Mile Run Brook Clean-up 2018: The Video!

On May 12, 2018 more than 150 people joined the Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership, Greater Brunswick Charter School, Esperanza Neighborhood Partnership, Friends of Mile Run Brook and Elmwood Cemetery for a multi-site community clean-up and celebration of New Brunswick’s Mile Run Brook. The clean-up was enlivened by our roving “Trash Troubadour” – Dave Seamon – who engaged our volunteers with song and stories as they cleaned-up the stream.

Our Trash Troubadour traveled with a large sculptural bread-and-puppets style bottle (made from trash found during prior clean-ups) that clean-up volunteers covered with messages of environmental hope. With thanks to all the volunteers for a great day of stewardship and celebration. And huge thanks to filmmaker Jessica Dotson for capturing this story of our wonderful New Brunswick, NJ community.

Raritan River pathogens report for 9.12.2019

Raritan River Enterococci results for 8.1.2019, for six non-swimming beach public access sites. Enterococci results are reported in Colony Forming Units or CFUs. Suitable levels for enterococci should not exceed 104cfu/100mL. **Please note: these results are preliminary and awaiting Quality Control.**

Know before you swim/paddle/fish! See here for more information about our citizen science program, and to get involved.

#NYNJCitizenScience #NYNJCommunityScience

We must put biodiversity on the agenda for our urban areas

The LRWP is often asked to identify top environmental issues facing our Central New Jersey watershed communities, and every year we develop a “Top 10” list of concerns. Through 2019 we feature these concerns in blog posts that explore the issues (and potential solutions) in more detail. In September we consider how loss of biodiversity reduces the ability of our local urban ecosystems to cope with threats from pollution, climate change and other human activities. Taking steps to increase local biodiversity should be on the agenda of every urban municipality in the state.

For humans, the mental and physical health and well-being, air purifying, water filtering, and other benefits of nature matter most in the places they live. Densely populated regions in New Jersey, like the Lower Raritan Watershed, are home to the majority of the state’s residents. Concentrating populations in cities, where ecological footprints per capita are lower, spares land from development and is favorable for overall global biodiversity. Biodiversity is not just an issue for rural land managers. Biodiversity matters for our cities, too. Increasing biodiversity should be on the agenda of every urban municipality in the state.

The average population density of the United States is 87 people per square mile. The average population density of US metropolitan areas (MSA) is 283 people per square mile. In 2010 in the Lower Raritan Watershed the average population density was 2,347 people per square mile, making it one of the most densely populated regions in the country.

The first “Intergovernmental Assessment of Biodiversity Summary for Policymakers”, released in May 2019, paints a grim picture. At least 1 million species face short term extinction. Declines in biodiversity link to reductions in food supply, fresh water, wood, fiber, genetic resources, medicines and more. Around the world, rates of change in nature are unprecedented, with complex causes including changes in land and sea use; direct exploitation of organisms; climate change; and pollution.

Although threats are greatest in the Global South, our central New Jersey urban watershed is not immune. Loss of forest and freshwater wetland habitat compromise water quality and food sources. Loss of coastal wetland habitat reduces coastal protections, increasing the risk from floods and hurricanes to livelihood, life and property. Loss of soil integrity threatens our “Garden State” status.

The image series below shows an increase in impervious cover in the Lower Raritan Watershed between the years 1995-2012. We see an increase in hard surfaces like roadways, parking lots and roofs over time. What are these hard surfaces replacing? Significant swatches of bio-diverse natural habitat.

An increase in impervious cover is especially hard on our local streams, many of which have already been completed culverted, buried, or otherwise covered up. Increases in impervious cover also negatively impact the surrounding flora and fauna that is crucial to ecosystem health. We know that ecosystems with a wide variety of plants and animals tend to be healthier than those with low levels of biodiversity, and healthy ecosystems are better able to adapt to changing conditions like sea level rise and climate change. We also know that biodiversity provides a significant volume of ecosystem services to urban residents, helping to buffer against nuisances generated by the cities themselves. Those of us who live in urban areas experience directly how green areas of different types provide space for recreation, social contacts, experiencing nature, and education. And we benefit from these spaces in other ways as they filter pollutants, purify water, mitigate flooding, reduce noise and buffer climate extremes like heatwaves.

The image below illustrates the diversity of natural features in the Lower Raritan Watershed. These features include state and federal threatened and endangered species, significant natural habitats as part of the NY-NJ Harbor Estuary, and juxtaposition of geologic features tapering from the volcanic basalt trap rock of the Watchung Mountains in the north, to the Piedmont, to the Coastal Plain.

Pairing the map series that traces changes in impervious cover between 1995-2002 with the map above which shows our remaining environmentally sensitive habitat areas, we see clearly that the special bio-diverse lands we do have left are incredibly vulnerable to being disturbed or degraded by human activities and developments.

Documents like the Intergovernmental Assessment of Biodiversity (2019) and the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 developed out of The Convention on Biological Diversity (2010), provide broad policy guidance that points us in the direction of future biodiversity targets. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Fish and Wildlife developed the State Wildlife Action Plan (2018), providing guidance for diverse entities in cooperation across ownerships to conserve and restore habitat and connect lands and waters. These documents focus significantly on conservation and preservation of undeveloped and vulnerable lands. To be sure, they are important tools and resources on the path to a more bio-diverse New Jersey, nation and planet, but little of the guidance they provide directly informs policy choices and personal action for our urban landscapes.

The Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership believes that in addition to broad policy guidance for conservation and preservation, we need a fundamental shift in collective perspective to see that in the fight to protect biodiversity, cities matter too. With the right form and organization, urban areas can provide significant opportunities to biodiversity, including hosting rare and endangered species and habitat types.

Any shift in perspective must involve broadening our understanding of what “nature” is in cities to include a variety of typically forgotten or neglected spaces. Detention and retention basins, brownfields and contaminated sites, vacant lots, roadside and streamside buffer areas, community gardens, and cemeteries are all potential reservoirs of urban diversity. Much of our work in the Lower Raritan revolves in and around these types of neglected spaces, and much of our work involves implementing Nature Based Solutions and Green Infrastructure. We have adopted Nature Based Solutions and Green Infrastructure approaches because they bring considerations for biodiversity and healthy ecosystem function back to our urban areas and their critical density of population. We believe that by implementing these concepts in our cities, linking healthy ecosystem function in the urban core to its broader watershed, we can center biodiversity at the heart of wider spatial planning and spatial policy making.

8.22.2019 Pathogen Monitoring Results

Raritan River Enterococci results for 8.22.2019, for six non-swimming beach public access sites. Enterococci results are reported in Colony Forming Units or CFUs. Suitable levels for enterococci should not exceed 104cfu/100mL.

**Please note: these results are preliminary and awaiting Quality Control.**

August 15, 2019 Raritan River monitoring results

Raritan River Enterococci results for 8.15.2019, for six non-swimming beach public access sites. Enterococci results are reported in Colony Forming Units or CFUs. Suitable levels for enterococci should not exceed 104cfu/100mL.

**Please note: these results are preliminary and awaiting Quality Control.**

Raritan River Pathogens Monitoring Results 8.7.2019

Raritan River Enterococci results for 8.8.2019, for six non-swimming beach public access sites. Enterococci results are reported in Colony Forming Units or CFUs. Suitable levels for enterococci should not exceed 104cfu/100mL.

**Please note: these results are preliminary and awaiting quality control.**

Please see this article for more information on our Summer 2019 monitoring project.

Raritan River Monitoring Results for August 1, 2019

Raritan River Enterococci results for August 1, 2019 for six non-swimming beach public access sites along the Raritan River. Enterococcus results are reported in Colony Forming Units or CFUs. Suitable levels for Enterococcus should not exceed 104cfu / 100mL. TNTC = Too Numerous To Count. 

**Please note: these results are preliminary and awaiting Quality Control**

Raritan River Pathogens Results 7.18.2019

Raritan River Enterococci results for 7.18.2019, for six non-swimming beach public access sites along the Raritan River. Enterococci results are reported in Colony Forming Units or CFUs. Suitable levels for enterococci should not exceed 104cfu/100mL. TNTC = too numerous to count.  **Please note: these results are preliminary and awaiting Quality Control.**

Field Trip Recap: July 15 Green Infrastructure Tour

Middlesex County Extension Agent Michele Bakacs explains shoreline restoration to our group.

Many thanks to everyone who joined the LRWP and Middlesex County Water Resources Association for a picnic and tour of green infrastructure and detention basins in Middlesex County!

Rutgers County Extension Agent Michele Bakacs and Rutgers Doctoral Student and plant expert Kate Douthat provided guidance as we explored several sites in Middlesex County’s Thompson Park (Monroe Township), a retention basin retrofit site in Monmouth County, and a new rain garden at Spotswood Middle School.

Lake buffer restoration was the highlight at Thompson Park (more information on this project is available on the Freehold Soil Conservation District project webpage). This area is also part of the Watershed Protection and Restoration Plan for the Manalapan Brook Watershed one of the southernmost sub-watersheds in the Lower Raritan watershed.

For more info on wetland islands….

Additional general resources on Green Infrastructure include the following:

Overview of Green Infrastructure practices (brochure)- http://water.rutgers.edu/Green_Infrastructure_Guidance_Manual/GI-Brochure_PRINT-FRIENDLY.pdf

Rain Garden Manual of New Jersey- http://water.rutgers.edu/Rain_Gardens/RGWebsite/RainGardenManualofNJ.html

Manalapan Watershed Restoration videos- www.tinyurl.com/ManalapanWatershed

More technical resources include:

Green Infrastructure Guidance Manual- http://water.rutgers.edu/GreenInfrastructureGuidanceManual.html

NJ’s Developers Green Infrastructure Guide (NJ Future)- https://developersguide.njfuture.org/

NJDEP’s maintenance guidance for stormwater- https://www.njstormwater.org/maintenance_guidance.htm

Butterflies in the rain garden.

Meet LRWP Board Member Doriann Kerber!

Interview by April Callahan, Rutgers Raritan Scholar

Doriann Kerber is Councilwoman for the Borough of Milltown, NJ, and serves as Treasurer for the Middlesex County Water Resources Association. She is also active with Jersey Water Works, and with the Milltown and East Brunswick Green Teams. She took time out of her busy schedule for an interview about Green Infrastructure outreach in the watershed, and her vision for improving environmental education to benefit the health of our watershed communities.

Doriann Kerber receiving the Sustainable Raritan River Initiative 2019 Award for “Outstanding Achievement in Stewardship” for the Lower Raritan.

AC: Where are you from in the Lower Raritan Watershed? In your time here, how have you engaged in and explored the area?

DK: I am from Milltown and we have a sub-watershed, Lawrence Brook Watershed, that I enjoy exploring. In 2014 I volunteered to be on the Middlesex Water Resources Association and I heard about the Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership. I feel strongly about cleaning up the waterways just like anyone else in my town, and feel that we should all take part in caring for our waterways. I got involved with the LRWP to do just that.

AC: What, in your opinion, are the primary issues that need to be addressed in the watershed?

DK: Continuous cleanups are important for all areas of the watershed. Every town in the watershed should have annual clean-ups! And education/outreach is so important. We need folks to understand that the land use choices they make, that their consumption and disposal choices affect their water and environment. If they want cleaner water and a better quality of life, then they need to make good choices and help take care of our waterways.

AC: What is your vision for the LRWP?

DK: I will be assisting with cleanups, but also helping with outreach events. I want the organization to get more media coverage, more speaking engagements, and attract more people from all walks of life to enjoy bicycling, walking, our natural spaces.

AC: I understand you are training with Rutgers Cooperative Extension to deliver Green Infrastructure outreach for area municipalities. Can you tell me more about that?

DK: Rutgers Cooperative Extension offers a “Green Infrastructure Champion” training Program, which I went through. This training allows me to be able to assess green infrastructure in towns and municipalities. For example, I met with the General Manager of the Brunswick Square Mall to discuss stormwater management improvements that will also make the area more attractive. I have training to assist four different groups: resident, commercial, government and nonprofit. In addition to working in Milltown and East Brunswick I can work throughout Middlesex County and the Lower Raritan Watershed.

AC: What do you see as the most important actions Town Council members can take in their home communities to improve overall watershed health?

DK: Environmental education and outreach is so important. We need Town Councils to show how everybody plays a part in improving watershed health, and give them the tools and know-how to make a difference. It’s not just the town, or the water treatment center, or the wastewater treatment center that is responsible for water management. Everybody plays a role!

AC: Is there anything else you would like to add? 

DK: I think the Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership has really grown in the last four years. I want it to be recognized throughout the county and throughout the state, and hope that the work we do will get more people involved in their local watersheds.

July 11, 2019 Raritan River Pathogens Report

Water quality (Enterococci) results are in for Thursday, July 11 for six non-swimming beach public access sites along the Raritan River. See here for more information on our Summer 2019 monitoring program.

Enterococci results are reported in Colony Forming Units or CFUs. 
Suitable levels should not exceed 104 cfu/100mL.

Enterococci levels are used as indicators of the possible presence of disease-causing bacteria in recreational waters. Such pathogens may pose health risks to people fishing and swimming in a water body. Sources of bacteria include Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs), improperly functioning wastewater treatment plants, stormwater runoff, leaking septic systems, animal carcasses, and runoff from manure storage areas. Enterococci levels are often high after heavy or consistent rainfall.

Huge thanks to our the EARTH Center of Middlesex County, to Jesse Stratowski and his team at the Rutgers Boathouse, and to our wonderful volunteers.

**Please note: these results are preliminary and awaiting Quality Control.**

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