LRWP 2023 Recap

Dear Friends of the Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership –

A few highlights of the year are detailed below. Our accomplishments are realized with many thanks to you for the gifts of time and financial support. WE WELCOME YOUR DONATIONS! With gratitude for your continued support!!

Water Quality Monitoring: Raritan River Pathogens Sampling

The LRWP, Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Middlesex County and Interstate Environmental Commission completed year five of civic science pathogens sampling along the Raritan River. 2023 waters were the cleanest yet! Real time data is posted in English & Spanish:

Huge thanks to Volunteer Coordinator Jocelyn Palomino (far left) and Fahrenfeld Lab Researcher Genevieve Ehasz (far right) and some of our wonderful Summer 2023 volunteer water quality monitors!!

We Built Two Boats, and Launched Them!

Boat Build Leads Derek Hartwick, Brian Smith and dozens of youth and community volunteers helped build, and launch a cedar strip rowing scull and a canoe. Boat builds continue in 2024:  


Coming on the heels of recognition as a NJ State Governor’s Jefferson Awards Honoree, in November the LRWP received the Franklin Township Council and Environmental Commission 2023 Environmental Stewardship Award. Hooray!

Watershed Restoration

TY to the Cornell Dubilier Superfund Settlement Trustees for project funding – we hired our first employee! Welcome Clare Levourne, who will provide oversight for Trash Trap implementation in the Green Brook at Dunellen! 

Environmental Education & Outreach, Arts Engagement

With thanks to a wonderful Summer Institute partnership with coLAB Arts, several hundred students learned about their local environment and how to #lookfortheriver for six weeks over summer break. Students learned about their local environment and how to #lookfortheriver. We reconvened in October for a public flash mob of “The Run Off” where participants performed as…you guessed it…stormwater flows! (stay tuned for the film version in 2024).

Upcoming in 2024: please join us for water quality monitoring, paddles “hidden streams” walking tours, environmental education, clean-ups, rain barrel builds, and so much more: 

With gratitude for your continued support.

The Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership Board

Meet LRWP Board Member Alex Zakrewsky!

Interview conducted by Rutgers Spring 2024 Intern Maxim Pavon

Maxim Pavon: What is your earliest or most impactful memory with the Raritan (watershed)?

Alex Zakrewsky: Having grown up in the Raritan River Watershed, I have many boyhood memories of playing in its tributaries. As a free-range kid, my buddies and I would often walk unescorted to local streams to fish, turn over rocks to find crawdads, and build temporary stone and mud dams across rivulets. Hours would pass like minutes as we were totally engrossed in observing and interacting with the moving water and the plants and animals it supported. Sometimes a misstep (a “soaker” in our vernacular) would muddy my sneakers, socks, and pants—earning me a stern scolding from my mother when I eventually arrived home!

MP: At that time, did the people around you, friends and family, see what you saw in the watershed?

AZ: I was not unique in my explorations of the watershed. It was quite common for the working-class boys in my neighborhood (and there were many of us- we were on the tail-end of the baby boom, after all) to entertain ourselves by romping in the stream-side woods. Some would try to make some money by trapping muskrats, then skinning and selling their pelts to Schwendeman’s, a taxidermist and fur broker on Main Street in Milltown. My friends and I sometimes harvested cattails, dried them in the summer sun, and sold them to boutiques for sale as decorative displays. Otherwise, dried cattails (or “punks” as we called them) would make excellent slow-burning lighters for firecrackers on the fourth of July. On other occasions, my friends and I would cut 10-foot-tall bulrushes for use as “lances” as we “jousted” on our bicycles. These were mostly activities for boys and young men, however. Young ladies stayed away, and older men were too busy working in the many factories that dotted the riverbanks.

MP: Throughout your life, who or what has been a continuing source of inspiration for you to pursue the path you are on?

AZ: I am at heart a family man, and I do what I can to support my family. My wife Heather Fenyk is a continuing source of inspiration in her role as LRWP President—her work ethic and effort in this non-paid position is a sight to behold!

MP: What do you hope to accomplish/implement as a Principal Planner with Middlesex County?

AZ: I work with a team of Professional Planners and Licensed Civil Engineers to enhance safety, accessibility, and drainage along County Road rights-of-way.

MP: As Co-founder of Middlesex Apartments, LLC. How has the business’s mission fit in the scope of the watershed?

AZ: Part of the Middlesex Apartments, LLC property portfolio consists of a farm in Princeton, which lies in the Raritan River basin. We are currently exploring restoration of the wetlands on the property, improving the quality of runoff first into the Millstone River, a tributary to the Raritan. We also manage the farm sustainably. This includes using solar for energy, farming without using pesticides and herbicides, letting the goats (instead of mowers) keep the brush down, etc.

MP: As far as the LRWP goes, what has been the biggest hurdle?

AZ: As an organization that has no paid staff, the workload is always vastly greater than the resources available to do the work.

MP: Where have you seen the most growth?

AZ: Since its inception the LRWP has tripled the size of its Board of Directors, and with very accomplished and qualified members. Activities have grown beyond the original stream clean-ups to encompass public boat builds, a wide variety of kinetic and visual artistic displays, water quality monitoring, river tours, kayak floats, presentations, lectures, and numerous and sundry outreach efforts. Revenue from donations and grants has also grown and continues to expand at double-digit rates.

MP: What is something you can tell the people who don’t believe in the LRWP’s mission?

AZ: I would remind them that improving the health of the watershed also brings benefits to them and their families. Our own health and sense of well-being is inextricably tied to the health of the watershed’s ecosystem.

MP: We would also like to get to know the real you! Do you have any hobbies that have nothing to do with watersheds?

AZ: I think I read more than the average person—mostly current periodicals, but also books on historical topics. In recent years I’ve become a fan of YouTube—I like to listen to experts in various fields including anthropology, sociology, philosophy, economics, geopolitics, and military affairs. I also have a keen interest in matters demographic. I developed a model that estimates and predicts the movement of the United States Population Centroid. My annual calculation and commentary on changing US settlement patterns is reported upon in the national and international press.

Winter’s Full Embrace

Essay and photos by Joe Mish

 Ice encrusted holly berries are the artistic rendering of a late winter freezing rain. Their brilliance is highlighted within a sparkling clear coat of protective ice.  

On behalf of winter, February’s frigid embrace lingers for a conscious moment longer as this month exercises its optional twenty-ninth day. The additional day is a correction needed to synchronize derived calendars with the celestial choreography. So, in that way February provides the Wite-out corrective paste to adjust the pending error, and in its enthusiasm, covers the land with snow on occasion, to white out conditions as a failsafe.

As the cold breath of February sweeps across the land, ice and snow are left in its wake to accumulate and be redistributed by frigid winds under threatening skies. Winter offers a complete menu of frozen variants, all based on moisture du jour, altitude, wind speed and temperature.  Viscous rain drops, best described as slush, resist the conversion to flakes of snow and accumulate as sheets of crystal-clear ice on tree branches, roads, and windshields. 

A rare phenomenon known as a ghost apple, occurs when clear ice envelopes a dried shrunken apple still clinging to the treeFor all appearance the ice covered, mummified pome, is perfectly fitted with layer upon layer of clear transparent ice. The form fitted ice cover eventually accumulates to mimic a full-size apple carved in perfectly clear polished crystal. It is as if Michaelangelo was recruited to dabble in celestial ice sculpture.

As late winter daytime temperatures rise above freezing, trees begin to transport sugary sap to their fine branches. Subfreezing nighttime temps then freeze the sap to make the branches rigid and brittle. Strong wind whips the branches against each other, leaving many broken tips. When the sun warms the air, the sap begins to flow like a dripping faucet until the evening cold sets in. As daily temps fall, the drips elongate into icicles of varying length, each containing concentrated sugars, meant to energize buds and promote branch growth. Reach up, break off an icicle and enjoy a natural sugary treat that hydrates and energizes, no unwanted preservatives or added coloring. In a way, eating these cold treats, taken directly from nature’s hand, represent a communion of sort where energy is transferred and assimilated in the manner of a ‘blood brother’ ritual.

When ice is formed, snow is sure to follow. The menu choices are many when it comes to ordering snow. The spectrum of mandated choices ranges from passing flurries to blinding white out conditions. When the landscape is bare, the arrival of the first snowflake is met with great anticipation. The individual flakes are so beautiful and random, magic overcomes the rational as the source of such intricate design. The magic fades somewhat as a thick blanket of white settles upon the washed out, dull landscape. We are still compelled to stare out the window as the invisible hand of a celestial artist paints the world white as we watch.

Passing snow flurries may be the entire show or just an opening act. The snow serves as a ledger in which rarely seen wild residents use their individual mark to sign in.

Fox tracks in the snow note its presence. This image makes a great Season greetings card signed by the fox to you.

Wildlife is most active at night and away from human habitation. A quick glance of the ledger’s white pages can expose the presence of a whole new world whose expanse had been previously unknown. Tracks in the snow mimic a digital tracking device, not unlike an eagle fitted with a solar powered transmitter, where its travels may be digitally overlaid on a map and viewed on a computer screen.

Screen shot of an eagle fitted with a solar transmitter and its location during one week. Tracks inthe snow are the primitive version of digital tracking.

Note how deer were dining on the honeysuckle just under your bedroom window. See the fox tracks on the back deck. 

I always look for rabbit tracks after a snowfall of any accumulation. The question always asked is, “which way is the rabbit going”. Once you figure that out, you realize whether you unknowingly track it backward or forward, the information is the same.

So prolific are the lines of tracks, I imagine the footprints as seams, sewn to hold the expansive white blanket of snow together.

A walk in the woods after a heavy snowfall can offer a rare surprise. Once, more commonplace, ruffed grouse thrived in the mature woodlands locally. Grouse will fly into deep snow creating a tunnel where they rest under virgin snow several feet from the entry hole. Sometimes the entry hole will be covered by new snow, leaving the bird hidden under a perfectly clean blanket of unmarked snow. A hiker may pause for a long moment to marvel at the trackless expanse of snow and revel in being the first to traverse the silent woods that day. The pause in hiker’s steps will cause the grouse to think it was detected by a predator and flight is the only option to escape. Suddenly, the large brown bird explodes from under the trackless snow, steps away from the rattled hiker, the sound of wings furiously grabbing air in a shower of sparkling snow. A pounding heart can be felt once breathing resumes.

Print of a ruffed grouse exploding from cover by Jack Unruh.

February is winter’s last full month installment, just short of full payment, and whether twenty-eight or twenty-nine days, winter loses enthusiasm and concedes the coming of spring.

Author Joe Mish has been running wild in New Jersey since childhood when he found ways to escape his mother’s watchful eyes. He continues to trek the swamps, rivers and thickets seeking to share, with the residents and visitors, all of the state’s natural beauty hidden within full view. To read more of his writing and view more of his gorgeous photographs visit Winter Bear Rising, his wordpress blog. Joe’s series “Nature on the Raritan, Hidden in Plain View” runs monthly as part of the LRWP “Voices of the Watershed” series. Writing and photos used with permission from the author.

Where the Coyotes Howl

Essay and photos by Joe Mish

The eyes are windows to your soul, ask not what you think you see in the coyote eyes, ask what you think the coyote sees in your eyes!

The cold November night left a heavy coat of white frost on the still green pasture grass. The sun had just risen, though the open, west facing hillside was still shaded. Topped by a crown of red cedars, the sunlight was further delayed, but the quickly rising temperatures turned the white frost gray. A lead doe worked her way uphill to the edge of the wooded copse, where a love struck buck had earlier left his scent on an overhanging branch.  The doe paused her cautious approach and stood absolutely still. Perhaps she detected an unseen buck and had second thoughts of getting too close to a over enthusiastic lothario. Her intense stare was locked on something that raised her concern. Then her tail went straight up and froze in that position while the white hair on its underside and the white hair on her rump bristled out like quills on an agitated porcupine. She remained in that position for more than a minute before she quietly turned and silently left the area, retaining her high flag and bristled rump. Typically, an alerted doe will snort, stamp her foot and do an exaggerated high stepping prance to alert her companions. This was a deviation from normal but probably just the way she conducts business. Two minutes later a coyote appeared from the dark tree line, tail tucked, and headed directly toward me. The gray frosted grass, still in the shadows, complimented the coyote in tone and color to make it appear as an apparition, exempted from earthly constraints. It stopped about twenty paces away to consider its path and trotted along the edge of a mowed strip of grass to parts unknown.  

An encounter with an eastern coyote has become more common in New Jersey, the state least expected to host a living symbol of remote and wild places. More often heard than seen, the coyote makes its presence known with midnight serenades that make your hair stand on end as a chorus of howls and yips fill the night air.

It is interesting to trace the occurrence of coyotes in New Jersey and recognize the fallacies and misleading information from media and biologists, some based on politics, evolving wildlife management goals or best guess projections derived from limited available data.

The first coyote officially recorded in New Jersey was in 1939. A mid 1980s Star Ledger article, quoting a state biologist, claimed the first coyotes appeared in NJ in 1958. The same article noted the animals migrated south from New York which hosted an estimated population of 5,000 coyotes. In 2011, the New York coyote population was placed at 30,000 plus and remains stable based on current estimates. The New Jersey coyote population is given as a range of 3,000 to 6,000 animals.

Wildlife population estimates are based on the latest statistical models and surveying technology, which may explain a dramatic jump or decline in targeted populations.

At any rate, sightings in New Jersey were sporadic until the early 1970s, possibly based on misidentification, unexpected presence and a limited, but expanding coyote population.

The Star Ledger article lists a steady chronicle of coyote sightings, mostly in rural areas.

Locally, a coyote made the news in the late 1980s when it was killed by a car near the intersection of routes 28 and 22 in Bridgewater. Another was sighted and photographed in North Branch in 2004.

Today coyotes have moved into cities and towns and have been reported in all twenty-one New Jersey counties.

Local residents have digitally captured numerous coyotes in backyards and along roadsides.

This demonstrates their ability to transition from rural to suburban environs and defies the early characterization of being strictly tied to woodland and farm.  

Biologists predicted, in 1985, that the ‘pioneer population’ would never reach significant levels and will remain present only while farms exist. Even data based predictions must be given latitude and considered dynamic rather than static and ironclad.  

The intelligence and adaptability of the coyote cannot be underestimated.  Native people held coyotes in high esteem for their trickery and explained away their elusiveness as having the ability to transition from spirit to flesh.  

To conclusively define the behavior of any animal is a fool’s errand, especially with coyotes. We get the typical, ‘they avoid humans at all cost’, as the litany of coyote attacks grow. Livingston, Fairfield, Piscataway Kinnelon, Middletown and High Bridge have made headlines for attacks on humans. Not to say coyotes are stalking school bus stops and toddlers, but the possibility of an attack exists, though very uncommon. Given the number of coyotes interspersed among the dense human population, pet dogs far outpace coyotes in dog bites man headlines.  

Each ‘attack’ must be examined to prevent characterizing coyotes as blood thirsty demons. Rabies is endemic in wildlife populations and known for producing aggressive behavior. Wild canines established relationships with humans to the advantage of both. So, acclimating a fox or coyote to accept handouts is a natural progression. Losing fear of humans as a result, can be misinterpreted as aggression and sign a death warrant for their learned adaptive behavior. 

Somerset county set a bounty on wolves in June 1682. I cannot help but wonder if some of the wolves were crossed with coyotes.  

Science does its best, though its knowledge base is constantly evolving and interpreting collected data is more of an art form and often tips objectivity to the subjective side of the scale. 

Toward that end of gathering information to make better decisions, NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife is asking the public for information on coyotes and other species to help track and manage targeted wildlife populations.  

Reporting Wildlife Sightings

Here is a survey form to collect details of a sighting. Other animals of interest are listed here as well as the coyote.

Coyotes have their place in our ecosystem and deserve our respect and understanding, and as with most new information or situations, must be approached with an open mind.   

Author Joe Mish has been running wild in New Jersey since childhood when he found ways to escape his mother’s watchful eyes. He continues to trek the swamps, rivers and thickets seeking to share, with the residents and visitors, all of the state’s natural beauty hidden within full view. To read more of his writing and view more of his gorgeous photographs visit Winter Bear Rising, his wordpress blog. Joe’s series “Nature on the Raritan, Hidden in Plain View” runs monthly as part of the LRWP “Voices of the Watershed” series. Writing and photos used with permission from the author.

Icing on the Gunnels

Essay and photos (except as noted) by author Joe Mish

Not on par with Shackleton’s adventure, the intent of this winter paddle trip was to see what nature is doing when she thinks no one is watching. Self portrait

Sleepy eyes involuntarily shut to set the stage for transient dreams to vie for recollection in morning’s foggy consciousness, as a mid-winter storm promised a night of undecided precipitation. 

The view through the frosted bedroom window at dawn, revealed the storm’s final decision in the form of powdery snow, preserved by an overcast sky and sub-freezing temperature.

First light of dawn appeared as a proxy of the sun who farmed out delivery of a mere fragment of daylight intended to last the day.

A long spell of cold had locked the river in ice and curtailed any thought of canoeing. A heavy rain followed to raise the water level and break up the ice. The water settled down to a suitable flow, and I was anxious to see the aftermath and capture some wildlife images in between winter’s extreme mood swings.

Predawn light reveals broken slabs of ice, thrown asunder, by swollen water from a heavy rain, followed by a dusting of powdery snow. Moody winter weather is the rule.

The air was still and not a breeze stirred, a sure sign of snow to come. The conditions were perfect, as light snow was expected about halfway through the trip, and it would add mood to any landscape or wildlife images. Wildlife tends to feel more secure and reluctant to move in sub-freezing temperatures, allowing a close approach.

View from the canoe. Digital evidence here, though so many more incredible moments in nature are retained only in the form of recoverable memories altered by time, instead of digital editing.

The camera lens is less likely to get blurred in the absence of wind-blown precipitation. If a stiff breeze was predicted, I would never launch my canoe. Wind is the rate limiting step for my winter sojourns, along with safe water levels. Safety is critical and is weighed against any cold weather canoe trip.

I placed the boat in the quiet water along the shore, just inside the edge of the current. I carefully settled into the center seat, holding the carbon fiber paddle across my lap. Out of habit, I always wait a moment after engaging with the current to feel the enthusiasm of the river’s energy to partner with my energy infused paddle strokes.

Are you sure you want to go canoeing? Photo by Mary Ellen Hill.

There can be several distinct reasons to make a downriver run on any given day, all dependent on mood, weather, and water flow. The intent of this winter paddle was to see what nature is doing when she thinks no one is watching.

Digital evidence is nice to have, but not as essential as just being present to experience what cannot otherwise be seen and felt in tamer conditions.

The female red fox hiding behind the branch along the shoreline is a trigger for the behavior that followed and not digitally captured. She looked directly at me while she moved off, and defiantly stopped in the open and still staring back at me, squatted to pee

The current is my guide, as my hull is directed to follow its winding course worn into the hard shale riverbed, especially critical at lower water levels.

Ice out! open water, adventure awaits! Image of me taken without my knowledge, by Bill Haduch. Never know what you might see on the river.

I generally use a hit and switch style of paddling where the boat is kept on course by alternate stokes instead of turning the paddle blade at the end of the stroke, which is grossly inefficient, as it slows hull speed. Though, any paddle stoke in the nick of time is the correct choice.

As I switched sides after each series of strokes, the water dripping off the paddle blade fell on the ash gunnels and instantly froze. Fine drops quickly freeze and after layers of ice accumulate, its collective weight and height above the water, moved the center of gravity forward to make the hull plow left or right with each stroke and reduce stability. An occasional pause was required to clear the gunnels of ice, using the paddle’s sharp edge to shatter the ice. 

Clearing the ice was not an existential crisis and at times I would use a north woods style paddle stoke in deep water, where all paddling is done on a chosen side, never lifting the paddle from the water. This is a useful stroke when drifting up on unaware wildlife as paddling motion is restricted to the offside and the stroke, completely silent.

As I neared home pasture, a light but steady snow began to fall straight down. This was the time to allow the river’s energy to take control one last time, set aside my physical presence and exist for a meditative moment in conscious stillness. A brief side trip, compliment of the water’s endless energy.

The carry from the river through the pasture to home had its own reward. I have a pair of pile lined, heavy wool mittens stowed in a zip lock bag, reserved just for this occasion. 

I rarely wear gloves when paddling in cold weather, though when I take out, stow my pack and paddles, lift the hull on my shoulders, my hands get wet and cold from the water collected in the hull. It is an anticipated treat to wear those mittens on the portage home. As I slipped on the mittens, I noticed a single flake of snow caught on an errant strand of wool, its unique structure designed as if by intelligent hand. This was the essence of a mid-winter canoe trip, ephemeral moments in nature, stored in memory for instant retrieval, to be enjoyed and shared. It was just the icing on the gunnels. 

Author Joe Mish has been running wild in New Jersey since childhood when he found ways to escape his mother’s watchful eyes. He continues to trek the swamps, rivers and thickets seeking to share, with the residents and visitors, all of the state’s natural beauty hidden within full view. To read more of his writing and view more of his gorgeous photographs visit Winter Bear Rising, his wordpress blog. Joe’s series “Nature on the Raritan, Hidden in Plain View” runs monthly as part of the LRWP “Voices of the Watershed” series. Writing and photos used with permission from the author.

Field Trip Report Back: Franklin Township Stormwater Basin Retrofits

Article by Franklin Township resident Anna Merrett, photos by LRWP Board Member Heather Fenyk and NJ Water’s Mitch Mickley. For tools and guidelines for implementing Green Infrastructure and low impact design in your communities, see the Environmental Protection Agency’s Non-Point Source Pollution webpage, which includes the Bioretention Design Handbook, published by their Nonpoint Source Management Branch. The handbook was developed to inform practitioners about the latest approaches and lessons learned for bioretention design, construction, inspection, and operation and maintenance.

On Friday, November 3rd, Kathy Hale, Principal Watershed Protection Specialist for NJ Water Supply Authority (NJWSA), led a field trip to four out of five retrofitted stormwater basins in Franklin Township, Somerset County. The outing was organized and sponsored by the Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership. Twenty participants, including members of municipalities, representatives from state departments, the Highlands Commission, engineering firms, academia and Environmental Stewards took part in the field trip. A smaller group ended the day with lunch at Stage House Tavern, where lively discussions followed.

Located in the Franklin Township Municipal Complex, on Gaugin Way, Renoir Way, Dellwood Lane and Laird Terrace, the stormwater basins are owned by the Township and mainly receive residential runoff. Franklin Township mapped their stormwater infrastructure ahead of most other municipalities. Township staff worked with NJWSA to select these five basins for retrofit  based on size, location, visibility, and structure. The main goal of the retrofits is to slow water runoff and lengthen the water flow path, helping decrease the amount of sediment flowing into the Delaware and Raritan Canal and other local waterways. Increased sediment in stormwater runoff leads to the need for additional treatment by water supply purveyors.

Mitch Mickley, who shared this drone footage, shared that the drone was flown during a drought, and makes the  stormwater basin at Renoir Way, Franklin Township (NJ) “look like a green oasis in a sea of dry dead lawns.”

NJWSA’s Kathy Hale explained the background for the basin retrofit in greater detail:

“NJ Water Supply Authority, created in 1981, is an independent state agency. Our main role is to manage water supply in Central New Jersey, so we manage Spruce Run Reservoir, Round Valley Reservoir and the Delaware and Raritan Canal as drinking water supplies that provide water to about 1.5 million people in Central New Jersey. We also manage Manasquan Reservoir, where we provide a supply for around 600,000 service connections in Monmouth County. NJWSA doesn’t treat water, but provides untreated water to the water purveyors, who then treat and distribute it. At Manasquan Reservoir we do have a small water treatment plant which provides water under contract to a few municipalities. Our main role is to maintain the quantity of water that flows to our water purveyors, including:  NJ American Water Company, Middlesex Water, North Brunswick, New Brunswick and the municipalities in the Manasquan System. Our customers understand that it is less expensive to keep pollutants out of the water rather than remove them.

The Delaware and Raritan Canal is a 65-mile water supply facility that transfers water from the Delaware Basin to the Raritan Basin. Data and field observations show that turbidity does not decrease in the last 11 miles of the Delaware and Raritan Canal, indicating that settling solids are replaced by sediment from influent streams and stormwater discharges.

Traditional stormwater basins have a concrete low flow channel designed to move water through as fast as possible. Traditional stormwater basins are also typically planted with turf grass, which does not aid water quality treatment or drainage into the ground. Many stormwater basins are fairly compacted when it comes to the soil, which does not help with infiltration. The turf grass tends to encourage nuisance species such as geese and it has high maintenance cost.

We worked with the Township and identified several basins, which we prioritized, and chose four to be retrofitted.  A fifth basin was added later in the project. Princeton Hydro provided design services for the project. Three of the basins are within the Cedar Grove Brook watershed, one of the largest drainage areas to the Canal. A fourth basin drains into Six Mile Run and the fifth basin drains into the Canal through another tributary. Funding for the project was provided by NJDEP and the Delaware and Raritan Canal Commission.”

Our group carpooled to the basins, where we walked around the basins, allowing for a closer examination of the retrofits.

Carl Hauck, the Manager of Franklin Township Public Works and the Township Stormwater Coordinator, explained the maintenance plans for the retrofitted basins: The township inspects the basins following every major storm, regularly checks for trash, removes sediment, and mows the basin meadow just once or twice a year. Previously, the basins were mowed every week during the high growth summer months.

Our group poses next to the stormwater basin at the Franklin Township Municipal Building

The new vegetation, consisting of native wildflowers, requires minimal upkeep, significantly lowering the overall maintenance cost, noise levels and energy usage. Planted wildflowers attract birds, pollinators, and other wildlife, and deter the geese. The upgraded vegetation with its deep roots, helps filter out pollutants and lets the stormwater runoff soak gradually and directly into the soil. The concrete channels for water runoff have been replaced by naturally meandering waterways, greatly slowing down the water flow.  Berms, forebays and scour holes were built into the inlet structure to further slow down the runoff.

“At each of the basins, the bottoms were rototilled to reduce compaction and the soil was supplemented with compost. Basins are designed to drain within 72 hours, in part to prevent mosquito breeding.”  At one of the basins, an underdrain was also added to facilitate water movement.

NJWSA reached out to the five stormwater basins’ neighbors holding zoom meetings and sending postcards explaining the necessity of the retrofit. Some homeowners did not find the look of the retrofitted basins visually appealing, preferring the traditional lawns.

NJWSA has conducted visual and vegetation monitoring. In addition, they are conducting pre and post construction water quality monitoring at two basins.

Kathy Hale explains how water quality samples are captured at this site.

Heather Fenyk notes: “The Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership offers multiple workshops and field trips annually to support municipalities and local community members to better understand local hydrology and best practices for watershed-friendly stormwater management. The November 3rd tour of Franklin Township’s retention basin retrofits was specifically organized as part of the LRWP’s MS4 Municipal Stormwater Management Assistance Program, through which we partner with municipalities to customize watershed-friendly stormwater outreach and education programs to help them meet federally mandated stormwater management requirements under the Clean Water Act. We invited Kathy Hale to share the wonderful work that Franklin Township and the Authority have done locally so that other municipalities in the area could get a soup-to-nuts understanding of what it takes to install these beautiful, watershed-friendly, River-friendly, drinking-water-friendly projects. We would love to see dozens of naturalized stormwater basins throughout the Lower Raritan!”

October 12, Conversation with National Parks Service

On Thursday October 12 the Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership will host Paul Kenney from NPS to talk about Partnership Wild & Scenic designation for the Raritan River. Please join us for this discussion from 10am to noon at the Middlesex County Administration Building, in the first floor Commissioner’s Meeting Room (75 Bayard Street / New Brunswick).

Pre-registration required for parking validation.

About Partnership Wild & Scenic Rivers Designation:

Congress has specified in some Wild and Scenic River designations, that rivers are to be administered by the Secretary of the Interior through the National Parks Service in partnership with local governments, councils, watershed groups and non-governmental organizations, generally through the use of cooperative agreements. In these ‘Partnership’ Wild and Scenic Rivers communities protect their own outstanding rivers and river-related resources through a collaborative approach.

Partnership Wild and Scenic Rivers are a unique category of designated rivers managed through long-term partnerships between the National Park Service and community, local, regional, and state stakeholders.

Raritan Pathogens Results 10.5.2023

by LRWP Outreach Monitoring Coordinator Jocelyn Palomino

The Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership and Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Middlesex County have wrapped up another year of the volunteer pathogens monitoring program!! A very special thank you to all the volunteers who came out this year and our partners who helped the program run smoothly: Frank Dahl, Irene Riegner, Colleen Georges, Rose Lawless, Sheyla Casco, Monica Orso, Piash Ahamed, Genevieve Ehasz, Nicole Fahrenfeld, Samantha Wilder, and all our friends at the Interstate Environmental Commission!

Our water quality samples taken on October 5, 2023 show Enterococcus bacteria levels exceed the EPA federal water quality standard at our three most upstream sites. However, the expected rain for this Saturday will likely affect these results. Problem sites are indicated by red frowns on the map and chart which includes: Riverside Park (Piscataway), Rutgers Boathouse (New Brunswick), and Edison Boat Basin (Edison). Green smiles on the chart and map indicate sites with bacteria levels safe for recreation and include: Ken Buchanan Waterfront Park (Sayreville), South Amboy Waterfront Park (South Amboy), and 2nd Street Park (Perth Amboy).

Enterococcus and Fecal Coliform levels are used as indicators for 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. Possible sources of bacteria include Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs), improperly functioning wastewater treatment plants, leaking septic systems, and stormwater run off.

Our goal in reporting these results is to give area residents an understanding of potential health risks related to primary contact (touching) the water during water based recreation. Although we are done monitoring for the year, always remember to stay safe and wash thoroughly after enjoying recreational activities on the Raritan!

Blue skies on our last day of monitoring for the 2023 season!! Photo Credit: Heather Fenyk

Our team of volunteers for the week on the docks at Edison Boat Basin: Frank, Irene, and Genevieve. Photo Credit: Heather Fenyk

It’s always great meeting folks out in the field and sharing our information with them! Photo Credits: Heather Fenyk

Embodied Fieldwork: Art & Science Collaboration

Editor’s note: The LRWP views engagement in the arts and humanities as integral to the work of effective science communication. In the article below long time partner coLAB Arts Director of Education John P. Keller articulates aspects of our ongoing collaborative inquiry into these processes, reflects on the importance of reciprocal relationships between art and science, and poses challenging questions to guide us in further discovery and expression.

Article and photos by coLAB Arts Director of Education John P. Keller

…the most extraordinary work happening today is work that considers: How does the creative studio space expand research? And how does scientific inquiry make art better?

On a hot and humid August afternoon in the coLAB Arts educational studio, Teaching Artist Jasmine Carmichael was giving final rehearsal instructions to 60 summer institute students: “We are going to start from the top, if something is a little off just keep going and trust the ensemble, and remember… you are water.”

Students were “knee deep” in the process of devising a dance piece reflecting their knowledge of water flows through ensemble based movement. Thanks to the Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership and Rock Dance Collective, these students married an emerging science-based understanding of the natural world with an arts-based embodiment of the human experience. In other words, they were using both their brains and their bodies to more deeply connect with the concept of water and our relationship to it.

remember… you are water.”

Leonardo DaVinci would not have understood the concept of a division between scientific reasoning and creative expression. The observation of water speed, velocity, and turbidity would have been interwoven with the processes of creating sketches with shading, patterning, and composition. Hypothesis would have not been possible without imagination. Good storytelling would not have been possible without data. Human truth would not be transferable from one person to another without reflecting objective scientific realities framed in metaphor. Yet somehow over the course of the centuries and the development of institutions we think of scientific reasoning and creative expression as two very different pursuits, dividing both their physical proximity (the studio vs. the lab) and their emotional (literal vs. figurative or fact vs. fiction).

Leonardo DaVinci Water Study

c. 1508-9. Wikimedia Commons

There are of course exceptions that live outside the sometimes restrictive academic divisions. In fact most methodology-based artists and most humanist-scientists already understand the mutual benefit. So why aren’t our institutions designed to enable better collaboration? What would such a redesign of the creative and scientific process look like? What could this redesign of process mean for the tackling of climate change? The Artists and Scientists mentioned above might articulate two main areas of mutual benefit, that of interchangeable: 1) Research and 2) Expression. In my own education growing up, whether it was explicit or inferred, I always thought the idea of research belonged squarely to the scientist. Articulation on the other hand belonged to the studio artist. However, the most extraordinary work happening today is work that considers: How does the creative studio space expand research? And how do analytic metrics make art better?

In preparing for the October 8th Watershed Run Off – a dance performance of stormwater flows to demonstrate how waters become polluted — the partnership of Rock Dance Collective, the Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership and and others started with creative word play as a way to investigate the cultural connection with water. Building on this they layered data, metrics, observation and hypothesis in the studio to create an embodied expression. Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership is putting artists out into the field, taking advantage of new ways of seeing, and feeling, to influence scientific methods. Other local entities like the Rutgers University School of Environmental and Biological Sciences and Mason Gross School of the Arts are also developing nascent partnerships to create new interdisciplinary methodologies and curricula, actively reimagining the dividing lines of the academy. 

Over the next year coLAB Arts and Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership will continue putting artists and science educators in rooms (and floodplains!) together to expand the work of each. And we aim to support deeper inquiry and conversation within our communities. Consider our October 8 “Watershed Run Off” as the first of many opportunities for all members of the watershed to directly nurture and experience the evolving field of art and science collaboration. Join us!

Jasmine Carmichael (far left) leads Summer Institute students in explaining how they created the large map (behind them) of New Brunswick streets and “hidden” streams.

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