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The Watershed Institute and Princeton Hydro proudly present the inaugural Watershed Restoration Academy - Healthy Streams 101.

This two-day, entry level educational course is designed for water resources professionals (i.e., engineers, scientists, landscape architects, planners, restoration practitioners) seeking to obtain the foundational knowledge essential for advancing in the field of stream restoration.

Led by a licensed professional engineer, fluvial geomorphologist, regulatory experts, and watershed scientists, the course will delve into watershed analysis, stream processes, and site assessments through a balanced blend of classroom lectures and hands-on fieldwork.

What to Expect:

  • Day 1 - Classroom Instruction: Gain invaluable insights and knowledge in a conducive learning environment at The Watershed Center in Pennington NJ. Our expert instructors will cover essential topics, providing you with a solid understanding of stream dynamics and restoration principles.
  • Day 2 - Field Day: Venture into the field for a firsthand experience of stream assessments. Explore both degraded and healthy stream environments under the guidance of our experienced team. Engage in visual and hands-on assessments, collecting data that will be reviewed and analyzed at the close of the course.

Why Attend:

  • Expert Instruction: Learn from licensed professionals who are leaders in their respective fields, ensuring a rich learning experience.
  • Hands-On Experience: Translate theoretical knowledge into practical skills through field activities, setting you apart in your profession.
  • Contribute to Restoration Efforts: Play a vital role in safeguarding our water ecosystems by applying your newfound expertise to real-world scenarios.
  • Continuing Education Credits: Earn up to 13 continuing education credits, applicable for Professional Engineers, Floodplain Managers, and Professional Planners.

Event Details:

  • Location: The Watershed Center at 31 Titus Mill Road, Pennington NJ, 08534
  • Dates: Classroom Instruction: May 9 | Field Day: May 10 (Rain date: May 13)
  • Cost: $598 (Includes breakfast, lunch, field day transportation, and materials)
  • Limited Capacity: Sign-up today! Space is limited.

Don't miss this opportunity to expand your knowledge and make a meaningful impact on stream restoration efforts. Register now to secure your spot. 

Click here to read about the largest stream restoration project in Maryland. We worked with GV-Petro, a partnership between GreenVest and Petro Design Build Group, to restore over 7 miles (41,000 linear feet) of Tinkers Creek and its tributaries.

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Within the intricate network of aquatic ecosystems, the American shad stands as a captivating enigma. This intrigue was recently explored in a webinar hosted by The Watershed Institute titled “The Mysterious World of the American Shad and Work to Bring Them Back to Our Waterways.” Led by The Watershed Institute’s Executive Director Jim Waltman and Princeton Hydro’s Senior Technical Director in Engineering and American shad expert Dr. Clay Emerson PE, CFM, the webinar explored the complex dynamics surrounding this iconic species, including its historical significance, unique migration patterns, and conservation efforts.

As the American shad embark on their annual upstream journey for spawning, the timing is especially poignant for a closer examination of this vital species and an exploration of strategies to safeguard and revive their populations. We invite you to enjoy our blog, which encapsulates the webinar's key insights, and to watch the full recorded session made available by The Watershed Institute.

Fascinating Facts about American Shad

[caption id="attachment_14758" align="alignright" width="317"] The American shad spawning cycle and migration patterns illustrated by Delaware River Basin Commission[/caption]

American shad (Alosa sapidissima) are the largest members of the herring family. Their closest relatives are herring, sardines, and menhadens. They are an anadromous fish species, like salmon and steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss), that live most of their life in the ocean and migrate to freshwater rivers and streams to spawn. The American shad migration routes span vast distances, from the St. Johns River in Florida to the St. Lawrence River in Quebec, showcasing their tenacity and adaptability.

Not only do American shad undertake astonishingly long journeys to spawn, they also showcase distinctive migratory behaviors. Unlike many other anadromous species, these resilient shad can complete multiple round trips from freshwater to the ocean over their lifespan, challenging the conventional notion of 'one and done' spawning observed in Pacific salmon (Oncorhynchus) and sea lamprey (Petromyzon marinus).

Young shad will remain in the rivers where they hatched for several months. Migration out to the ocean typically occurs in late summer in the south, and early fall in the north, typically when the shad are 3-4 inches in size. Then, after 3-6 years of growth at sea, the shad migrate back to fresh water to spawn. Some shad make the journey to their spawning grounds 5-6 times over the course of their lifetime. Shad’s affinity for their birthplace adds a fascinating layer to their story. Approximately 95% of shad return to the rivers where they were hatched, with only 5% straying to unfamiliar waters to spawn.

American shad's unique hearing abilities are another noteworthy aspect. Endowed with specific biological features, shad exhibit exceptional sensitivity to water movements and noise, particularly attuned to sounds like clicks and echolocation. This acute sense plays a vital role in navigating their environment and evading predators such as dolphins.

Such intriguing characteristics make the American shad not only a vital component of aquatic ecosystems but also a subject of admiration and study among enthusiasts and conservationists alike.

Historical Significance

Throughout history, American shad have held a vital place in the cultural heritage and economic prosperity of the United States, earning them the esteemed title of "America's Founding Fish.” Within the Delaware River region, these fish were not merely sustenance but also integral to the fabric of indigenous Lenape culture. During the annual shad migration, rivers and streams overflowing with these prized fish provided essential nourishment and served as valuable fertilizer. Interestingly, in various Native American tribes, folklore depicts the shad as originating from the porcupine, likely owing to the fish's notably bony structure.

In later American history, the significance of shad persisted. Renowned painter Thomas Eakins immortalized the tradition of shad fishing in his iconic 1881 masterpiece "Shad Fishing at Gloucester on the Delaware River," while the state of Connecticut elevated the shad to the status of state fish, further cementing its place in American heritage.

[caption id="attachment_14771" align="aligncenter" width="1162"] This 1871 illustration from Granger Historical Archive depicts fishermen hauling nets of shad at Gloucester on the Delaware River.[/caption]  

Fishing for American shad was among the earliest established industries on the coast of North America, once providing abundant and affordable nutrition to the populace. However, the shad population peaked in the 1940s before experiencing a dramatic decline to its current depleted state.

Despite these challenges, the American shad perseveres as a symbol of resilience. Festivals along the Atlantic Coast, such as the Annual ShadFest in Lambertville, New Jersey, celebrate these fish while also advocating for their protection. Recognizing the historical importance of shad underscores the pressing responsibility to safeguard and preserve our natural heritage for future generations.

Challenges in American Shad Restoration

[caption id="attachment_14759" align="alignright" width="347"] An American shad swimming and feeding in the Delaware River[/caption]

The construction of dams, historic overfishing, and pollution have all played significant roles in the decline of American shad populations.

Dams along the East Coast block access to vital spawning grounds. Currently, a staggering 40% of American shad habitat is obstructed by these barriers, resulting in the loss of more than a third of the population. By removing outdated dams that have outlived their usefulness, we not only improve water quality and natural habitat for myriad species but also reconnect shad to their historic spawning grounds.

Additionally, shad fall victim to inadvertent bycatch in various ocean fisheries. Pollution in our rivers and water quality issues emerge as another critical concern along with fluctuating water temperatures and dissolved oxygen levels that disrupt shad behavior and crucial life cycle events such as migration and spawning. Compounding these issues are the menacing presence of invasive species, which outpace shad in numbers and deplete food resources, posing a significant obstacle to their recovery efforts.

Amidst these challenges, there is hope. River restoration efforts, dam removals, and fish passage projects throughout the East Coast stand as beacons of progress.

Conservation Efforts

Removing obsolete dams, culverts, and other man-made barriers; the implementation of fish passage projects; and river habitat restoration initiatives have shown promising results in directly aiding shad and other migratory aquatic species populations. Highlighted below are a few examples of dam removal initiatives that immediately yielded positive results:

Paulins Kill River

[caption id="attachment_14773" align="aligncenter" width="1720"] Columbia dam pre-removal (June 2018) vs one year after the dam removal (June 2019). Today, the river is healthy and free flowing.(Photo Credit: Columbia Dam Then and Now, Jeff Burian/The Nature Conservancy)[/caption]  

The Nature Conservancy in New Jersey and Princeton Hydro are leading the removal of three outdated dams on the Paulins Kill River: the Columbia Lake Main and Remnant Dams (completed 2019), the County Line Dam (completed 2021), and Paulina Dam (slated for completion 2024). This collaborative effort will reconnect 45 miles of mainstream and tributaries for migratory fish species like American shad. The Columbia Lake Dam removal, New Jersey's largest to date, began in July 2018 and showed promising results even before 100% completion. By April 2019, American shad were spotted 10 miles upstream from the former dam site for the first time in over a century, showcasing the resilience of this incredible species and the success of conservation initiatives.

Musconetcong River

[caption id="attachment_11894" align="aligncenter" width="1720"] Photos by MWA[/caption]  

In November 2016, the Musconetcong Watershed Association (MWA) and Princeton Hydro completed the Hughesville Dam Removal, opening up six miles of the Musconetcong to migratory fish. In the Spring of 2017, schools of American shad were observed above the dam, five miles from the river's confluence with the Delaware River. After an absence of over 250 years, American shad made a triumphant return to the Musconetcong River sparking hope for the future.

Shad serve as a crucial benchmark species, offering valuable insights into the ecological health and diversity of our waterways. Conservation endeavors that facilitate the resurgence of the American shad not only represent a thrilling triumph but also stand as proof-positive of our capacity to assist migratory fish in reclaiming their natural habitats. In doing so, we safeguard their future and preserve the places they call home.

By understanding the biology, historical significance, and primary challenges of the American shad, we can work towards sustainable solutions that benefit both shad populations and the broader ecosystem. We invite you to delve deeper into the fascinating world of American shad by watching the full webinar:  

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Nestled within the New Jersey townships of Hamilton, Robbinsville, and West Windsor lies Miry Run Dam Site 21—an expansive 279-acre parcel with a rich history dating back to its acquisition by Mercer County in the late 1970s. Originally earmarked for flood mitigation and recreation, this hidden gem is on the cusp of a remarkable transformation, poised to unveil its true potential as a thriving public park.

Central to the revitalization efforts is a comprehensive Master Plan, meticulously crafted by Mercer County Park Commission in partnership with Simone Collins Landscape Architecture and Princeton Hydro. This visionary roadmap encompasses a spectrum of engineering and ecological uplift initiatives, including:

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

The Master Plan serves as a long-term vision for improvements to the property and will be implemented over multiple phases. In 2021, it was recognized with the Landscape Architectural Chapter Award from the New Jersey Chapter American Society of Landscape Architects, which underscores its innovative and impactful approach to landscape design.

Phase One is Underway

Now, Dam Site 21’s revitalization has begun with a crucial endeavor: the dredging of its 50-acre lake. This process, spearheaded by Mercer County Park Commission in collaboration with Princeton Hydro, aims to rejuvenate the water body by removing accumulated debris, sediment, and invasive vegetation—a vital step towards restoring its ecological balance. Beyond the aesthetic and ecological improvements, dredging enhances accessibility for recreational activities that provide an opportunity to create a deeper connection between the park’s visitors and its beautiful natural landscape.

Based on the bathymetric assessment, which the Princeton Hydro team completed as part of the Master Plan, the dredging efforts are focused on three primary areas: Area 1 is located in the main body of the lake just downstream of Line Road and will generate approximately 34,000 cubic yards of dredged material; Area 2, which has approximately 4,900 cubic yards of accumulated sediment is located in the northeast cove, just north of Area 1; and Area 3, the northwestern cove, entails the removal of approximately 7,300 cubic yards of accumulated sediment.

This video, taken on February 27, provides an aerial view of the project site and the dredging in progress: [embed][/embed]

Before the dredging work could begin, the Princeton Hydro team was responsible for providing a sediment sampling plan, sample collection and laboratory analysis, engineering design plan, preparation and submission of all NJDEP regulatory permitting materials, preparation of the technical specifications, and bid administration. Currently, our team is providing construction administration and oversight for the project.

[gallery columns="2" link="none" size="medium" ids="14730,14726"] [caption id="attachment_14729" align="aligncenter" width="1227"] March 19 2024 - The dredging work begins[/caption]

From Planning to Implementation and Beyond

The journey towards Dam Site 21's revival has been marked by meticulous planning, design, and community engagement spanning several years. With the commencement of dredging operations, the project's vision is gradually materializing—a testament to the dedication of all stakeholders involved. As the first phase unfolds, anticipation mounts for the realization of a vibrant, inclusive public space that honors both nature and community.

[caption id="attachment_14713" align="aligncenter" width="1280"] Drone image of the Miry Run Dam Site 21 Project (Feb 27 2024)[/caption] [gallery link="none" size="medium" ids="14735,14734,14736"]

As Dam Site 21 undergoes its metamorphosis, it symbolizes not just a physical restoration, but a renewal of collective vision and commitment. Ultimately, Dam Site 21 isn't just a park—it's a testament to the enduring legacy of conservation, community, and the transformative power of restoration.

The significance of Dam Site 21's transformation extends far beyond its recreational appeal. It embodies a commitment to environmental stewardship, with measures aimed at bolstering flood resilience, improving water quality, and nurturing diverse wildlife habitats. By blending conservation with recreation, the project strikes an important balance between creating access for community members to enjoy the space and ecological preservation that puts native plants,  critical habitat, and wildlife at the forefront.

To learn more about the restoration initiative and view the Final Master Plan, visit the Mercer County Park Commission’s website. Click here to learn about another one of Princeton Hydro’s recent restoration efforts. And, stay tuned here for more Mercer County Park Commission project updates!

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The Paulins Kill River, New Jersey’s third largest tributary to the Delaware River, recently marked a significant milestone in its journey to restoration. On November 24, a crucial step was taken with the notching of the Paulina Dam, signaling a pivotal moment in the effort to return the river to its natural state. This initiative, led by The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and supported by a collaborative effort among several organizations, aims to restore the Paulins Kill River ecosystem, improve water quality, and allow native aquatic species to migrate freely.

[caption id="attachment_13988" align="aligncenter" width="2048"] November 24, 2023, the first notch is made in the Paulina Dam. By TNC photographer David Pexton.[/caption]

Understanding the Project

[caption id="attachment_13992" align="alignleft" width="431"] Photo by David Pexton of TNC.[/caption]

Located in Blairstown Township, Warren County, the Paulina Dam has posed challenges to both the river's health and surrounding communities. It was originally constructed 128 years ago to produce hydropower, but has not functioned in that capacity for more than 50 years. Delaware River tributaries do not have the necessary size or flow to meet even a fraction of modern energy needs.

The 13-foot-high, 207-foot-long timber crib, rock-filled structure is classified as a Class II, Significant Hazard Dam due to its proximity to the Township of Blairstown. Its removal or rehabilitation became necessary to mitigate risks to life and property. Additionally, the dam has impeded fish passage along the Paulins Kill River, impacting the habitat for native brook trout and migratory species.

The dam removal and subsequent bank stabilization aims to reconnect over 7.6 miles of mainstream and tributary habitat along the river, and improve aquatic and terrestrial connectivity, improve surface water quality, enhance recreation and public safety, and eliminate the risk of a potential unplanned breach. The removal of the dam will also reconnect upstream and downstream populations of the endangered dwarf wedge and triangle floater mussels while increasing river ecology and public recreation.

Spearheaded by TNC in partnership with Blairstown Township, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s Office of Natural Resource Restoration and Division of Fish and Wildlife, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Princeton Hydro, and Riverlogic-Renova Joint Venture, the project received funding through grants to support the removal of the Paulina Dam. The Office of Natural Resources Revenue (ONRR) awarded a grant to TNC to fund a substantial portion of the removal through the Paulins Kill and Pequest Watershed Natural Resource Restoration Grant Program.

[caption id="attachment_13996" align="alignright" width="1108"] On November 27, 2023, members from the indie pop band Nation of Language visited the site to witness the dam removal team's progress.[/caption]

Notching and Deconstruction

TNC recently completed preliminary notching of the 128-year-old Paulina Dam. From November 24 through December 1, contractors from the Riverlogic-Renova Joint Venture worked in the river using heavy equipment to successfully remove a 40-foot long, six-foot high section of the structure, enabling a controlled release of the water impounded behind it.

Click below to watch as the first notch is made: [embed][/embed]

Notching is performed to dewater gradually, preventing large amounts of sediment from flowing downstream all at once and potentially harming habitat. The gradual deconstruction ensures the river's stability and minimizes environmental disruption. The project team made subsequent reductions of the dam's height by one foot each day, totaling a six-foot reduction. Complete removal of the dam is slated for July through September of 2024.

[gallery link="none" size="medium" ids="13997,13991,13989"]

Reporters from WFMZ 69 News visited the dam removal site to witness the first notch and talk with State Director of TNC in New Jersey Dr. Barbara Brummer, Blairstown Mayor Rob Moorhead, Director of Freshwater Programs at TNC in New Jersey Beth Styler Barry.

“Rivers remember,” said Beth Styler Barry, Director of Freshwater Programs at The Nature Conservancy in New Jersey. “The instant the first notch was made we could already see the Paulins Kill transforming into a more natural shape. Now with six vertical feet taken out, the water that has been stagnant for more than a century is flowing, cooling and aerating, and the natural floodplains are once again exposed and ready to revegetate.”

Click below to watch the full interview:


Princeton Hydro, contracted by TNC to provide site investigation, engineering design, permitting, and construction oversight services for the dam removal, has been working closely with Riverlogic-Renova Joint Venture to complete the deconstruction process.

"The first day of dam demolition is always exciting; seeing the river flowing through the breached Paulina Dam after the first notch was very rewarding," said Paulo Rodriguez Heyman, Managing Member of the Riverlogic-Renova Joint Venture, the team leading the construction for the project. "Removing a high-hazard dam is challenging and requires the unique expertise of working in a dynamic river system. We are honored to be part of this collaborative team."

Embracing the Future

The removal of the Paulina Dam stands as one integral facet of a larger restoration plan initiated in 2013, envisioning the removal of multiple dams along the Paulins Kill River. In removing the Paulina Dam, the downstream-most dam on the Paulins Kill, TNC continues to build upon previous watershed-wide restoration activities that includes removing four dams: the Columbia Lake Main and Remnant Dams (2019), the County Line Dam (2021), and now the Paulina Dam.

This multi-pronged effort includes wetland restoration, land protection, and floodplain reforestation—with more than 60,000 trees planted to date throughout 130 acres of floodplain. TNC has executed a 10-year “measures and monitoring” program, which began in 2016, to track conservation successes. This comprehensive effort brings hope for a rejuvenated and thriving river environment.

“The removal of Paulina Dam is not just about dismantling a structure and removing a safety hazard, but paving the way for a renewed riverine landscape, where the flow of life returns to its natural course,” said Geoffrey M. Goll, PE, President of Princeton Hydro and Engineer-of-Record for the Paulina Dam removal project. “As a mission driven firm, we seek out projects that will have a positive ecological impact. We are proud to share that three of the dam removals that we designed on the Paulins Kill - Paulina Dam, Columbia Lake Dam, and County Line Dam - will reconnect 45 miles of mainstem and tributaries for targeted migratory fish species like American shad, American eel, and sea lamprey.”

Resident fish and other aquatic organisms including mussels and trout will also benefit from habitat and water quality improvements, as will birds, pollinators and land-based animals that rely on the river for survival. [caption id="attachment_14026" align="aligncenter" width="697"] Left to Right: Geoffrey M. Goll, PE of Princeton Hydro; Beth Styler Barry of TNC; and Paulo Rodriguez Heyman of Riverlogic-Renova Joint Venture.[/caption]  

The Paulina Dam Removal will be the final step in the TNC-led restoration of the lands and waters of the Paulins Kill.


As the restoration journey continues, it stands as a testament to the power of collaboration, environmental stewardship, and the dedication of communities and organizations striving to preserve and restore our natural landscapes.

Stay tuned for further updates on the incredible transformation of the Paulins Kill River!

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Princeton Hydro President and Founding Principal Geoffrey M. Goll, P.E. was recently featured on the Native Plants, Healthy Planet Podcast, which is ranked as a Top 20 Nature Apple podcast with 7k+ listeners per month.

Hosts Fran Chismar and Tom Knezick, owners of Pinelands Nursery, invited Geoff on the show to discuss all things dam removal. For Episode 187 titled "The Dam Show" Geoff shared the history of dams and dam removal, the many benefits of removing dams, the challenges around implementing dam removal, recent stories of river restoration success, and helpful resources for anyone looking to learn more.

Click below to listen to the full podcast:  

Princeton Hydro has designed, permitted, and overseen the removal of 84 dams to date. 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 and investigation, and regulatory compliance, their staff provide a full suite of environmental services throughout the Northeast for the public and private sectors. Princeton Hydro is committed to improving our ecosystems, quality of life, and communities for the better.

[post_title] => LISTEN: Princeton Hydro President Geoff Goll, P.E. Discusses Dam Removal on Top 20 Podcast [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => listen-princeton-hydro-president-geoff-goll-p-e-discusses-dam-removal-on-top-20-podcast [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2023-12-12 12:53:44 [post_modified_gmt] => 2023-12-12 12:53:44 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 13963 [post_author] => 1 [post_date] => 2023-11-27 12:03:16 [post_date_gmt] => 2023-11-27 12:03:16 [post_content] =>

The removal of Beatty's Mill Dam stands as a pivotal moment in the conservation efforts along the Musconetcong River. This critical initiative, spearheaded by the Musconetcong Watershed Association (MWA), Washington Township, and the Town of Hackettstown in collaboration with Princeton Hydro and RiverLogic Solutions, marks a significant stride towards rejuvenating the river's natural ecosystem and addressing long-standing concerns regarding flood mitigation and habitat preservation.

[caption id="attachment_13929" align="aligncenter" width="763"] Photo taken November 12, 2023.[/caption]

History of the Beatty’s Mill Dam

Beatty's Mill Dam straddles the border between Warren and Morris Counties in Hackettstown and Washington Township, New Jersey.  It is a 6-foot-high stone masonry, concrete, and earth embankment dam that was built in the 18th century and has been non-functional for decades.

[caption id="attachment_13968" align="alignright" width="419"] Photo of Beatty's Mill Dam (pre-removal) taken from upstream with the East Avenue bridge in the background[/caption]

Beatty’s Mill Dam is a low-head dam, which means it was not built to protect communities from flooding and can make flooding worse in some cases. Hackettstown and Washington Township are also more susceptible to flooding and erosion due to the high percentage of impervious surfaces, like roads and parking lots, which cause higher flows of stormwater runoff.

A dam safety report from 1981 shows that the dam had been breached on the eastern end. The breach caused a hairpin turn where the river is diverted sharply to the east then back to the west before flowing under the East Avenue bridge. Over time, this created erosive conditions at the upstream side of the bridge and roadbed, threatening the integrity of the infrastructure. Additionally, extensive alteration of the floodplain occurred upstream of the dam, including an elevated earthen berm along the left bank, and general land disturbance in both upland and wetlands.

The removal of the dam not only addresses the structural concerns but also holds the promise of extensive environmental improvements. By eradicating barriers to the Musconetcong River's natural flow, restoring the floodplain, and implementing strategies to curb stormwater runoff, this initiative aims to mitigate flooding, promote water quality, and foster a thriving habitat for aquatic organisms including indigenous species like the Eastern Brook Trout and American Eel.

Removing the Dam

With funding from the Highlands Council, Princeton Hydro was contracted in 2019 by Washington Township to complete a water quality assessment, hydrologic and hydraulic analysis, and functional value stream assessment of reaches of the Musconetcong River that encompassed the Beatty’s Mill site (and the downstream Newburgh Dam site). Following the New Jersey Highlands Water Protection and Planning Council guidance, Princeton Hydro assessed and rated the river reaches on five functional values: channel integrity, habitat, water quality, temperature moderation, and public use. The Beatty’s Mill Dam, floodplain encroachment, narrow riparian buffers, and non-native riparian vegetation were the primary sources of impact to the functional values.

Subsequently, Princeton Hydro was contracted by MWA to complete a site investigation, wetland delineation, topographic survey, and preliminary (60%) engineering design for dam removal. Preliminary plans were reviewed by Washington Township and the Town of Hackettstown. In 2023, Princeton Hydro completed the final engineering design, hydrologic and hydraulic modeling, and permitting for the removal of Beatty’s Mill Dam and restoration of the floodplain and provided engineering oversight during construction.

[gallery link="none" columns="2" ids="13938,13939"]  

The removal of Beatty’s Mill Dam was officially completed the week of November 13, 2023!

Princeton Hydro assisted in the removal and restoration, providing engineering plans and project management support. With the dam removed, 2.5 acres of flood plain have been restored; 0.15 mile of stream bank have been stabilized; 0.15 mile of stream bed has been rehabilitated; and total suspended solids in the water have been reduced by 20%.

Michael Allers, Princeton Hydro Restoration Ecologist and licensed FAA-Certified Commercial Drone Pilot, captured these aerial images of the completed project site:

[gallery link="none" columns="4" ids="13934,13933,13932,13931"]

It is projected that there will be significant improvement to the five aforementioned functional values, increased fish passage, enhanced hydraulic conditions at the East Avenue bridge as well as improvements to the river’s pH, temperature, and dissolved oxygen levels.

Removing the dam also supports conformance with the Highlands Regional Master Plan, which is intended to protect, preserve, and enhance precious water resources within the Highlands Region. The project work also includes the restoration of the damaged floodplain, stream banks, and stream bed by planting trees, building up the banks with rocks, and allowing the river to return to its natural flowing channel.

Looking Ahead

This project’s significance extends beyond the immediate environmental impact. Funding from sources like the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation under the Delaware Watershed Conservation Fund and New Jersey’s Highlands Council, along with corporate contributions, underscores its potential to serve as a model for similar restoration projects across the Delaware River Watershed. Such initiatives not only enhance aquatic habitats but also bolster community resilience against flooding and elevate public awareness regarding watershed conservation.

The vision for this restoration effort reflects a collective commitment to revitalize river ecosystems, not just for the immediate region but as part of a broader strategy for conservation. The Beatty's Mill Dam marks the MWA's sixth dam removed on the Musconetcong River since 2008, but it is far from the last. This project aims to set a precedent for sustainable river management and ecosystem preservation.

The removal of Beatty's Mill Dam represents a milestone in the ongoing efforts to restore the Musconetcong River's ecological balance and underscores the collaborative spirit between MWA, local municipalities, various stakeholders, and Princeton Hydro. It serves as a testament to the potential of concerted conservation endeavors to restore the vitality of our waterways and safeguard the natural heritage for generations to come.

The Musconetcong Watershed Association (MWA) is an independent, nonprofit 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. Click here to learn more.

Princeton Hydro has been working with MWA in the areas of river restoration, dam removal, and engineering consulting since 2003. Click here to read our Client Spotlight blog featuring MWA’s Executive Director Cindy Joerger and Communications Coordinator Karen Doerfer.

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An extraordinary effort is underway in the Hudson River Valley—the removal of the Maiden Lane Dam. The towering 25-foot concrete structure, originally built for aesthetic purposes on a tributary to the Hudson River, has been impairing aquatic life and causing an array of negative environmental impacts since its construction in the early 1900s. Now, it is the focus of a project that promises to restore vital aquatic habitats.

Join us as we take a deeper look at the Maiden Lane Dam Removal project, an initiative that has been in the planning phase for nearly five years.

Maiden Lane Dam

Located in the Town of Cortlandt on Furnace Brook, a tributary of the Hudson River, the Maiden Lane Dam was originally built by the former owners of McAndrews Estate. Unlike many dams throughout the country constructed with the primary goals of flood control, hydroelectric power, agricultural irrigation, or navigation of boats, the Maiden Lane Dam was built for aesthetic purposes. Yet the dam's impact extended well beyond its appearance.

The Maiden Lane Dam is the very first dam that fish and aquatic species encounter on Furnance Brook while attempting to travel up the Hudson River to reach foraging habitats and ancestral spawning grounds. The antiquated, unused dam poses a variety of risks to the wildlife restricted by the dam, people who live and recreate near the dam, and the environment surrounding the dam.

The Dam Removal Project Takes Shape

McAndrews Estate, along with the dam, was abandoned in the 1960s, and subsequently, Westchester County Parks assumed control of it. Shortly afterwards, the property was condemned.

In 2021, Princeton Hydro secured a contract with Westchester County to develop and finalize the dam removal engineering plans, secure permitting, and facilitate construction bid procurement. The project work also entailed collecting and analyzing sediment samples, conducting geomorphic assessments, and completing an in-depth hydraulic and hydrologic analysis focusing on potential flooding impacts. The collaboration with key stakeholders, including NYSDEC, Westchester County, and the Town of Cortlandt, ensured the feasibility of this ambitious dam removal endeavor.

The collaboration and careful planning set the stage for the much-anticipated removal of the Maiden Lane Dam.

A Hopeful Future for Hudson River Valley

The significance of this project cannot be overstated. Beyond its historical and ecological significance, the Maiden Lane Dam removal will reconnect approximately 1.5 miles of habitat for fish and other aquatic species. It represents a promising chapter in the ongoing efforts to revitalize Hudson River Valley streams and conserve the region's diverse fish and wildlife.

As we eagerly await the completion of the Maiden Lane Dam removal, the vision of restored aquatic habitats and thriving ecosystems shines brightly on the horizon. The journey of the Maiden Lane Dam Removal project is a testament to dedication, collaboration, and the unwavering commitment to the preservation of our natural environment.

Keep the Dam Removal Conversations Flowing

Princeton Hydro team members Jake Dittes, PE and Duncan Simpson, PWS presented on Hudson Valley Dam removal during the 2023 National Stream Restoration Conference, hosted by the Resource Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the restoration of America's precious waterways. The event, themed "Stream Restoration 2023: Finding Common Ground,” served as an inspiring backdrop for the broader narrative of stream restoration, showcasing the importance of projects like the Maiden Lane Dam removal in preserving our natural treasures.

The Maiden Lane Dam Removal is part of a larger effort, led by Riverkeeper, to restore migratory fish pathways and fisheries in the Hudson River Watershed.

Princeton Hydro has designed, permitted, and/or overseen the removal of 80+ small and large dams in the Northeast. To learn more about fish passage and dam removal efforts in the Hudson River Valley, click here. To learn more about our engineering services, click here.

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In a momentous occasion for environmental conservation, a dam removal on Bushkill Creek is underway, building upon a new era for this cherished limestone stream.

This dam removal marks another important milestone in restoring Bushkill Creek back to its natural, free-flowing state; connecting migratory fish species like alewife and American shad with upstream spawning grounds; and helping to revitalize ecologically-beneficial freshwater mussels colonies and populations of trout and other residential fish species.

Freeing Bushkill Creek One Dam at a Time

Bushkill Creek begins at the foot of Blue Mountain in Bushkill Township, Pennsylvania and flows 22 miles before its confluence with the Delaware River. The limestone stream flows through agricultural and suburban areas, as well as Easton, and supports a large wild brown trout population. It is designated as a “high quality, cold-water fishery” and treasured by anglers and the surrounding community as an important resource in an urban environment.

In 2022, Wildlands Conservancy contracted Princeton Hydro to design, permit, and oversee construction for the removal of four dams along Bushkill Creek. The Crayola Dam, also called Dam #4, was the first of the four dam removal projects to be completed.

The map below shows the location of the next three Bushkill Creek dams being removed:

[caption id="attachment_13253" align="aligncenter" width="571"] Created by Wildlands Conservancy, Contributed by Kurt Bresswein of The Star Ledger[/caption]  

The demolition and removal of Dam #1 commenced on July 7, 2023 and is scheduled for completion in August. The site labeled as Dam #3 is scheduled for demolition and removal later this year. And, the site labeled as Dam #2, is scheduled for removal in the summer of 2024.

Removing nonfunctional, outdated dams from the Bushkill and allowing the creek to return to a natural, free-flowing state will have myriad ecological benefits.

Removing the Bushkill’s First Barrier

Dam #1, the first barrier on the Bushkill, is located directly upstream from the Creek’s confluence with the Delaware River. Previous to this removal process, Dam #1 was the upstream limit for migratory fish like alewife, striped bass, and shad.

Dam #1 is owned by Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania. It spans an impressive length of 90 feet, width of 14 feet, and stands 4-feet high. Having been constructed in 1793, the dam had fallen into a state of disrepair, with crumbling concrete impacting the integrity of the streambank retaining wall. Consequently, the dam and associated impoundment have had detrimental effects on the creek's ecosystem, obstructing fish passage, exacerbating local flooding, and degrading water quality. Professors and students of the College have tried for years to effectuate Bushkill Creek dam removals to improve the aquatic environment.

[caption id="attachment_13174" align="aligncenter" width="694"] View of the Bushkill Dam #1, located in the City of Easton, before the construction crew takes the first notch.[/caption]   [gallery link="none" columns="2" ids="13188,13187"]

By removing the dam, the project team aims to improve water quality, restore the creek back to its natural flowing state, reconnect river habitats that benefit fish and wildlife, and significantly increase biodiversity for the surrounding watershed. The project work also includes stabilizing the streambank, expanding riparian buffers, planting native trees and shrubs to filter runoff, and installing in-stream structures to restore fish habitat, which has numerous and far-reaching ecological benefits. It is important to note that the project's scope involves minimal disturbance, impacting less than one acre of land surrounding the dam.

Watch as the construction team makes the first notch in Dam #1: [embed][/embed] The removal of this specific dam holds profound promise, heralding a transformative era for the ecological well-being of Bushkill Creek. Signs of improvement were immediately visible as the construction team worked to notch out Dam #1: [gallery columns="2" link="none" ids="13177,13171"]   [caption id="attachment_13180" align="aligncenter" width="692"] This photo taken on July 12, 2023 (just 5 days after the first notch) shows great progress being made on the Bushkill Dam removal effort.[/caption] [gallery link="none" columns="2" ids="13265,13264"]

Collaborative Efforts Yield Success

The continued effort to restore Bushkill Creek with the removal of Barrier #1, which has been 10-years in the making, serves as a testament to the unwavering dedication displayed by a diverse array of 20+ stakeholders, including Delaware River Basin Commission, Lafayette College, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, and Princeton Hydro.

According to the Wildlands Conservancy, the initial natural resource damage assessment funding came following a fly ash spill from the Martins Creek Power Plant in 2005. The settlement, which was reached in 2016, totaled $1.3 million, with $902,150 going to the Delaware River Basin Commission for dam removal projects and $50,000 going to the Commission to manage mussel restoration. Additional funding for the overall project came from NFWF's Delaware Watershed Conservation Fund ($2,049,200), and Northampton County's Livable Landscapes program ($100,000).

Princeton Hydro has designed, permitted, and overseen the reconstruction, repair, and removal of 80+ small and large dams in the Northeast. For over a decade, Princeton Hydro has partnered with Wildlands Conservancy to remove dams in the Lehigh River Valley. 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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Welcome to the latest edition of our Client Spotlight series, which provides an inside look at our collaboration, teamwork, and accomplishments with one of our client partners.

Today, we’re shining the spotlight on Citizens United to Protect the Maurice River and Its Tributaries, known commonly as CU Maurice River, a 501(c)3 nonprofit membership organization dedicated to protecting the Maurice River Watershed’s natural integrity and cultural heritage.

The Maurice River, located in south-central New Jersey, was designated a National Wild and Scenic River by Congress in 1993. It draws from a drainage area of 385 square miles and meanders south for 50 miles, through Southern New Jersey primarily in Cumberland County. Headwaters are in parts of Gloucester, Salem, and Atlantic Counties, emptying into the main stem of the Maurice; from there it flows into Delaware Bay. The major tributaries of the river are Scotland Run, Muddy Run, Menantico Creek, Muskee Creek, and the Manumuskin River. There are about 20 small lakes in the watershed, the largest of which is Union Lake at 950 acres.

As South Jersey’s leading watershed organization, CU Maurice River engages in fieldwork, advocacy, research, and education initiatives generating and contributing to a greater understanding of the local environment and wildlife.

For this Client Spotlight, we spoke with CU Maurice River Executive Director Karla Rossini via Zoom:

Q. Tell us a little about CU Maurice River and what makes it unique?



"CU Maurice River is a very grassroots, very local organization. One of our core strengths is community involvement. In everything we do, we try to invite the largest section of community that we possibly can. Whether that’s to participate in educational opportunities or participate in volunteerism or become an advocate of our local resources, we really make it our goal to develop and foster stewardship within the community."

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


"We're very excited about the work we're doing with the WheatonArts & Cultural Center, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization with a mission to engage artists and audiences in an evolving exploration of creativity.

Over the years, CU Maurice River has worked with WheatonArts to design and implement various best management practices throughout its 45-acre campus. We’ve installed vernal pools, purple martin gourds, a blue bird trail, a nature trail, and a massive rain garden. The projects support water resources on site and beyond, revitalize and preserve natural habitats, and provide an invaluable community resource for promoting eco-friendly land management, stewardship, and nature exploration.

WheatonArts and CU Maurice River also launched a four-week nature journaling course, which will take place on Wednesdays and Thursdays, from August 3 to August 25 (2023). Kids get to spend time outdoors while growing their science knowledge, appreciation for nature, and artistic ability. Nature journaling is a way to creatively connect and build a deep, lasting relationship with the natural world.

The CU Maurice River team does the scientific teachings, and the WheatonArts team does the art teachings. So for example, CU Maurice River will teach about the anatomy of a tree, how a tree functions, why an Oak tree produces acorns, and the ecosystem services a tree provides. And, WheatonArts teaches the kids how to draw and paint a tree, how to make an acorn look round, and how to get the shades of the brown tree trunk just right.

Another interesting aspect of the program is that it also highlights the history of communication in nature exploration. Darwin had to draw his pictures to describe his findings. Mary Treat had to draw her discoveries. Audubon had to illustrate his birds. And, let’s face it, most of the best ID books aren’t photo books, they’re illustrated books. So, this program focuses on the importance of art in science."

Q. Can you talk a little about the CU Maurice and Princeton Hydro partnership: 


"The first time I encountered Princeton Hydro was at a Musconetcong River event where Princeton Hydro was presenting on dam removal and the restoration of trout habitat on the Musconetcong. Then, later that year, at the Annual Delaware River Watershed Forum, I met Dana Patterson (Princeton Hydro's Director of Marketing and Communications). We got to talking about a variety of different projects we could explore together, and it's been a really great partnership ever since. I’m pretty sure I've given Dana and Christiana Pollock (Princeton Hydro's Director of Restoration and Resilience) some wacky ideas to figure out, but Princeton Hydro has always been very supportive AND realistic.

Since then, we’ve contracted with Princeton Hydro to do a feasibility study on the Centerton Dam removal. We’re also working with Princeton Hydro to do an ArcGIS StoryMap of the Paddle Trails in the Maurice River Watershed. And, we've got some other exciting things in the works that I'm not at liberty to discuss publicly today, but stay tuned for more great things as a result of CU Maurice River's collaboration with the Princeton Hydro team.

Princeton Hydro has really provided a lot of support and guidance, and I am eternally grateful for their partnership."

Q. How can people get involved in and help support the important work CU Maurice River is doing?



For more CU Maurice River volunteer opportunities and upcoming events, click here.

Q. Do you have anything else you'd like to share with our blog readers about CU Maurice River or yourself?



A big thanks to Karla and CU Maurice River for taking part in our Client Spotlight Series!

To learn more about CU Maurice River, we invite you to visit their website and subscribe to their newsletter.

Click below to check out the previous edition of our Client Spotlight Series featuring George Jackman, PhD, Senior Habitat Restoration Manager for Riverkeeper:

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The Horseshoe Mill Dam, built in 1827, served as the first barrier to fish passage on the Weweantic River in Wareham, Massachusetts. For over 150 years, migratory fish were unable to reach their breeding grounds upstream due to this structure. However, thanks to the efforts of the Buzzards Bay Coalition and its project partners, the dam was successfully removed between December 2019 and February 2021. As early as April 2021, migratory fish were seen swimming unimpeded from Buzzards Bay to lay their eggs in freshwater upstream. A true success story!

This blog explores the Horseshoe Mill Dam removal project and celebrates the significant milestone in the recovery of fish populations and the restoration of ecological processes in the Weweantic River.

A Brief History

The Weweantic River winds its way through the picturesque landscapes of southeastern Massachusetts, spanning a length of 17.0 miles. This land is the traditional territory of the Wampanoag/Wôpanâak tribes. Derived from the Wampanoag language, Weweantic means "crooked" or "wandering stream."

Originating from the wetlands in Carver, the river flows in a southerly direction meandering through swampy birch and maple forests in Middleborough and Rochester. Eventually, it empties into a Buzzards Bay estuary near the mouth of the Sippican River in Wareham. The river's watershed covers approximately 18,000 acres, with numerous cranberry bogs situated in its upper sections.

Although the Weweantic River historically teemed with fish, the presence of the Horseshoe Mill Dam posed an obstacle to fish passage. The dam, spanning the Weweantic River at the head-of-tide, was built in 1827 to support a metal forge mill. Although it was once part of the infrastructure that supported Wareham’s economy, it had been decommissioned and left crumbling for decades. The defunct dam restricted to tidal inundation, hindered the migration of important fish species, and impacted riverine ecological processes.

Ecological Importance of the Weweantic River

The Weweantic River is the largest tributary to Buzzards Bay and provides 20 percent of all freshwater flow into Buzzards Bay. The meeting of salinity and nutrients through the tidal flow creates a vibrant ecosystem. It supports diverse communities of wetland species and a variety of non-migratory and migratory fish species, including river herring, white perch, and American eel. It is also home to the southernmost population of rainbow smelt in the United States, marking a significant change from a century ago when rainbow smelt were found as far south as the Chesapeake Bay. In the 1960s, smelt populations were even present in the Hudson River in New York.

Further highlighting the ecological significance of the Weweantic River and its surrounding watershed are the unique tidal freshwater wetland plant communities. The wetland areas surrounding the Horseshoe Mill Dam site contained two rare wetland plants, Parker's Pipewort (Eriocaulon parkeri) and Pygmyweed (Crassula aquatica), both of which are designated as priority habitats for rare species.

[gallery columns="2" size="medium" link="none" ids="14279,14281"]

Additionally, situated along the shore of Buzzards Bay and the Weweantic River is the Cromeset Neck & Mark's Cove Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary. The 47-acre wildlife sanctuary consists of three separate parcels within one mile of each other. Salt marsh comprises most of the wildlife sanctuary, and the property also contains approximately six contiguous acres of coastal woodland.

Restoration Efforts and Project Phases

The Horseshoe Mill Dam removal project involved several phases to achieve its restoration goals.

An inspection of the dam, conducted in 2009, rated its condition as unsatisfactory and noted significant concrete deterioration and erosion. The dam also included a former concrete-walled mill race that was in a state of disrepair, with collapsed walls and obstructed channels. The Buzzards Bay Coalition acquired the 10-acre Horseshoe Mill Dam property in 2012 to preserve it, provide public access, and pursue river restoration.

In 2016, the Buzzards Bay Coalition contracted Princeton Hydro to provide an Alternatives Analysis for the Weweantic River restoration project and a Fish Passage Feasibility Study for the dam. The analysis included a thorough site investigation, historical data review, sediment evaluation, hydrologic and hydraulic analysis, and ecological assessment. The five options considered in the analysis were:

  1. No action;
  2. Structural dam repair with a fish ladder;
  3. Dam lowering with a nature-like fishway;
  4. Partial dam removal with an extended riffle; or
  5. Complete dam removal.

The analysis ultimately helped the Buzzards Bay Coalition determine that a complete dam removal offered the most favorable ecological and economic outcomes.

[caption id="attachment_12821" align="aligncenter" width="789"] The removal of Horseshoe Mill Dam commences on a snowy day in December 2019.[/caption]  

Princeton Hydro, contracted by the Buzzards Bay Coalition, provided site investigation, engineering design, permitting, and construction oversight services for the dam removal. With funding from the Bouchard 120 Natural Resource Damage Trustee Council and collaboration with various agencies, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA, the dam removal commenced in December 2019 and was successfully completed in early 2021. Just months later in April 2021, for the first time in 150+ years, migratory fish were once again spotted swimming unimpeded from Buzzards Bay to lay their eggs in freshwater upstream.

Since the completion of the dam removal, Buzzards Bay Coalition Restoration Ecologist Sara da Silva Quintal has been consistently visiting the site and monitoring the positive changes taking place. Her observations include vegetation changes, signs of migratory fish spawning, and the geomorphic evolution of the landscape. She shared a series of Nearmap images that demonstrate how the landscape is positively adjusting to the barrier removal:

Celebrating Conservation Success

The completion of the Horseshoe Mill Dam removal project marks a significant achievement in the restoration of fish passage and the preservation of ecological function in the Weweantic River. Through the collaborative efforts of the Buzzards Bay Coalition, government agencies, and project partners, migratory fish can now freely swim upstream to their breeding grounds.

The restoration effort rejuvenated more than three miles of the Weweantic River and restored migratory fish passage. The dam removal enhanced riverine, wetland, and tidal habitat critical to a diverse group of aquatic, wildlife and plant species. It allowed for the natural extension of upriver habitat for two rare tidal plant species, ensuring their long-term survival. The restoration work also enhanced public access to the area by increasing walking trails and constructing canoe/kayak launches, promoting recreational opportunities, and fostering a deeper connection between people and the river.

[caption id="attachment_12824" align="aligncenter" width="710"] Photo taken on November 2022[/caption]  

In an article written by Kasey Silvia in November 2021, the Vice President for Watershed Protection at Buzzards Bay Coalition, Brendan Annett, was quoted as saying, “Removing this dam has immediately improved the natural functions of the Weweantic, undoing many years of environmental damage and it has already begun to bring the river back to life.”

The success of this project serves as a testament to the importance of collaborative conservation efforts in safeguarding and restoring our natural resources.

Princeton Hydro is a leader in dam removal in the Northeast, having designed and removed 80 dams. To view additional dam removal projects that we have completed, click here. For more information on our dam removal services, contact us here. [post_title] => Restoring Fish Passage and Ecological Function: The Horseshoe Mill Dam Removal Project [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => horseshoe-mill-dam-removal-project [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2024-01-18 03:08:36 [post_modified_gmt] => 2024-01-18 03:08:36 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [10] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 12550 [post_author] => 1 [post_date] => 2023-05-16 14:22:25 [post_date_gmt] => 2023-05-16 14:22:25 [post_content] =>

In the late 1920s, the U.S. government began allocating funds for road construction in U.S. national forests. This led to hundreds of thousands of culverts being built and installed across the country for the purpose of moving water quickly and efficiently underneath the roadways to prevent flooding, minimize erosion, and provide pathways for stormwater.

However, culverts have had an unintended and significant consequence: they block the migration routes of some fish and aquatic organisms.

Culverts that are undersized, improperly placed, or designed with smooth featureless surfaces can impede or totally block fish and aquatic species from passing. Culverts with extremely high velocity flows make it incredibly difficult for aquatic organisms to navigate upstream, and extremely low velocity flows make it hard for fish to pass in either direction. The high-velocity flows can erode the stream channel immediately downstream of the culvert, which can leave the culvert pipe perched. This elevation above the water channel makes it impossible for organisms to pass through. Debris can also collect in the culvert, not only blocking fish passage, but water as well.

In addition to blocking the upstream passage of fish and other aquatic species, some culverts disrupt the normal stream movements of some macroinvertebrates, which are key components of these stream ecosystems, an important food source to countless species, and play a critical role in the cycling of energy and nutrients throughout stream ecosystems. Disruptions to the movement and dispersal of stream macroinvertebrates can reduce available habitat, lead to genetic isolation of some populations, and cause extirpation of critical species. When populations splinter, it causes a reduction in genetic diversity, which can lead to the spread of more invasive species and many other ecological issues.

[caption id="attachment_12565" align="aligncenter" width="411"] Diagram created by NOAA Fisheries[/caption]  

While culverts serve an important function in road construction and flood prevention, their impact on aquatic organisms must be taken into consideration. Finding solutions that both allow for efficient water flow and enable safe aquatic migration is crucial in preserving the health of our waterways and their ecosystems.

Addressing outdated, unsafe, and obsolete culverts

A shift in the 1980s recognized the importance of redesigning road-stream crossings for several reasons, including restoring aquatic organism passage and maintaining flood resilience. Between 2008 and 2015, U.S. Forest Service (USFS) partnered with more than 200 organizations in the Legacy Roads and Trails Program to replace 1,000+ culverts across the country. The aim of the program was to upgrade culverts to emulate natural streams and to allow fish and wildlife to pass more naturally both upstream and downstream.

Replacing culverts with structures that better facilitate the movement of both water and aquatic organisms has benefits beyond restoring critical ecosystems and improving biodiversity. Ecological restoration creates jobs, stimulates outdoor recreation and local economic activity, and generates long-term economic value.

Princeton Hydro has a strong history in designing connectivity-friendly road-stream crossings and restoring/replacing outdated culverts. Our team of engineers and scientists has been directly involved with hundreds of stream and ecosystem restoration projects throughout the Northeast.

For several years, Princeton Hydro has partnered with NY-NJ Harbor & Estuary Program (HEP) to plan and design for aquatic connectivity through climate-ready infrastructure. Created by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) at the request of the governors of New York and New Jersey, HEP develops and implements plans that protect, conserve and restore the estuary, and aquatic connectivity is a key focus area for HEP and its partners.

Most recently, HEP partnered with Princeton Hydro to address hydraulic capacity issues at priority road-stream crossings in New Jersey’s South River and Lower Raritan River watersheds. The Princeton Hydro team developed a 30% engineering plan for a priority road-stream crossing – the Birch Street crossing over the Iresick Brook in Old Bridge, NJ.

Iresick Brook Culvert Restoration

Iresick Brook is upstream from Duhernal Lake, located at the end of the free-flowing South River, which feeds into the Raritan River, and ultimately flows into Raritan Bay. Duhernal Lake is dammed at the outlet so there is little to no connectivity downstream from the Iresick Brook sub-watershed. The watershed is highly dendritic (meaning the drainage pattern follows a tree-like shape) with many small streams running through it, some of them ephemeral.

The Iresick Brook 5 (IB5) culvert, located in Old Bridge Township, New Jersey, is an undersized double culvert in poor condition with an eroding streambank. This culvert was chosen as a restoration priority primarily due its inadequate sizing (both pipes are only 3-feet in diameter). The outdated infrastructure blocks the passage of fish and other aquatic organisms, and it can only accommodate a 50-year storm event.

Once the IB5 culvert was identified as the priority site, Princeton Hydro completed a site investigation, which included a geomorphic assessment, site observations, and simplified site survey of the channel alignment, profile, and cross sections both upstream and downstream of the culvert.

At the time of the survey, flow was only a couple inches deep in the channel and incredibly slow-moving, especially in the upstream reach. Despite the low flow at the time of the survey, during storm events, the stream experiences extremely high velocities. The undersized culvert creates hydraulic constriction and subsequently a velocity barrier that prevents passage. Additionally, when the high-flow stream water is forced through the small pipes, it creates a firehose effect, which has led to the formation of a 60-foot-long scour hole at the culvert outlet. Substrate from the scour hole has been washed downstream, forming an island of large sand and small gravel.

Approximately 155 feet upstream of the culvert is a channel-spanning v-notch weir comprised of a combination of sheet pile and timber. The weir appears to be a historical stream gauge that is highly degraded and creates an artificially perched channel. The upstream channel also contains woody debris, which gets caught at the culvert, blocking water flow and organism passage.

For the design process, Princeton Hydro used the USFS Stream Simulation Design, an gold-standard ecosystem-based approach for designing and constructing road-stream crossings that provide unimpeded fish and other aquatic organism passage through the structure. The Stream Simulation, a required standard on USFS road projects, integrates fluvial geomorphology concepts and methods with engineering principles to design a road-stream crossing that contains a natural and dynamic channel through the structure so that fish and other aquatic organisms will experience no greater difficulty moving through the structure than if the crossing did not exist.

The design also incorporated utility constraints (gas line, sewer line, drinking water main, and stormwater outlet), a longitudinal profile assessment, channel capacity and slope analysis, and a simplified hydrologic & hydraulic assessment.

Ultimately, Princeton Hydro recommended that HEP replace the existing culvert with a Contech Precast O-321 culvert, or similar alternative. The proposed design increases the culvert opening area and allows for significant increases in flow capacity. This culvert replacement project has the potential to reduce local flood risk and restore aquatic organism passage to the reach of Iresick Brook.

To get a more detailed look at the IB5 culvert project and learn more about HEP and its partnership with Princeton Hydro, click below for a full presentation from Isabelle Stinnette of HEP and Jake Dittes, PE of Princeton Hydro: [embed][/embed]

Prioritizing Culvert Restoration

Aquatic connectivity is crucial for improving healthy aquatic ecosystems and managing severe storms and flooding. Increases in rainfall due to climate change makes investing in these improvements even more of a growing priority. With so many culverts in place, it can be difficult to know which culvert restoration projects to prioritize.

We worked with HEP to create a toolkit for addressing problematic road-stream crossings. The easy-to-use matrix helps to prioritize potential projects and identify solutions for problem culverts and relative cost solutions.

The toolkit was just recently released to the public with the hope that it will be used as a template to promote the development of more resilient and environmentally-friendly infrastructure.

Click here to get more info and download.

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The Watershed Institute and Princeton Hydro proudly present the inaugural Watershed Restoration Academy - Healthy Streams 101.

This two-day, entry level educational course is designed for water resources professionals (i.e., engineers, scientists, landscape architects, planners, restoration practitioners) seeking to obtain the foundational knowledge essential for advancing in the field of stream restoration.

Led by a licensed professional engineer, fluvial geomorphologist, regulatory experts, and watershed scientists, the course will delve into watershed analysis, stream processes, and site assessments through a balanced blend of classroom lectures and hands-on fieldwork.

What to Expect:

  • Day 1 - Classroom Instruction: Gain invaluable insights and knowledge in a conducive learning environment at The Watershed Center in Pennington NJ. Our expert instructors will cover essential topics, providing you with a solid understanding of stream dynamics and restoration principles.
  • Day 2 - Field Day: Venture into the field for a firsthand experience of stream assessments. Explore both degraded and healthy stream environments under the guidance of our experienced team. Engage in visual and hands-on assessments, collecting data that will be reviewed and analyzed at the close of the course.

Why Attend:

  • Expert Instruction: Learn from licensed professionals who are leaders in their respective fields, ensuring a rich learning experience.
  • Hands-On Experience: Translate theoretical knowledge into practical skills through field activities, setting you apart in your profession.
  • Contribute to Restoration Efforts: Play a vital role in safeguarding our water ecosystems by applying your newfound expertise to real-world scenarios.
  • Continuing Education Credits: Earn up to 13 continuing education credits, applicable for Professional Engineers, Floodplain Managers, and Professional Planners.

Event Details:

  • Location: The Watershed Center at 31 Titus Mill Road, Pennington NJ, 08534
  • Dates: Classroom Instruction: May 9 | Field Day: May 10 (Rain date: May 13)
  • Cost: $598 (Includes breakfast, lunch, field day transportation, and materials)
  • Limited Capacity: Sign-up today! Space is limited.

Don't miss this opportunity to expand your knowledge and make a meaningful impact on stream restoration efforts. Register now to secure your spot. 

Click here to read about the largest stream restoration project in Maryland. We worked with GV-Petro, a partnership between GreenVest and Petro Design Build Group, to restore over 7 miles (41,000 linear feet) of Tinkers Creek and its tributaries.

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