss, but does not allow for any overall net loss of wetlands. In other words, a living shoreline or beach nourishment project can permanently impact up to one-half-acre of tidal wetlands if an equal amount of non-tidal wetlands are created by the activity. 

More Notable Changes

Perhaps the most interesting change is that a new activity has been added to the MDSPGP-6, e(11), Aquatic Habitat Restoration, Enhancement, and Establishment Activities Associated with Compensatory Mitigation Requirements for Aquatic Resource Impacts Authorized under the MDSPGP-6. 

This new activity allows for mitigation projects to be authorized under a more streamlined process than the Nationwide Permit 27. The projects must still meet the State of Maryland and federal compensatory mitigation requirements. Category A allows activities required to meet the compensatory mitigation requirements to offset permanent impacts from an approved Category A activity. The Category B similarly allows compensatory mitigation activities for offsetting the losses from an approved Category B project.

The MDSPGP-6 also has new general conditions, and a few are worthy of discussion: Temporary fill, structures, and mats used for site access lasting longer than 12 months now require Category B review. Any proposed work in Critical Habitats (i.e., sections of the Potomac River, Nanticoke River, and Marshyhope Creek) or National Estuarine Research Reserves require Category B review. 

The permit update also includes new conditions that support aquatic organism passage. Pipes and culverts must now be countersunk below the natural stream invert, while still allowing for ordinary high water to pass through them, which . In cases of bedrock or pipes being placed over existing underground utilities that would prevent countersinking, documentation is required. Also, extensions to existing pipes and culverts are exempt from this requirement. Finally, if countersinking is not practicable, then Category B review is required. 

Speaking of fish passage, the conditions for anadromous fish time of year restrictions are now consolidated into a single general condition. To protect migratory pathways and spawning activities, for any project that is located within tidal and non-tidal coastal plain streams or piedmont streams in Harford and Cecil Counties, in-stream work is not allowed to be conducted between February 15 and June 15.

Slide graphics included in this blog are directly from the USACE's presentation on September 28, 2021 titled, "Maryland State Programmic General Permit (MDSPGP-6) Training."  

- - - 

 

If you have a project authorized under MDSPGP-5 that needs reauthorization, or if you have questions about the MDSPGP-6, how your projects might be affected by it, or other Maryland permitting questions, please contact us. If you’re interested in learning more about the wide variety of engineering and environmental services Princeton Hydro offers, go here: princetonhydro.com/services.

  Blog Author: Duncan Simpson, PWS

For over a decade, Duncan has served as an Environmental Scientist/Planner in the Mid-Atlantic Region. His experience includes a wide range of natural resource studies, documentation, and permitting at both the project and program level. He has special expertise in wetlands; Waters of the US delineations; and permitting for stormwater management facilities, stream restoration, and TMDL program projects. Duncan is a certified Professional Wetland Scientist, a member of the Society of Wetland Scientists, and earned his Maryland Biological Stream Survey (MBSS) Fish Crew Leader certification. He is the only person to have earned this prestigious certification in 2020. He also successfully completed the MBSS Physical Habitat Assessment.

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Volunteers recently came together in Asbury Park, New Jersey to install floating wetland islands (FWIs) in Wesley Lake and Sunset Lake. The initiative, led by the Deal Lake Commission and Princeton Hydro, brought together dozens of volunteers to install a total of 12 FWIs, six in each lake. 

FWIs are a low-cost, effective green infrastructure solution used to mitigate phosphorus and nitrogen stormwater pollution. FWIs are designed to mimic natural wetlands in a sustainable, efficient, and powerful way. They improve water quality by assimilating and removing excess nutrients that could fuel harmful algae blooms; provide valuable ecological habitat for a variety of beneficial species; help mitigate wave and wind erosion impacts; provide an aesthetic element; and add significant biodiversity enhancement within open freshwater environments.

Volunteers install plants in one of the six floating wetland islands launched in Wesley Lake:

The Deal Lake Commission acquired the 12 FWIs through a Clean Water Act Section 319(h) grant awarded by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. During the volunteer event, participants helped plant vegetation in each of the FWIs, and launch and secure each island into the lakes.

We collected so many great photos during the event. Here are some highlights:

NBC New York’s Brian Thompson stopped by to lend a hand and captured footage of the floating wetland island launch:

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Here at Princeton Hydro, our team members are committed to learning new technologies, staying ahead of regulatory changes, expanding their knowledge, and earning professional certifications in order to better service our clients and the public.

Today, we are proud to put the spotlight on three team members who recently achieved new professional certifications from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (MDNR).

Environmental Scientist Duncan Simpson, PWS, earned his Maryland Biological Stream Survey (MBSS) Fish Crew Leader certification. He is the only person to have earned this prestigious certification in 2020. He also successfully completed the MBSS Physical Habitat Assessment.

Staff Scientists Ivy Babson and Jesse Smith passed the written MBSS Benthic Macroinvertebrate Sampling Certification test, and successfully completed the related field audit.

The MBSS program was started by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources in 1993 in order to improve consistency among all individuals in Maryland using MBSS habitat assessment protocols so that habitat data are comparable. The MBSS was Maryland's first probability-based or random design stream sampling program intended to provide unbiased estimates of stream conditions with known precision at various spatial scales ranging from large 6-digit river basins and medium-sized 8-digit watersheds to the entire state. This program is a cost-effective and efficient way to characterize Maryland's 10,000+ miles of freshwater streams.

Duncan attended the Fish Crew Leader and Physical Habitat Assessment certification trainings, which were held virtually due to COVID-19. Following the trainings, he successfully passed the required written exams and field audits.

For the habitat assessment field audit, Duncan had to complete an assessment and arrive at the same conclusions as the MBSS experts. He assessed a stream reach for several instream and upland habitat characteristics including audits of bank erosion; bank formation and substrate; stream character; woody debris; max depth; channelization; and riparian vegetation.

The fish crew leader audit required Duncan to lead a team of individuals on a mock fish sampling event during which he was responsible for overseeing that the crew using the MBSS Round Four Sampling Protocol. In order to pass the audit, Duncan had to illustrate his intimate familiarity with every aspect of MBSS sampling and have at least three years of experience with MBSS sampling or with another comparable ecological field sampling effort.

“I first learned about the MBSS certification in 2010 and have been hoping to take the training and earn the certification ever since. I truly admire and respect the scientific rigor of MBSS, so to be recognized with this prestigious certification is a great milestone in my career and something that I’m very proud of.” - Duncan Simpson

For Staff Scientists Ivy and Jesse, the MBSS Benthic Macroinvertebrate field audit required that they collect kicks/jabs in twenty locations within the stream reach, located within the Elbow Branch in Susquehanna State Park. These twenty kicks/jabs were divided up into different microhabitat types depending on which were most dominant in the reach. The MBSS auditor simultaneously collected the same number of each microhabitat type.

The twenty kicks performed by each sampler were compiled into one sample that was preserved and sent to the Maryland State Labs for analysis. In order to pass the audit, Jesse and Ivy’s Benthic Index of Biotic Integrity (a metric based on the diversity and tolerance of the organisms collected) had to be within one unit of the auditor's. Additionally, their successful audit hinged on having the correct supplies and on decontaminating their gear to prevent the spread of invasive species.

"The training experience with MBSS allowed me to gain a deep appreciation of the role that benthic macroinvertebrates hold in our freshwater ecosystems. I’ve been able to develop a unique skillset to help my, and ultimately others’, understanding of benthic macroinvertebrate species richness and what they indicate in terms of water quality that contribute to the health of these special ecosystems." -Ivy Babson

 
 

"I've had an interest in aquatic macroinvertebrates since college, and this training experience with the MBSS helped me further appreciate the process that goes into studying them and the ecosystems in which they live. This certification will allow me further opportunities to work with these organisms in the future, and I look forward to more work in this area." - Jesse Smith

In total, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources offers five certification opportunities in MBSS protocols. The certifications include benthic macroinvertebrate sampling, benthic macroinvertebrate laboratory processing and subsampling, fish crew leader, fish taxonomy, and physical habitat assessment. In some cases, prerequisite certifications and trainings are required in order to apply and complete the DNR’s MBSS certifications. For example, in order to achieve the benthic macroinvertebrate taxonomy program, a previous Society for Freshwater Science certification is required.

Attendance at MBSS spring and summer trainings is a partial requirement for most of the certifications. Participants must pass written tests and field audits, as well as additional tests and quality assurance procedures. Passing a laboratory audit and a written test is also required for the benthic macroinvertebrate laboratory processing and subsampling certification.

Congratulations to Duncan, Ivy, & Jesse!

Click here for more information about the MBSS certification program. If you’re interested in learning more about the wide variety of engineering and environmental services Princeton Hydro offers, go here: princetonhydro.com/services.

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

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

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

“The Park Commission is honored to have a project recognized by the NJASLA and we look forward to acting on our plan in the years ahead,” said Park Commission Executive Director Aaron T. Watson. When Mercer County acquired the property in 1978, the original plan was to create a recreation area and flood control site. In order to mitigate local flooding, the County Park Commission developed a dam, which created a 55-acre tree-lined lake. The rest of the property comprises undeveloped uplands, wetlands, woodlands, and open space with limited-use recreation areas primarily only used by immediate neighbors. With 55 acres of lake space, however, Mercer County saw huge potential for what the park could provide and set out on a mission to create a Master Plan for the area with three primary regional goals:
  • Provide passive recreation to complement other County activities;
  • Preserve and enhance the habitat, water quality, and natural systems that currently exist onsite; and
  • Provide linkage to adjacent trails and parks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The improvement plans comprises:

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

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

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

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

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Princeton Hydro has grown from a small, four-person firm operating out of a living room to a 60+ person business with six office locations in the Northeast and a satellite office in Colorado. Over the last two decades, we’ve restored many miles of rivers, improved water quality in hundreds of ponds and lakes, and enhanced thousands of acres of ecosystems in the Northeast.

This year, we are feeling extra grateful for those who have supported our business and helped us further our mission during these difficult times. As we reflect on 2020 and set our sights on 2021, we have many successes to celebrate.  Here's a look at our top 10 successes of the year:

 

1. RESTORED FISH PASSAGE ON SIX WATERWAYS

Our team installed one fish ladder and oversaw the removal of five dams in four states. In New York, in partnership with Riverkeeper, Princeton Hydro oversaw the removal of two dams on tributaries to the Hudson River: Strooks Felt Dam on the Quassaick Creek in Newburgh and Barrier #1 on Furnace Brook in Cortlandt. The dams were the first barriers for fish movement upstream from the Hudson River. In Connecticut, the Slocomb Dam along Roaring Brook in South Glastonbury was removed, restoring American eel and trout passage. In Massachusetts, the Horseshoe Mill Pond Dam in Wareham was removed, opening over 3 miles of fish habitat on the Weweantic River, Buzzards Bay’s largest freshwater river. Here, migratory fish can now swim unimpeded from Buzzards Bay to lay their eggs in fresh water upstream for the first time in 200 years. In New Jersey, we led the removal of Warren Hills Dam in Washington, NJ and partnered with the American Littoral Society to install a fish ladder at the Old Mill Pond Dam in Spring Lake Heights, NJ, which allows migratory fish to scale the dam and access spawning grounds that had been blocked-off for over 100 years.

 

 2. LED THE LARGEST APPLICATION OF PHOSLOCK IN THE NORTHEAST ON NEW JERSEY'S LARGEST LAKE

We implemented a variety of measures that helped Lake Hopatcong, New Jersey's largest lake, mitigate harmful algal blooms (HABs). We applied a clay-based nutrient inactivating technology called Phoslock, which was the largest Phoslock treatment to occur in the Northeastern US. This treatment along with HAB prevention measures like the installation of biochar bags, nanobubble aeration systems, and floating wetland islands proved successful in mitigating HABs and improving overall water quality in 2020. And to top it all off, The Washington Post was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for its explanatory reporting on a novel climate change story featuring Lake Hopatcong and our lake management work.

 

3.  DESIGNED AND CONSTRUCTED WETLAND AND SHORELINE RESTORATION PROJECTS

We completed a shoreline restoration project at The Dunes at Shoal Harbor, a coastal residential community along the Jersey Shore that was severely impacted by Hurricane Sandy. In Linden’s Tremley Point neighborhood - another New Jersey community ravaged by Hurricane Sandy - we completed a green infrastructure and floodplain restoration project, the first restoration project to ever be implemented on NJDEP Blue Acres-acquired property. We transformed a densely developed, flood-prone, former industrial site in Bloomfield into a thriving public park with 4.2 acres of wetlands. Each of these three projects helped to restore valuable ecological functions and increase storm resiliency.

 

4. LAUNCHED A COMMUNITY SCIENCE MONITORING PROJECT FOR THE SCHUYLKILL RIVER

[caption id="attachment_5720" align="aligncenter" width="587"] Images provided by the American Littoral Society.[/caption]

On World Habitat Day, the nonprofit, Schuylkill River Greenways, in partnership with Berks Nature, Bartram’s Garden, The Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education, Stroud Water Research Center, and Princeton Hydro, kicked-off a Water Quality Monitoring Project for the Schuylkill River. This project aims to document the current ecological health of the river and engage a diverse set of river users and residents. As part of the campaign, the team is recruiting “Community Scientists” to conduct Visual Monitoring Assessments. Additionally, the stakeholder team is implementing water quality sampling and monitoring throughout 2021 at locations along the main stem of the Schuylkill River.

 

5. WELCOMED EIGHT NEW FULL-TIME TEAM MEMBERS

This year, we added eight new full-time staff members and one intern with expertise and qualifications in a variety of fields, all of whom have a passion for water resource management and environmental stewardship. In March, we were thrilled to welcome Dr. Laura Craig to our team as the new Director of Natural Resources. She is an Aquatic Ecologist who has overseen 25 dam removals, co-founded the NJ Dam Removal Partnership, and has 10+ years of experience in river conservation and climate adaptation. Go here to learn about the career opportunities currently available with us.

 

6. COMPLETED A MAJOR ECOLOGICAL STUDY OF THE HUDSON RIVER

Photo from USACE

The USACE Commanding General and 55th U.S. Army Chief of Engineers signed the Hudson River Habitat Restoration Ecosystem Restoration study, designating it as complete and making it eligible for congressional authorization. Princeton Hydro led the Integrated Feasibility Study and Environmental Assessment, which recommends three ecosystem restoration projects at sites along the river including Henry Hudson Park, Schodack Island Park, and Moodna Creek. The Hudson River Estuary is a significant habitat for fish, plants, and other wildlife, and this milestone marks progress toward the river’s return to a dynamic and self-regulating ecosystem. If constructed, these projects would restore almost 24 football-sized fields of wetlands in total.

 

7. EARNED THREE PRESTIGIOUS AWARDS

The New Jersey Section of the American Water Resources Association honored Princeton Hydro with the “Excellence in Water Resources: Ecological Restoration Award” for the Linden Blue Acres Floodplain Restoration & Green Infrastructure project. This restored the ecological and floodplain function on former residential properties acquired by the NJDEP Blue Acres Program for the first time. The American Littoral Society and Princeton Hydro received the “Land Ethics Best Large-Scale Project Award” from Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve for the work they did to restore the health and water quality of the Metedeconk River flowing through Ocean County Park in Lakewood, NJ. The Iowa Court and South Green Living Shoreline Project in Little Egg Harbor and Tuckerton, NJ, for which Princeton Hydro lead the sediment sampling/testing and hydrographic survey, received the “2020 Best Green Project Award” from Engineering News-Record.

 

8. GAVE OVER 20 PRESENTATIONS ON WATERSHED MANAGEMENT & RESILIENCY MEASURES

During the Hudson River Estuary Program’s conference, Christiana Pollack, GISP, CFM presented on managing invasive Phragmites and restoring wetland habitats. And, at the Consortium for Climate Risk in the Urban Northeast, Christiana presented on a flood mitigation analysis project in a flood-prone Philadelphia community. As part of The American Sustainable Business Council’s “Clean Water is Good for Business” campaign, Marketing & Communications Manager, Dana Patterson, led a webinar, titled “Making the Business Case on Clean Water Issues to the Media.” At the 2020 Delaware Wetlands Conference, Senior Project Manager, Michael Rehman, presented a wetland restoration project that illustrates how a degraded urban area can be successfully rehabilitated. And, for a New York State Federation of Lake Associations webinar series, Senior Aquatic Ecologist, Chris Mikolajczyk, CLM, presented on a unique lake management initiative. And, our Director of Aquatics, Dr. Fred Lubnow, joined Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell & other experts to discuss Harmful Algal Blooms at a virtual #ProtectCleanWater Town Hall hosted by the National Wildlife Federation Action Fund.

 

9. CELEBRATED A VARIETY OF STAFF ACHIEVEMENTS

Our staff are repeatedly striving for personal growth and continue to amaze us. North American Lake Management Society chose Chris L. Mikolajczyk, CLM, Senior Aquatic Ecologist as the next President of the Board of Directors. Senior Ecologist, Michael Rehman, PWS, and Fluvial Geomorphologist, Paul Woodworth, became Certified Ecological Restoration Practitioners through the Society for Ecological Restoration. Emily Bjorhus and Robert George earned their Professional Wetland Scientist certification through the Society of Wetland Scientists program. In January, our Marketing & Communications Manager, Dana Patterson, received the Society of American Military Engineers New Jersey Post’s “Young Member Award” for her efforts in maintaining and advancing the objectives of the organization (pictured above). A national science journal published Environmental Scientist, Brittany Smith’s, graduate research study, which assessed “The Ecogeomorphic Evolution of Louisiana’s Wax Lake Delta.” Cory Speroff passed his Landscape Architecture exams and Andrew Simko earned his Professional Engineering license. And, Dr. Clay Emerson won our Earth Day Photo Contest with his incredible close-up of an Eastern Fence Lizard.

 

10. WE STAYED UNIFIED AND CONNECTED

2020 was a particularly challenging year, but the Princeton Hydro family stood together. With offices spread across the Northeast and collaboration between offices on a daily basis, we were unknowingly prepared for the shift to remote work during an unexpected global pandemic. But, it took more than just working laptops and VPN connections to keep us going. Because of our staff’s motivation and dedication to serving our clients, we were able to not only keep our firm open, but we continued to grow our geographic and service reach.

 

Thank you for supporting Princeton Hydro and sharing our stories. We truly appreciate each and every one of our clients, partners, and friends. Cheers to a fruitful 2021 and beyond!

[post_title] => Year in Review: Top 10 Successes of 2020 [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => 2020-success-stories [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2021-12-10 15:13:43 [post_modified_gmt] => 2021-12-10 15:13:43 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.princetonhydro.com/blog/?p=5685 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [7] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 5595 [post_author] => 3 [post_date] => 2020-12-10 14:23:04 [post_date_gmt] => 2020-12-10 14:23:04 [post_content] => Photo from USACE

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

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

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

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

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

[embed]https://www.princetonhydro.com/blog/hudson-river-habitat-restoration/[/embed] [post_title] => UPDATE: Hudson River Habitat Restoration Study Completed & Chief's Report Signed [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => update-hrhr [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-12-10 14:23:04 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-12-10 14:23:04 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.princetonhydro.com/blog/?p=5595 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [8] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 5510 [post_author] => 3 [post_date] => 2020-10-26 09:08:30 [post_date_gmt] => 2020-10-26 09:08:30 [post_content] => In this photo, Princeton Hydro team member gathers data on the Hughesville Dam removal, using GPS to check the elevation of the constructed riffle on the beautiful Musconetcong River.

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

Meet the Musconetcong Watershed Association

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

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

Q: What makes MWA unique?

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

Q: What does MWA value?

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

Q: How long has MWA been working with Princeton Hydro? [caption id="attachment_5512" align="alignnone" width="596"] 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]

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

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

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

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

We value Princeton Hydro’s expertise in environmental permitting, hydrology, and fisheries, as we have utilized this expertise to review development proposals and conduct fish surveys. Q: Do you have a favorite or most memorable project we’ve worked on together?

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

https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=969581229908361 Q: What are some exciting things your organization is working on right now? [caption id="attachment_5515" align="alignnone" width="1128"] Photo from Princeton Hydro led volunteer clean-up effort on the Musconetcong River in 2018. The team picked-up garbage along the road and riverbank, and pulled trash from the riverbed.[/caption]

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

We’ve also received some exciting new grants that will help us continue to involve the community in efforts to protect and improve water quality. Our “Push Back the Lawn” campaign will allow us to reach out to small landowners and educate them on the importance of riparian buffers. This year has also brought some challenges for our organization, but we are excited to be picking up our River Cleanup again this fall. Normally, we conduct a watershed-wide cleanup in April, but due to COVID-19, we had to push it back. However, families and small groups are glad to be able to get out and give back by picking up trash that has collected with increasing staycations and small trips. Q: What drives you to want to go to work every day?

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

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

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

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

Click below to read the previous edition of our Client Spotlight blog series, which features the Lake Hopatcong Foundation:   https://princetonhydro.com/client-spotlight-lake-hopatcong-foundation/ [post_title] => Client Spotlight: Musconetcong Watershed Association [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => musconetcong-watershed-association [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2021-04-26 15:45:43 [post_modified_gmt] => 2021-04-26 15:45:43 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.princetonhydro.com/blog/?p=5510 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 2 [filter] => raw ) [9] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 5472 [post_author] => 3 [post_date] => 2020-10-05 15:02:11 [post_date_gmt] => 2020-10-05 15:02:11 [post_content] =>

The nonprofit Schuylkill River Greenways, in partnership with Berks Nature, Bartram’s Garden, The Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education, Stroud Water Research Center, and Princeton Hydro, is kicking off a Water Quality Monitoring Project for the Schuylkill River on World Habitat Day, Monday, October 5, 2020. This project, focused on the main stem of the river from Berks Nature in Reading to Bartram’s Garden in southwest Philadelphia, is aimed to document the current ecological status and health of the river and seeks to engage and educate a diverse set of river users and residents.

"An important aspect of our mission is to connect communities to the Schuylkill River through recreational and educational activities," said Tim Fenchel, Deputy Director of Schuylkill River Greenways. "To fully achieve the river’s potential, we must help the public understand the current health status and what they can do to continue to improve its quality for this generation and generations to come."

In order to monitor the presence and/or distribution of litter along the Schuylkill River, the team is launching a campaign to recruit “Community Scientists” to conduct 5-minute Visual Monitoring Assessments. Using their mobile device, these volunteers can simply record the trash accumulation or dumping points along a 100-foot section of the Schuylkill River via a user-friendly form accessed via a cell phone: bit.ly/litterform.

“Trash is important to address when talking about the health of a waterway because it’s often the most visually obvious form of pollution. Bacterial and chemical pollution are generally less directly observable, but when we see trash, it instantly informs our impression of a body of water,” said Chloe Wang, River Programs Coordinator at Bartram's Garden. “And, it can point to larger problems. For example, near Bartram’s Garden, a lot of trash washes into the river from combined sewer overflows, which also introduce harmful bacteria into the water. It will be interesting to see how the presence of trash differs along various stretches of the Schuylkill.”

The Community Scientist visual assessments require no formal training and are meant to be a simple effort that any resident can complete. We’ve developed an assessment survey, which can be accessed and submitted via a smartphone or tablet by opening the link in the phone/tablet’s browser.

“This is an opportunity for anyone with an interest in the Schuylkill River to spend time on the river and provide valuable feedback on the conditions of the river,” said David Bressler, Project Facilitator at Stroud Water Research Center. “Schuylkill River Greenways and its partners in this project are looking for motivated and dependable individuals to help them learn about the Schuylkill River and move in positive directions toward making the river more accessible to the community. Support from volunteers is very important and is greatly appreciated."

The goal is to document critical areas of trash accumulation or dumping points in order to guide management efforts to better deal with this pollution. In addition to the multiple-choice questions to rank trash levels and quantities, this platform asks volunteers to submit a photo of the area and collects the GPS location. By utilizing this user-friendly platform, the data collected under this effort will be summarized and visualized by the project team.

“This project is an important study that we can use to connect people back to the river and show that the Schuylkill River is a place to be enjoyed by the entire community surrounding it and beyond,” said Michael Griffith, Education & Watershed Specialist at Berks Nature.

In 1985 the United Nations designated the first Monday of October every year as World Habitat Day. The idea is to reflect on the state of our towns and cities and the basic right of all to adequate shelter and to remind the world of its collective responsibility for the future of the human habitat. By understanding and improving water quality in the Schuylkill River, we are creating a place that enables community members to access public green and open spaces. This effort also supports UN Sustainable Development Goal 11, which aims for resilient, inclusive, safe, diverse cities by 2030.

In addition to the Community Scientist visual assessments, the stakeholder team is conducting water quality sampling and monitoring over the next year at four locations along the main stem of the Schuylkill River. This scientific documentation of critical water quality parameters will be performed by the stakeholder group’s employees and long term volunteers, who are trained in data collection and scientific methods. We will collect data on bacterial concentrations in the river using a combination of 3-M Petrifilm kits and laboratory-based analytical measures. In addition, in-situ temperature, oxygen, pH, and turbidity data will be collected utilizing Mayfly dataloggers.

"Our research shows that residents care about the river, but are not confident whether it is clean or safe to use for recreational activity. So we’ve designed a volunteer survey and scientific water quality assessment to document the ecological health of the Schuylkill River," said Michael Hartshorne, Aquatic Resources Project Manager at Princeton Hydro. "By studying bacterial inputs and identifying hotspots for trash, we can communicate the status of the river, provide recommendations on areas of improvement, and ultimately, change the current public perception of the river."

For the water quality monitoring, Princeton Hydro scientists will provide training to the partner nonprofit organizations’ staff and review the methods and protocols to assure the highest level of quality. This long-term data collection effort is slated to begin this month and continue for approximately one year. The results of this assessment will allow us to determine potential hotspots related to nutrient and bacteria inputs and to understand the overall ecological health of the Schuylkill River.

Overall, through this effort, the stakeholder team hopes to connect residents and communities with the Schuylkill River and to encourage engagement with this special resource.

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This month we are launching the first blog in our Client Spotlight Blog Series! Each spotlight will feature one of our important client relationships in order to give you an inside look at our collaboration. We pride ourselves on forming strong ties with organizations that share our values of creating a better future for people and our planet. So we are excited to be able to share snippets of the incredible teamwork we've been able to accomplish over the years!

At Princeton Hydro, we value our client relationships, as the collaborative work we are able to complete with organizations like the Lake Hopatcong Foundation (LHF) reaches exponentially further than anything we could complete alone. One of the reasons our organizations have such strong symmetry is that our values align and complement each other.

As their mission states,”Lake Hopatcong Foundation dedicates itself to protecting the lake environment and enhancing the lake experience, bringing together public and private resources to encourage a culture of sustainability and stewardship on and around New Jersey’s largest lake, for this and future generations.” We are so proud to help protect New Jersey’s largest lake with LHF.

We have been working with LHF since its inception in 2012, which is why we are excited to feature them in our first client spotlight blog. We spoke with Jessica Murphy, President/Executive Director of the Foundation, and Donna Macalle-Holly, Grants and Program Director, to give you an insider look at the organization:

Q: What makes the Lake Hopatcong Foundation unique?

A: The Lake Hopatcong Foundation is unique in that our mission spans a wide spectrum of activities. In addition to projects that focus on the lake environment, we also take on initiatives that support education, safety, community-building, recreation, and even arts and culture. The lake is split between two counties and four towns, so bringing the community together for all these things is very important to us, in addition to making sure the lake itself is healthy.

Q: What does the Lake Hopatcong Foundation value?

A: During our strategic planning process, the board and staff developed a list of values that we go back to when operating and making decisions. They are:

  • Collaboration - We operate in a way that brings people together throughout the community.
  • Action - We are committed to our mission, moving quickly to take on projects that have an impact on and around the lake.
  • Sustainability - We are forward-thinking when making decisions, taking future generations into account when considering projects and initiatives.
  • Warmth - We are a friendly face to the community, showing the best of ourselves and bringing out the best in the people of Lake Hopatcong.
Q: How long have you been working with Princeton Hydro?

When we first started the Lake Hopatcong Foundation in 2012, Dr. Fred Lubnow was kind enough to do a water quality presentation as one of our very first events as an organization! In the years since, we’ve worked closely with Princeton Hydro, particularly in a support role as they conduct business with the Lake Hopatcong Commission. The Lake Hopatcong Commission is a state entity created in 2001 through the Lake Hopatcong Protection Act dedicated to protecting the water quality of Lake Hopatcong and to preserve the natural, scenic, historical and recreational resources of the lake. LHF funded Princeton Hydro’s water quality monitoring during the years that the Commission ran out of money

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

A: In addition to water quality monitoring on the lake, Princeton Hydro has led volunteer training for us in our efforts to prevent the spread of invasive species and to teach local students in our spring field trip program. Dr. Lubnow has also worked alongside us in applying for grants and in providing insight and expertise for other environmental projects at the lake, including helping guide the installation of floating wetland islands, and helping our NJ Lakes Group to work with NJDEP on Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) policies. He even did a quick fact check on our children’s book, Lake Hopatcong Speaks Out, before we published it!

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

A: The days that Chris Mikolajczyk spent teaching our volunteers about how to find and remove water chestnuts from the lake were a lot of fun, particularly because we were kayaking on the lake for it! And, also because the kayak we provided Chris was too small for him, and he had to scrunch in to fit, but he was a trouper and paddled on.

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

A: We are working closely with Princeton Hydro and LHC on a series of projects, funded through NJDEP grants, LHC, LHF, and local governments, that we hope will prevent and mitigate HABs on the lake. Those projects include aeration systems, phosphorus-locking technologies, and stormwater infrastructure upgrades. We’re excited to see how effective each can be. Also, on August 7 at 12:30, Dr. Lubnow will be presenting the Lake Hopatcong water quality monitoring project results at LHF’s “Thirst for Knowledge” lunch-and-learn webinar series, which was created to share information and discuss topics of interest to our lake community. To register for the free webinar, visit lakehopatcongfoundation.org.

[caption id="attachment_5249" align="aligncenter" width="584"]Photo by: Colleen Lyons of the Lake Hopatcong Commission  [/caption] Q: What drives you to want to go to work every day?

A: All of us at Lake Hopatcong Foundation have a passion for this lake and want to see it protected; we have a love for the community that surrounds it, too. Jessica Murphy grew up on the lake, met her husband here, and now is raising her four children to love the lake, too. Donna Macalle-Holly also met her husband on Lake Hopatcong, lives on the lake, and has worked professionally to take care of it for nearly two decades. Everyone in our office has made memories on Lake Hopatcong and developed friendships with those who live and work here. Those personal connections fuel our passion for what we do.

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

A: Continue to be the incredible resource you are! We are so fortunate to have the deep knowledge and expertise that Fred and your entire team provide, and we look forward to continuing to work together in the years ahead.

[caption id="attachment_5286" align="aligncenter" width="576"]  [/caption]

Some recent projects we are/have been working on with LHF include installing biochar bags to help control phosphorus levels and applying Phoslock to help mitigate harmful algal blooms! Because of our history working on Lake Hopatcong, we too have gained a passion for protecting and maintaining this lake. This incredibly important work could not be done without the genuine devotion and dedication from the Lake Hopatcong Foundation. We look forward to continuing great work with this incredible group!

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It’s River’s Month in Pennsylvania! To celebrate, the nonprofit Schuylkill River Greenways, in partnership with Berks Nature, Bartram’s Garden, The Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education, Stroud Water Research Center, and Princeton Hydro launched a new interactive ArcGIS StoryMap web page that reveals local perceptions of the Schuylkill River and documents the ecological status of the main stem through a year-long water quality and trash monitoring project: bit.ly/schuylkillriver. The ultimate goal of this new publicly-available resource is to connect residents and communities with the Schuylkill River and to encourage engagement with this special resource.

“For decades we have heard misgivings from residents throughout the watershed about the water quality of the Schuylkill River, and unfortunately the terrible reputation that the river had from years of polluting continues to linger. But the truth is that today the river is actually quite healthy and clean,” said Tim Fenchel, Deputy Director of Schuylkill River Greenways. “In this project we set out to work with our partners and community members to finally set the record straight with solid data about the health of the river.”

“This project brought together the conservation community and community scientists to understand the water quality and social perceptions of the Schuylkill River,” said Michael Hartshorne, Director of Aquatics at Princeton Hydro. "The results showed that the river, while having challenges as many waterbodies do, is a vibrant corridor that offers many recreational and environmental opportunities for those that live in the region.”

To understand local perceptions of the Schuylkill River’s residents, we first conducted a community opinion survey. Over 300 community members from Berks, Chester, Montgomery, and Philadelphia Counties participated. Overall, we found that a majority of people do care about the river (56%) and bike or walk along it (60%). However, many are not confident whether the river is clean or safe to use for recreational activity, clean enough to swim in, or safe to eat fish from. When asked about the cause of river contamination, an overwhelming majority (85%) cited "Trash and Litter" as the problem. This insight was used to drive the priorities for water quality monitoring and inspired the launch of a new Community Science trash monitoring program.

To determine the ecological status of the river, we collected water quality data for one year. Water temperature, dissolved oxygen, turbidity, and conductivity were continuously measured at four locations. Bacteria sampling for Enterococci coli (E. coli) was also conducted at each station over the course of the study.

“Protecting safe recreational access to rivers and streams is one of the most important contributions we as environmental stewards can make to local communities. This project has made great strides in supporting this cause on the Schuylkill River,” said David Bressler, Project Facilitator at Stroud Water Research Center.

To complement the water quality sampling, the team recruited “Community Scientists” to monitor and measure trash along the river by conducting 5-minute visual assessments. It aimed to document critical areas of trash accumulation or dumping points in order to guide management efforts to better deal with this pollution. Over 100 responses were logged by volunteers. Overall, the results were positive; between 73% and 90% of sites on the main stem of the Schuylkill River were rated as optimal. The participants deemed the study reach to be clean and safe for both human and aquatic life, however, there are certainly locations along the Schuylkill River that could be cleaned up.

The data collected tells the tale of a vibrant river corridor with numerous opportunities for kayaking, fishing, bird watching, hiking, and biking. The dry weather data showed water quality conditions to be ideal during the time periods most people would utilize the river. E. coli concentrations were low, and transparency is high as shown by turbidity levels. Still, the river is constrained within an environment that spans the more agriculturally rich upstream reaches down to urbanized Philadelphia. Agricultural erosion, stormwater, and suburban pollutants are a challenge upstream, while stormwater runoff, litter, and sewer overflows are a primary concern during rainfall events in the more urbanized portions of the river. During rainfall, we measured elevated E. coli, turbidity, and trash which causes poor water quality conditions. However, this should not deter those who love and enjoy the river from using it, understanding that the safest conditions are likely following periods of dry weather.

“Our coordinated monitoring effort has been a special opportunity to capture snapshots of the river from top to bottom at specific points in time. The data we collected drives home that the Schuylkill is by many measures a healthy river bouncing back from intense industrial pollution. Different issues affect different locations along its 135 miles, but we are all connected upstream and downstream!,” said Chloe Wang, River Programs Coordinator at Bartram's Garden. “In addition to our learnings about water quality, having water samples analyzed at both a professional lab and using DIY methods at our own sites helped us to understand the accuracy of the low-cost tools we can use in community science and education programs.”

Additionally, the project partners were able to put the collected data to action by submitting it to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, one of the regulatory agencies responsible for implementing the Clean Water Act for the Schuylkill. “There is so much more to learn about the river, but I hope this work helps people make informed decisions about when to get out on the water, and draws attention to opportunities to continue improving river health,” expressed Wang.

[caption id="attachment_10966" align="alignleft" width="242"] Photo courtesy of Schuylkill River Greenways.[/caption]

The water quality and trash assessment sampling protocol and interactive ArcGIS Story Map was designed by Princeton Hydro, with input from all the project partners. Detailed results and data from the perception and options survey, water quality monitoring, and trash assessment monitoring can be found on the StoryMap.

“Land and water are intrinsically connected – you can’t have healthy landscapes without healthy watersheds. Supporting this relationship is core to Berks Nature’s mission and conservation work, and through our 74-year tenure as Berks County’s land trust, we’ve seen the Schuylkill River flow cleaner and cleaner,” said Michael Griffith, Education & Watershed Specialist at Berks Nature. “We were thrilled to participate in this project not only as an opportunity to deepen our understanding of this regionally significant waterway, but also to shift public perceptions of the Schuylkill River as a community asset.”

“As we had hoped, we found that the river is indeed in great shape and we are now trying to spread the good news that all kinds of recreation on the river are safe and encouraged – including kayaking, boating, and fishing,” said Fenchel. “We have an incredible recreational and environmental asset in this river and we want everyone to know about it.”

This project was truly a team effort, with collaboration and engagement from all project partners. It was funded by the William Penn Foundation who has long been a supporter of this and similar projects throughout the Schuylkill and Delaware River Watersheds.

ABOUT SCHUYLKILL RIVER GREENWAYS: The mission of the Schuylkill River Greenways National Heritage Area is to connect residents, visitors and communities to the Schuylkill River and the Schuylkill River Trail by serving as a catalyst for civic engagement and economic development in order to foster stewardship of the watershed and its heritage.

ABOUT BARTRAM'S GARDEN: Bartram’s Garden is a 45-acre National Historic Landmark, operated by the John Bartram Association in cooperation with Philadelphia Parks and Recreation. It is a destination and an outdoor classroom, living laboratory, and membership organization for ever-expanding audiences―over 95,000 each year and counting.

ABOUT STROUD WATER RESEARCH CENTER: Stroud Water Research Center seeks to advance knowledge and stewardship of freshwater systems through global research, education, and watershed restoration. Since 1967, Stroud Water Research Center has been leading the effort to produce innovative solutions for preserving and restoring fresh water. The organization believes in an independent voice — and in adventure, inspiration, perseverance, and integrity.

ABOUT BERKS NATURE: As a nonprofit conservation organization, Berks Nature has been serving the Berks County community since 1974. Land preservation, water protection, trail management, community gardens, education programs, State of the Environment, Eco-Camp and valued partnerships are at the center of Berks Nature’s work every day.

ABOUT SCHUYLKILL CENTER FOR ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION: Founded in 1965, the Schuylkill Center is one of the first urban environmental education centers in the country, with 340 acres of fields, forests, ponds, and streams in northwest Philadelphia. They work through four core program areas: environmental education, environmental art, land stewardship, and wildlife rehabilitation.

ABOUT PRINCETON HYDRO: Princeton Hydro is committed to improving our ecosystems, quality of life, and communities for the better. The firm was formed in 1998 with the specific mission of providing integrated ecological and engineering consulting services. Offering expertise in natural resource management, water resources engineering, geotechnical design & investigation, and regulatory compliance, their staff provide a full suite of environmental services throughout the Northeast for the public and private sectors.

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