Month: May 2021

Raritan River Pathogens Monitoring – Summer 2021

Running for 20 weeks through Summer 2021, the Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership and Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Middlesex County (RCE) will gather data and other information on water quality for public access sites along the tidal portions of the Raritan River at locations considered non-bathing beaches. This project is supported through grants from the Interstate Environmental Commission (IEC) and The Watershed Institute.

Summer 2021 Pathogens/Bacteria Monitoring Sites

LRWP and RCE will monitor non-bathing beach sites with active kayak/canoe launches and/or fishing and other primary contact activities that, as non-bathing beach sites, are not regularly monitored by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) or the New Jersey Department of Health and Human Services and lack sufficient water quality data.

In addition to yielding important data about the health and safety of our waterways, the Project will also allow for development of civic science and expanded volunteer environmental monitoring programming within the Lower Raritan Watershed and Middlesex County, NJ. We are working with an approved Quality Assurance Project Plan (QAPP), provided by the IEC, which will allow for data generated from this project to inform water quality policy and regulatory decisions at all levels of government within the project area, and to educate the public about the safety of recreating on the River.

Real-time reporting of enteroccocus data will be posted every Friday on the LRWP facebook page and website, and through the New York City Water Trail Association’s citizen’s water quality testing program. Users will be able to easily interpret the data as being above or below the recommended water quality standards for primary contact recreation.

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

The following are details on our monitoring sites. We will share more information about each location throughout the monitoring period. For more information about the program please contact:

LR1 Riverside Park, 430 River Rd, Piscataway40.54067 -74.51219

Wading site. Waders must be worn. Red arrow indicates the sampling location as this is where fishing has been observed. Access the river to the left of the boat ramp (when facing the river). Do not take the sample from the boat ramp as it is too muddy and slippery.

Bathrooms are available at this site from 10am to 2pm

LR2 Rutgers Boathouse, 5 Memorial Pkwy,
New Brunswick
40.48826 -74.43384

Sampling location is in the middle of the Rutgers boathouse dock as indicated in picture. Bathrooms may be available at the boathouse if they are open and at Boyd Park just west of the boathouse.

LR3 Raritan River Boat Launch
& Edison Boat Basin
Meadow Rd, Edison, NJ 08817
40.48769 -74.38409

Sampling location is at the end of the dock. No bathrooms are available at this site.

LR4 Ken Buchanan Riverfront Park
River Road, Sayreville, NJ 08872
40.47483 -74.35586
LR5 Raritan Bay Waterfront Park
201 John T O’Leary Blvd
South Amboy, NJ 08879
*sample off Raritan Reach Road
north of park

Wading site and waders must be worn. Access the sampling location off the parking lot at the end of Raritan Reach Rd. This is northwest of the park.  The site is a beach. No bathrooms available.

LR6 Perth Amboy Waterfront &
Future 2nd Street Park
45-93 2nd St, Perth Amboy, NJ 08861
40.50007 -74.27719

This is a wading site and waders must be worn. Sampling location is at the beach next to the combined sewer outfall pipe. No bathrooms are available.

Pathogens Monitoring Results 5.27.2021

Happy Memorial Day Weekend!

For those of you making plans to be on the Raritan, see below for pathogens sampling results for six non-bathing public access beach sites for yesterday, May 27/2021. (See here for more on our pathogens monitoring program).

Enterococci results are reported in Colony Forming Units or CFUs. Suitable levels for primary contact should not exceed 104 cfu/100mL. Please note that while the numbers look good for our Edison, Sayreville, South Amboy and Perth Amboy sites, we have received significant rainfall since sampling, which typically increases bacteria loading into our waters. Pathogens/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.

Huge thanks to our partners: Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Middlesex County and the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission.

Field Notes:

What a beautiful day to kick off monitoring for 2021! We were joined in the field by our new Project Coordinator Jocelyn Palomino, project interns Jason Acevedo and Julisa Collado, Jessica Bonamusa from the Interstate Environmental Commission, and Stan Stephenson with the Environmental Protection Agency.

The smell of sewage at our first site, Riverside Park in Piscataway, tipped us off to problems there. An overwhelming smell of dead fish greeted us upon arrival at the Edison Boat Launch site. See our youtube video of waves of dead fish washing up on shore and in the reeds.

The Edison, Sayreville and South Amboy sites were busy with boating activity. Almost two dozen boat trailers were parked at the Ken Buchanan Boat Ramp in Sayreville, and we waved to folks on jet skis in the water there.

Please enjoy the Raritan safely! Be sure to wash thoroughly with soap and hot water after any contact with our waters.

LRWP Comments on Proposed Settlement Agreement for NRD – Kinder Morgan

May 18, 2021

Dave Bean / NJDEP: Office of Natural Resource Restoration

501 East State Street, Mail Code 501-01 / PO Box 420 / Trenton, NJ  08625-0420

RE:         Proposed Settlement Agreement for Natural Resource Damages, in the Matter of Kinder Morgan, Inc. and Related Entities – HEADGATES DAM REMOVAL PROJECT

Dear Dave Bean:

The Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership (LRWP) is writing to express full and enthusiastic support for the proposed settlement agreement for Natural Resources Damages in the Matter of Kinder Morgan as it relates to the Headgates Dam Removal Project in Hillsborough Township, Somerset County. We understand this project to include restoration activities that will significantly enhance habitat connectivity, improve water quality, and expand recreational opportunities for the Lower Raritan River and Watershed.

The LRWP formed in 2014 to address legacy contamination and current pollution in the Raritan River and the Lower Raritan Watershed. Our mission is to conserve, enhance and restore the natural resources of the New Jersey Watershed Management Area 9, the Lower Raritan Watershed. Specifically regarding the proposed interventions to replace and relocate of a section of the Bridgewater Township 54-inch sanitary sewer line, replace the Raritan Water Power Canal, and remove the Headgates Dam, these activities will not only directly improve resources impacted by legacy contamination, but will benefit a broad spectrum of the Raritan River’s ecology and enable other environmental and human use benefits. Significant ecological, environmental and human use benefits have in fact already been realized following recent removal of a series of dams (Robert Street, Nevius Street, and Calco) on the lower portion of the Raritan River between the towns of Bridgewater and Bound Brook. We expect the proposed restoration activities for the Headgates Dam Removal Project to likewise advance multiple Lower Raritan Watershed stakeholder goals.

The LRWP is also aware that these interventions will expand access to several thousand acres of non-tidal freshwater mid to upper reaches of the Raritan River’s major tributaries. Removal of Headgates Dam in particular will enhance maturation and rearing habitat for striped bass, American shad, American eel, blueback herring, and alewife, and should significantly increase the abundance of anadromous and catadromous species, which will improve the ecological health of the Raritan River.

The LRWP’s only concerns with the proposal are short term sediment transport impacts following dam removal. However, we are confident that sound planning to reduce potential environmental consequences will be put in place, and further expect that the proposed projects will provide long term restorative benefits to water chemistry, specifically decreased water temperatures in formerly impounded sections, and increased dissolved oxygen concentrations. These changes will benefit riverine biota from the most basic food chain level up to the top predators for many years to come.

Enhancing fish populations in the Raritan River system is important for fresh and marine ecosystems. It is especially appropriate as the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) lists the estuarine portion of the Raritan River as an important migratory pathway for anadromous alewife and blueback herring, species which NOAA lists as of special concern. The Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership feels that the proposed projects could help to reverse declining population trends, and anadromous fish returning to spawn each spring in the Raritan River provide an attraction to the general public in the Raritan River Basin. The removal of Headgates Dam is important to the LRWP, and we fully support the proposed projects.


Heather Fenyk, Ph.D., AICP/PP

President, Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership

The Eagles Have Returned

Article and photos by Joe Mish

Not that the eagles ever left, however, their nest of six years was removed, which gave rise to wild speculation as to their fate.

High tension towers were being replaced, one of which held their nest. Though in past years, the nest had been removed accidently, remodeled and relocated from the left to the right to the center by the eagles themselves, the middle of the tower arm seemed to be the final site.

Much to the eagle’s surprise, the home tower dating back to the 1920s was removed and a new style tower constructed in its place. Though ‘science’ says eagles bond and nest in January, our eagles were never polled and began to bond and touch up the nest in October. Just as the power company took down the tower.

The eagles appeared upset, one screeching at the other as they were perched nearby. Hearts were breaking in sympathy. Before the old tower was deconstructed, the giant nest was cradled, lowered by crane and stored on site. The plan was to return the nest on a new style platform as encouragement for the eagles to return. That was the plan but would the eagles agree?

We watched that pair daily and never once did an eagle land on that tower. It didn’t look good.

Then a new nest was started a mile downstream and hopes soared for our faithful pair. During one twenty minute period, the suspected male brought six large branches to the nest where both eagles discussed their placement.  

The nest grew larger and finally looked like it was move-in ready. Still, no eagle would land on the nest platform in the new tower. It was in a way, comforting, to see eagles nesting in a giant sycamore tree rather than in non organic, cold metal tower draped with high tension wires.

During nest construction many images were taken and shared. On one occasion, a pair of adult eagles was observed downstream of the nest and another pair at the nest in the sycamore. Were there two pair of eagles or did the eagles seen downstream make it to the nest before the observer could?

Sure enough photo evidence and direct simultaneous observation revealed there were two pairs of eagles seen at different times on the new nest. Now what?

Then one day an eagle was seen perched on the rail at the nest on the tower! Would eagles occupy both nests, would there be a territorial dispute?

One eagle on the tower nest was hopeful, but why would they go through the trouble and wasted energy to construct a beautiful downstream nest?

It was a confusing time, as we all concluded the sycamore nest was the nest of record. Then both eagles were seen on the tower, the suspected male bringing material to the rebuild the nest. January twenty-third was the last date eagles were recorded on the downstream nest while activity picked up at the tower.

Now the question was, who were the eagles at the tower, the interlopers or the faithful pair? Try as we might from images and observed past individual behavior, we could not definitively conclude their identity.

The original pair had an easily seen size difference, the conclusion was the larger bird was the female. This is a generalization which may not be true in every case. This pair was closer in size to each other. The original larger bird had a unique expressive head movement not seen by the bird identified as the female.

Was the male from the original pair with a new female? We concluded there was no sure way to tell.

Now a fully prepared downstream nest awaited tenants, hopefully, the other eagle pair. No such luck as the nest was now declared abandoned. At one point a local red tail hawk and then an immature eagle briefly visited the nest.

The other eagle pair left the area though several un-banded immature eagles were commonly observed.

Now all attention was on the pair of eagles nesting at the tower. When the nest was relocated in the new tower, an eagle cam was installed but failed to function. The plan was to remedy the camera during the banding session.

When the eagles were observed mating, the countdown to egg laying began. Hatching followed on schedule and the day to conduct the banding of the chicks was set.

May fourteenth, a crew from PSE&G, the state zoologist heading the project, and the state veterinarian, along with eagle project volunteers, participated in the banding of two eagles determined to be males. Each bird given a thorough physical exam, blood samples drawn, beak, talons and primary feather measured, weights taken.  Green aluminum bands, H-04 and H-05 were placed around the legs. The concerned parents circled the tower while the banding was in progress.

When the eagles were returned to the nest, a consolation prize of two large fish was left as a compensation for their trouble. After everyone left, the parents returned to the nest and as in past years, continued to care for their young. This year, the world will stand witness to the rearing and eventual fledging of two young eagles whose shadows will glide over the earth to the amazement and wonder of our children and grandchildren.

Thanks to PSE&G we now have a live webcam, an incredible gift to the world of nature and environmental education. The eagle webcam may be accessed at: []

This will spark curiosity to ignite the desire to seek deeper knowledge, not just about eagles but the entire interrelated community of nature, of which we are a part; a benefit to all. 

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. Contact See more articles and photos at

Save our pollinators, ban neonics!

The LRWP is working in partnership with a broad coalition to ban Neonics (neurotoxins that decimate bees and other wildlife populations), to encourage passage of a “Save the Bees” Bill. With nudging from environmental groups around the state, New Jersey’s legislature is poised enact the strongest, smartest restrictions in the country to rein in widespread pollution of the state with neurotoxic neonicotinoid pesticides—or “neonics.” The bill, A2070/S1016, isn’t just good news for New Jersey’s bees, birds, and other wildlife, but also the state’s mostly pollinator-dependent farmers and all residents that value clean water and a healthy environment. 

New Jersey’s pollinators are disappearing, with beekeepers losing between 40% to 50% of their colonies annually for most of the last decade. Honeybees are a $7 million industry in New Jersey and—along with wild bees and other pollinators—help pollinate nearly $200 million worth of fruits and vegetables annually. These include some of the state’s most valuable food crops, including blueberries, cherries, apples, peaches, pumpkins, cucumbers, tomatoes, and squash. Rutgers University research indicates many of these crops are “pollinator limited”—meaning a lack of pollinators is already resulting in lower crop yields.

A large and growing body of science confirms that widespread neonic use is a leading cause of pollinator losses and links neonics to declines in birds, the collapse of fisheriesbirth defects in white-tailed deer, and a variety of health harms in other mammals, including humans.

Contact your state legislators and tell them to support A2070/S1016 – let’s make New Jersey a model for the nation in protecting our pollinators!

Recreating Art with Trash

Our friends at RISE Rockaway did a clever thing, recreating Millet’s The Gleaners during a recent clean-up:

The LRWP has been challenged to do something similar.

Would you like to see a favorite work of art come to life? Share suggestions in the comments for found-object-artworks the LRWP should recreate during our next clean-up!

Bonus points for suggestions for art recreations (re-enactments?) that speak to a vision for a cleaner watershed, strong and resilient community, and social justice.

For example, we really love RISE Rockaway’s vision. Millet’s “The Gleaners” is symbolic of so much the LRWP holds dear: Grit & resilience. The return to nature in and through art. And bringing attention to the contrast between abundance and scarcity, Millet’s use of light and shadow does just that.

Pathogens Monitoring 2021

The Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership, Rutgers Extension / Middlesex County EARTH Center and the Interstate Environmental Commission are pleased to solicit trained volunteers for our 2021 pathogens monitoring season!

May 12 in person training for new volunteers

We will host an in-person training for new volunteers running from 4-6pm on Wednesday May 12 (location TBD – either East Brunswick or Piscataway). Space is limited and registration required. With thanks to The Watershed Institute for grant support to allow for Spanish language translation for this session.

May 19 virtual “refresher” for returning volunteers

For those of you who have joined us in the field in prior years, we will also host a virtual training “refresher” on Wednesday May 19, 5-6:30pm. During this session we will summarize findings from 2020, provide an overview of goals for 2021, walk through sign-ups for the season, and explain a few new processes and procedures for the season.

Can’t wait to start thinking about pathogens monitoring and your role as a volunteer? We invite you to view the Webex recording of our 2020 virtual training. If prompted, please enter password: Pathogens2020

Below are answers to commonly asked questions about responsibilities and time commitment of a volunteer pathogens monitor:

Q: Do I need boots, waders, or other equipment? 

A: Boots, yes. You will also want clothing appropriate for the weather and sun protection. Don’t forget your bug spray and hats! We have several sets of waders of different sizes that we can loan.

Q: What time does the sample collecting begin and end?

A: We typically kick off between 8-8:15 AM. We meet at the Piscataway site, then caravan to the New Brunswick site, where some folks leave their cars. We then carpool to the remaining sites. Going from site to site takes about 4-5 hours depending on traffic. We then travel to the lab or at a drop off site. Depending on interest in the lab, we may stay as long as an hour to orient volunteers to what is going on there.

We generally return to the New Brunswick site by about 3pm.

Q: What about lunch?

A: Sometimes we grab a bite at a local restaurant either on Staten Island or in Perth Amboy. Please be sure to bring plenty of snacks to keep your energy up throughout the day. And don’t forget your water!

Q: Does everyone doing the collecting on a given day go to all the sites?

It is not always the case that all volunteers join us for the whole day. Some people choose just to help out with the sampling, and do not join us for the trip to the lab.

Q: What would I do as a volunteer monitor?

A: You will always have a team leader with the volunteers. The team leader is generally joined by three additional people. That seems about the right number of hands to do the work and help us keep to our schedule. In the field folks are absolutely given tasks! This includes recording site observation data, labeling sample bottles, taking samples (which can involve suiting up in waders), using the probe and documenting that data, keeping everything organized. This is quality controlled work and we do not send out volunteers on their own. The more hands the better and the faster things go. We ask folks to sign up for specific dates, and ask that they commit to going out with us for the full day.