Tag: Green Infrastructure

The Problem of “Hidden” streams

The LRWP is often asked to identify top environmental issues facing our Central Jersey watershed communities, and every year we develop a “Top 10” list of concerns. Through 2019 we will feature one concern a month on our website, exploring that issue (and potential solutions) in more detail. This month we consider the problems caused by culverting, piping, developing over or otherwise “hiding” our streams, and provide strategies through which we can find them again. 

The Lower Raritan Watershed is full of ghost streams. Entrepreneurs, town councils, industry, and home owners have long buried streams to develop their land and businesses, to expand their towns, to build their homes, and to address public health concerns. The result is centuries of piping, culverting, construction, and development that have hidden the vast majority of streams and rivers in our urban landscape.


“Lower Raritan Change: 1893-1995”
This graphic show gradual encroachment of development and associated disappearance of tributaries to the South River and Raritan River over a period of approximately 100 years.
Sanja Martic, 2017.

The impact of “hiding” so many of our streams is devastating. Lower Raritan communities are alienated from our waterways and historic ecologies, habitats are degraded, water quality is compromised, and stormwater runoff and flooding intensify. Not only in the Lower Raritan, but throughout the United States and globally, these impacts are most acutely felt in areas with low socioeconomic status and vulnerable populations. In the face of climate change and increased precipitation and runoff, these communities bear disproportionate risk and adaptive burden.

We know that healthy, open streams play an important role in stormwater management. In a healthy stream, stormwater gets absorbed and gradually released by soil and plants. An open stream not only slows and controls stormwater surge, it also provides habitat for wildlife, and provides the aesthetic benefits of cool spaces and greenery.


A Stream (Mile Run Brook) Runs Under It
Flooding on Joyce Kilmer Avenue at the Mile Run Brook culvert strands students at New Brunswick’s Greater Brunswick Charter School Photo: Charlie Kratovil, 2016

What is a culvert? A culvert is a tunnel carrying a stream or open drain under a road or railroad. Stagnant water in Mile Run Brook under New Brunswick’s Hamilton Street culvert.
Photo: Heather Fenyk, 2019

Streams, especially small ones, also play an important role in improving water quality. A healthy stream ecosystem can remove excess nutrients, sediment, and other contaminants from water before it flows into our Rivers, Bays or Oceans. Recent research by the Environmental Protection Agency found that nitrates—nutrients that can become pollutants—travel on average 18 times further in buried urban streams than they do in open streams before they are taken out of the water column. This means that in areas with many buried streams like the Lower Raritan Watershed, larger water bodies including Raritan River and Raritan Bay receive more pollutants than if the waterways upstream were open and healthy and serving to filter pollutants as stormwater runoff travels its course.


Except for the smallest tributary, all branches of Mill Brook first meet daylight at the end of concrete pipes. Outfalls of, from left to right, Mill Brook’s main branch, the South Tributary, the North Tributary, and the Kilmer Tributary (Highland Park and Edison). These photos are part of Susan Edmunds’s Storymap: “Mill Brook: A Portrait of an Urban Stream

Of course the best first action with respect to keeping streams healthy is to avoid culverting, piping, constructing over or otherwise developing them. However, in already heavily developed areas like the Lower Raritan Watershed, much damage has already been done. In some of our Lower Raritan towns more than 50% of surfaces are paved over, including all waterways that were in evidence on maps from the 1800s.


Change in time in impervious cover in the Lower Raritan Watershed from 1995-2012

Walk down most any of our main streets and you are likely to “walk on water” without any awareness of what is beneath your feet. If you pay careful attention however, as students did during our 2018 summer camp, you can hear the streams and trace their course, even if you cannot actually see them. Learning about our landscape, and “finding” our hidden streams is the next best action to take in protecting them.

Lazos America Unida/LRWP Summer Camp looks for the buried Lyell’s Brook

Learning to decipher our landscape, and trying to “find” our hidden streams are central to the LRWP’s new #lookfortheriver campaign.

The LRWP is building the #lookfortheriver campaign to bring attention to the problems of “hiding” or disappearing our streams, and to identify ways of finding them again. In addition to teaching folks about the landscape in fun ways, this involves collecting stories by volunteers and contributors who take the time observe and document their area streams, and who highlight the great benefits of landscape connectivity. Joe Mish’s most recent February essay is a great example: Along the South Branch Connected. Margo Persin’s year of blog post’s about Ambrose Brook is another.

#lookfortheriver activities include our newly launched “Watershed Highlights and Hidden Streams: Walking Tours of the Lower Raritan Watershed,” to be led by Rutgers Professor and LRWP Board Member David Tulloch. These walks will look at landscape connections to our waterways and what this means. The series kicks off on Sunday March 16 close to the Rutgers campus, with exploration of the connections between Buell Brook and the Raritan, connecting Johnson Park and the historic Raritan Landing with the Eco Preserve.

#lookfortheriver includes working with volunteers to understand how our landscape works, where it doesn’t, and how to fix the problems we observe. Susan Edmunds’s research into the history of Mill Brook, and her careful study and documentation of the stream (see her online Storymap Mill Brook: A Portrait of an Urban Stream) lends tremendous insight into landscape functions of a relatively forgotten stream. Susan will present on this project in at the Highland Park public library on Sunday March 24. Joining Susan will be Rutgers student Jillian Dorsey, who will highlight findings from her thesis research on Mill Brook that shows how property owners can protect their urban streams. We hope these efforts will further mobilize municipal action to restore local streams, and that they will inspire homeowners in proper maintenance of waterway-adjacent homes. In fact, this work has already inspired the Highland Park Council to partner with the LRWP for a multi-site clean-up of Mill Brook, scheduled for Sunday May 12 – please save the date!

#lookfortheriver also includes ambitious proposals to “daylight” local streams. One such proposal is for New Brunswick’s Lyell’s Brook Green Infrastructure Landscape Corridor.

The legacy of development, culverting and piping that has hidden our streams exacerbates flooding and pollution transfer. It has disconnected us from our waterways and from our land. This is disastrous for our communities, but we are learning new ways “find” our streams again and fix these problems. Join us in online to discussions, at meetings, or for our “Hidden Streams Walking Tours”. Or simply start exploring the watershed on your own. Give close attention to landscape cues – the sound of rushing water in a storm sewer, collections of sediment and debris in low lying areas, and dense growth of trees and weeds. In this way we connect to our landscape and waterways, imagine their past, and can begin to plan for a future of “finding” and restoring them.

Please join us as we #lookfortheriver

Jersey Water Works

The LRWP is pleased to be part of Jersey Water Works, a collaborative effort of many diverse organizations and individuals who embrace the common purpose of transforming New Jersey’s inadequate water infrastructure by investing in sustainable, cost-effective solutions that provide communities with clean water and waterways; healthier, safer neighborhoods; local jobs; flood and climate resilience; and economic growth. The LRWP is active on the Green Infrastructure subcommittee.

Jersey Water Works recently published Our Water Transformed: An Action Agenda for New Jersey’s Water Infrastructure – check it out! And plan to join Jersey Water Works for their annual conference on December 7 at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark!

September 17, LRWP monthly meeting

At our September 17 meeting we will welcome Rutgers Cooperative Extension Agent Tobiah Horton to discuss a plan for rooftop and impervious surface drainages recreating an historic New Brunswick stream. The “Recreated Lyell’s Brook Green Infrastructure Corridor and Walkway” concept plan is an outgrowth of the Rail-Arts-River initiative developed by the LRWP, coLAB Arts and Rutgers Cooperative Extension.

Also on the agenda is catch up on partner activities, status updates for on-going projects, and setting planning priorities for 2019.

The meeting will be held from 10-noon in the Middlesex County Planning Offices at 75 Bayard Street, New Brunswick, NJ – 5th floor mid-size conference room.

Parking is validated for those parking on floors 5 and higher in the RWJ Wellness Parking Deck located at 95 Paterson Street, New Brunswick, NJ 08901. Be sure to bring your ticket to the meeting for validation.

Sustainable Jersey certifies 12 Lower Raritan Watershed towns!

We applaud the following Lower Raritan Watershed towns for securing Sustainable Jersey status in 2017!

East Brunswick – bronze
Edison – bronze
Monroe – bronze
New Brunswick – bronze
Plainsboro – bronze
South Plainfield – bronze
Woodbridge – silver
Hillsborough – silver
Somerville Borough – bronze
Warren Township – silver
Berkeley Heights Township – bronze
Summit City – silver

Extra kudos to New Brunswick, Perth Amboy and Woodbridge for securing 20 points in the “Climate Adaptation: Flooding Risk” action. This action is designed to help communities: 1) identify their vulnerability to flooding impacts (both coastal and inland) and 2) identify ways to improve their overall resiliency. This action focuses on the various causes of flooding that could impact a community, either now or in the future, including increased precipitation, increased frequency of heavy precipitation events, sea level rise and storm surge.

Climate change, population growth, urbanization and industrialization are all putting pressure on our communities and their access to safe and secure water supplies. Sustainable Jersey now awards points for Green Infrastructure Planning and Implementation Actions that can directly improve the water quality of our rivers and streams. Read more about these water-friendly actions on the Sustainable Jersey website.

 

Recap of Nov 17 Resilience Workshop with NOAA

On November 17 the Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership joined with NOAA to co-host a day-long workshop: “Introducing Green Infrastructure for Coastal Resilience”. This workshop, designed for planners, engineers and municipal leaders not yet familiar with GI for coastal resilience, brought in more than 50 participants from the Lower Raritan Watershed and throughout New Jersey. It was a great event!
Workshop participants brainstorm ways to implement Green Infrastructure in their communities
Many thanks to everyone who joined us for the workshop, with special thanks to our speakers: Lauren Long (NOAA), Toby Horton & Jeremiah Bergstrom (Rutgers Cooperative Extension), John Trucsinski (The Nature Conservancy), Linda Weber (Sustainable Jersey) and Carter Craft (Consulate General of the Netherlands).
Tobiah Horton (Rutgers Extension), Lauren Long (NOAA) and Carter Craft (Consulate General of the Netherlands) discuss local resilience responses
The workshop was timed to coincide with the 5th anniversary of Superstorm Sandy. We saw this anniversary as an opportune moment to reflect on successes in implementing GI thus far, as well as to frame challenges, solutions and opportunities for future GI interventions. Of course this work is just beginning. The LRWP, NOAA and Rutgers Marine Sciences are discussing how to continue the conversation in 2018. Stay tuned! For now, please see conference handouts, presentations, and additional resources below.
Participant Agenda:
Final_GIParticipantAgenda_LRWP_NOAA_Workshop_11.17.2017 (2)
Conference Handouts:
Ecosystem Services Handout
Green Infrastructure Practices Handout
Green_Infrastructure_FundingOpportunities_11-17-17
Green Infrastructure Barriers Handout
GI Hand Out For Local Elected Officials
Overcoming Barriers to Green Infrastructure Handout
risk-communication-best-practices
Presentations:
LRWP_Resilience_Workshop_SpeakerBios_11-17-17
Lauren Long (NOAA): Intro_to_GI_NOAA_LRWP_11-17-17
Carter Craft (Consulate General of Netherlands): CommunitySiteScale_CCraft_11-17-17
Toby Horton (Rutgers University Cooperative Extension): CommunitySiteScale_THorton_11-17-17_III
Jeremiah Bergstrom (Rutgers University Cooperative Extension): LandscapeScale_JBergstrom_11-17-17
Linda Weber (Sustainable Jersey): LocalPlanningGI_LWeber_11-17-17
John Truscinski (The Nature Conservancy): ShorelineProtection_JTruscinski_11-17-17_reducedII
Notes:
SayrevilleGITraining Notes_Flipcharts
Additional Resources:
Tackling Barriers to Green Infrastructure: An Audit of Local Codes and Ordinances – http://seagrant.wisc.edu/home/Portals/0/Files/Coastal%20Communities/Green_Infrastructure/GIAT.pdf
NOAA case study associated with Audit of Local Codes and Ordinances as they related to Green Infrastructure: https://coast.noaa.gov/digitalcoast/training/port-washington.html
NOAA’s Natural Infrastructure Topic Page also has links to many of their Natural Infrastructure resources: https://coast.noaa.gov/digitalcoast/topics/green-infrastructure.html

Workshop: Green Infrastructure for Coastal Resilience

On November 17 the Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership is joining with NOAA to co-host a day-long workshop: “Introducing Green Infrastructure for Coastal Resilience”. This workshop is designed for planners, engineers and municipal leaders who are not yet familiar with GI for coastal resilience. Register now!

Morgan Marina in Sayreville, NJ following Superstorm Sandy, Oct-Nov 2012

The workshop is timed to coincide with the 5th anniversary of Superstorm Sandy. We see this as an opportune moment to reflect on successes in implementing GI thus far, as well as to frame challenges, solutions and opportunities for future GI interventions.

Participation will be capped at 50. Continuing ed credits will be available for planners and floodplain managers.

Continuing Education Credits available:

6 – American Planning Association (APA)

5 – Association of State Floodplain Managers (ASFPM)

With thanks to the Middlesex County Office of Planning the workshop will be held at the Middlesex County Fire Academy in Sayreville, NJ.

Perth Amboy Green Infrastructure Update

Article by Billy Kurzenberger, Program Coordinator at City of Perth Amboy, Office of Economic and Community Development

The City of Perth Amboy, in partnership with the Rutgers Cooperative Extension Water Resources Program and with funding provided by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP), has launched several new projects in its community-based green infrastructure initiative, Perth Amboy SWIM (Stormwater Infrastructure Management).

Washington Park is the site of a new rain garden designed to redirect and absorb rainwater while beautifying the park. The park’s parking lot is now resurfaced in porous pavement designed to allow rain water to pass through the surface and seep into the ground instead of running off into our stormwater sewers.

Perth Amboy SWIM rain garden installation, Sept 7/2017. Photo credit: Perth Amboy Mayor Diaz

In addition to the projects at Washington Park, the same partnership is responsible for the installation of two other porous pavement parking lots at municipal parking lot C on Jefferson Street and municipal parking lot RDH on Madison Street. All of these efforts will help us protect our local waterways from nonpoint source pollution, reduce flooding around the City and serve as excellent educational tools for the community.

A Perth Amboy SWIM porous/pervious pavement Green Infrastructure project at Washington Park. October 9/2017 was the first rain. Rain water is allowed to pass through the asphalt & soak into the soil rather than flood the neighborhood. Photo Credit: Raritan Riverkeeper.

Perth Amboy SWIM meets on the third Thursday of every month at 10am and always welcomes new members! Meetings are held in the Brighton Avenue Community Center (56 Brighton Avenue, Perth Amboy, NJ). For more information, please contact Billy Kurzenberger at wkurzenberger@perthamboynj.org

October update from the LRWP President

Dear Friends of the Lower Raritan Watershed –

Five years ago Superstorm Sandy came ashore, causing widespread destruction throughout our region. Now our thoughts go out to Houston, Florida and Puerto Rico as they recover from this season’s ruinous Hurricanes. How would our Lower Raritan Watershed fare if drenched with similar rainfall to that which Hurricane Harvey dumped on Houston? Every one of our watershed communities would be devastated. And if a Hurricane like Maria hit Raritan Bay the storm surge would level Sayreville, South River, South Amboy and much of Perth Amboy. Although rainfall amounts akin to Harvey are extremely unlikely in our region, global climate change is increasing the likelihood and frequency of powerful hurricanes and other storms. The northeast has already experienced a 71% increase between 1958 and 2012 in the amount of rain that falls in very intense storms.

At LRWP we think about and work on climate adaptation in relation to water quality improvements, community health and storm preparedness. Our approach is to identify, prioritize and implement nature-based solutions (called Green Infrastructure) that will make our Lower Raritan Watershed communities resilient to stronger rain storms and rising temperatures. Preparing and adapting proactively will save money while protecting our infrastructure, the environment, and human life – with the added benefits of improved air and water quality, reduced urban heat island impacts and enhanced urban neighborhoods. For this reason we are organizing the November 17 “Green Infrastructure for Resilience” workshop with NOAA. This workshop is designed to help our communities think through their resilience approaches. Registration is now open. We encourage municipalities (Environmental Commissions, Green Teams, Planners, Engineers, Council Members) to attend as teams to develop concept plans to take back to your towns. Continuing education credits are available through the American Planning Association (6 credits) and the Association of State Floodplain Managers (5 credits).

We are very excited to kick off our 3rd (!!) year as a non-profit with the NOAA resilience workshop. We are also rolling out lots of birthday surprises on our websitethroughout October (new resource pages for students, towns, teachers and homeowners) and plenty of other events to get you out in the field!

See you in the watershed,

Heather Fenyk, President
Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership

December 2 – Jersey Water Works Conference

The LRWP is pleased to be part of Jersey Water Works, and will be involved with the December 2 Jersey Water Works Conference in Newark.

conference.jerseywaterworks.org

Dec. 2 from 9:00 am to 2:30pm at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark, NJ

The Jersey Water Works Conference is a day-long event that will bring together more than 300 state and local decision-makers, practitioners and stakeholders to amplify the importance of addressing New Jersey’s water infrastructure, explore innovative solutions and celebrate the Jersey Water Works collaborative as an effective, comprehensive approach to achieving statewide impact.

The conference will feature:
National and local speakers including keynote speaker Hon. Stephanie A. Miner
An announcement of commitments to action by the members of Jersey Water Works
A panel discussion about the City of Newark and its water infrastructure challenges and opportunities.

October 18 – LRWP General Meeting

Our October 18 meeting will include a follow-up discussion on Green Infrastructure management with CDM Smith and members of the JerseyWaterWorks Green Infrastructure sub-committee. For background please see the video/audio from our September webinar on the NYC GreenHUB tool, which will frame on-going discussions.

The meeting will be held from 9:30 – 11 am in the Middlesex County Planning Offices at 75 Bayard Street, New Brunswick, NJ – 5th floor mid-size conference room.

Parking is validated for those parking on floors 5 and higher in the RWJ Wellness Parking Deck located at 95 Paterson Street, New Brunswick, NJ 08901. Be sure to bring your ticket to the meeting for validation.

For more information contact Heather: hfenyk AT lowerraritanwatershed DOT org

Meeting Agenda

9:30 Welcome / Introductions

9:35 Recap September Meeting

9:40 Discussion RE: Asset Management for Green Infrastructure in the Lower Raritan Watershed

10:00 Identifying next steps for GI Asset Management in the LRW

10:20 LRWP Project Updates
-Water Quality Monitoring
-Project WADES / Watershed Sculpture Project
-Rail-Arts-River
-Natural Assets Mapping
-Intern / Volunteer Projects

10:50 Upcoming Events

10:55 Partner Announcements

11:00 Adjourn

We have arranged a dial-in number for Jersey Water Works members:

Dial-in Number: 1-712-770-8041
Conference Code: 278926
Host Code: 8789
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