Tag: Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership

May 12 webinar: Restoring aquatic habitat through climate-ready infrastructure

Please join us Thursday May 12, 6-7:30pm for a special presentation by Isabelle Stinnette, Restoration Program Manager, NY-NJ Harbor and Estuary Program. Ms. Stinnette will speak on Restoring aquatic habitat through climate-ready infrastructure in the Lower Raritan.

Aquatic connectivity is a key restoration goal for the New York – New Jersey Harbor & Estuary Program (HEP) and its partners. Inadequately sized, positioned, or blocked culverts or other stream crossings can be a seasonal or year-round barrier to aquatic species, fragmenting habitat and disconnecting the natural flow of organisms, material, nutrients and energy along the river system. This loss of stream connectivity is a critical threat to valuable and already vulnerable species such as the native Eastern brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis), the American eel (Anguilla rostrata) and river herring (Alosa spp.). New York-New Jersey Harbor & Estuary Program is working to assess over 375 road-stream crossing in the lower Raritan basin and bay region through 2022 to inform improved connectivity. This presentation will provide a summary of this work and findings.

Pre-registration required.

The LRWP Welcomes Summer Intern Emma Nei!

Moorestown Friend School Senior Emma Nei joins the LRWP as a 2022 Summer Intern. Here she shares her impressions of her first day “on the job” – conducting outreach for the LRWP at Rutgers Day.

This past weekend, I experienced my first day interning for the Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership and my first Rutgers Day, a day dedicated to showcasing the different programs, events, and culture of the Rutgers community. RU is my mother’s alma mater and she explained the excitement around this day and how thrilled she would be to run into past professors and classmates. We parked the car and made our way to find the LRWP table. I was struck by the smells coming from food trucks and the sounds of tents and tables being set up. Thankfully, it was beautiful outside. With the sun shining through the trees and a nice breeze on my neck, I knew I would enjoy the day. Surrounding the water body known by students as Passion Puddle, there were dozens and dozens of displays for many different organizations. You could measure how high you could jump at the Kinesiology Department’s table or play trivia games with the State Climatologist. After a few minutes of walking, a large rain barrel and a colorful sign captured my attention. I had arrived at my destination.

Jocelyn and Piash, two other interns for the LRWP, quickly showed me the ropes. I had already done some background research on the watershed but they taught me the best ways to catch peoples’ attention as they walked by, answer their questions and introduce some of the programs LRWP offers. Soon I was explaining the basics of the water monitoring program, how samples are taken every week from six different locations along the Raritan and where to find the results posted online. I answered questions as best I could but when someone asked about green infrastructure in their town, Jocelyn and Piash were both there to swoop in and help.

I loved my environmental science classes this past year. I knew I was interested in science and research from the projects I had done throughout high school. Wrapping up my senior year through internship is an exciting way to learn something new and gain some work experience before heading off to college. Classes end in April at my high school and students are required to intern for an organization of their choosing during the month of May. After going through a list of environmental non-profits, my mother suggested looking at the LRWP. Their website and newsletters really conveyed the mission, purpose and passion of the organization and I wanted to experience it. My interest in the health of local waterways increased as I saw the wide range of programs offered.

As the hours of Rutgers Day passed, all sorts of people came up to our display to ask about specific projects. Engineering students wondered how bad the pollution was in various waterways. An outdoorsy couple approached, wondering about the best times to go kayaking or hiking around the Raritan River. Children wandered up to look at the plastic bugs on the table, their curiosity piqued. It became obvious to me that the health of local waterways impacts the whole community; no matter how old you are or what your background is, you are affected in some way. So many different people stopped at the table and shared their concerns about the health of their waterways. We were able to provide ways for them to learn more, to help monitor them and to actually help clean them. A mother came to the table with her two boys who were fascinated by the critters on the table. She was curious about how safe the waterways were because her son liked to collect rocks by the river. She also wanted to learn if she and her family could come out and volunteer. I realized that LRWP wasn’t just a means to collect data and inform people about issues but also a way to bring the local community together through service. As my day wrapped up, I said goodbye to some new friends and felt excited to start my internship.

Race to the Sea

Article and photos by Joe Mish

Imagine a colorful fleet of canoes and kayaks gathered at the confluence of the north and south branch in anticipation of the start of a dash down the Raritan River to the sea. Described as a sojourn, dash, race and tour to accommodate all levels of experience, the finish lines for each class can be a different take out along the way. Classes for racers, timed for placement and simply celebration upon reaching any chosen finish line for the touring dashers. Distance or time become the personal feedback for participants who may wish to improve their last year’s performance. In that way the ‘race’ has the elements of developing into a tradition where dad’s and daughters, moms and sons, look forward to next year and maybe in anticipation, focus on improving their health and physical conditioning.

The paddler’s intimacy with the Raritan brings with it a deeper appreciation of the river, which has existed as more of a concept to most people who may only glimpse it at a distance, while passing over a bridge on the way to work. With intimacy comes consideration and concern about all things impacting the river and its watershed.

The possibilities to grow a network of support for the treasure that is the Raritan River, are limited only by imagination. Photographs and art work inspired by the river’s appearance through the seasons could be celebrated by riverside towns, restaurants, schools and galleries to be dispersed far and wide. Like seeds in the wind, the beauty and appreciation of the Raritan may be an inspiration to awaken distant communities to the riverine treasures in their backyard.

One example of a successful effort to market a once polluted river, is the Kenduskeag Stream Canoe Race, held each April, in Maine. At one time salmon and eels returned from the sea via the Penobscot River to the Kenduskeag stream. By the time Thoreau walked he shores of the Kenduskeag in the mid 19th century, tanneries and flour mills blocked and poisoned the stream and continued well into the 1960s. A group of local canoeists came up with the idea for a canoe race to showcase the Kenduskeag and bring attention to its health. Eventually the race expanded to be televised and enjoyed by hundreds of viewers and attendees. The salmon run is making a comeback and even Sports Illustrated found room on its cover to celebrate the longest early season canoe race in New England. I participated in this race for eighteen years and carried the seeds of inspiration back to the Raritan. It is no small coincidence that Henry David Thoreau left indelible footprints along the Raritan River and the Kenduskeag for future generations to follow.

The crowd of streamside supporters bundled dry and warm, cheer on canoeists who await the countdown for the start of the Kenduskeag Stream Race. The countdown to the start of the race, 5. 4. 3. 2. 1.gets the adrenaline flowing. This is a scenario that may someday be played out at the confluence of the Raritan River.

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 jjmish57@msn.com.

Raritan River’s “Swimways” are featured in BioScience!

Science writer Cheryl Lyn Dybas features the Raritan River and the dam removal work of Hydrogeologist John Jengo in her article “Birds Follow Flyways, Fish Navigate Swimways” published this week in the journal BioScience. Ms. Dybas also highlights research by Rutgers biologists Olaf Jensen and Anthony Vastano, who track the impact of dam removal on local fish populations in the Raritan, and cites additional research by Rutgers ecologist Julie Lockwood who is using eDNA (environmental DNA) to monitor the comeback of river herring and American shad in the Raritan. Cool stuff!

Ms. Dybas’ piece provides a fascinating global perspective on habitat connectivity, and contextualizes our local-to-the Raritan dam removal and fish passage efforts in a larger movement to save migratory fish species (World Fish Migration Day is May 21, 2022). We are so grateful for her attention and reporting on this work!

Interested in learning more? Read John Jengo’s wonderful essay series on dam removal in the Raritan Basin. Access tools and resources to better understand habitat connectivity planning in New Jersey in a blog post by LRWP intern Emily Koai. Learn about the LRWP’s non-dam-removal plans to simultaneously improve habitat connectivity and advance resilience planning in this article about our South River Ecosystem Restoration Project. And save the date Thursday May 12 for a special webinar presentation by Isabelle Stinnette, Restoration Program Manager, NY-NJ Harbor and Estuary Program. Ms. Stinnette will speak on Restoring aquatic habitat through climate-ready infrastructure in the Lower Raritan

Memories are Where You First Met Them

Article and photos by Joe Mish

This maroon shale cliff forming the river’s bend, serves as a memory retrieval bank for times gone by. I was canoeing with my late friend Jimmy, who caught and released a feisty smallmouth bass just upstream of that shale prominence. Memory storage may be why the shore of a river is referred to as a ‘bank’.

Over the course of time everything we experience is stored as a memory. Having limited capacity for recall, it is the most impactful memories that linger. By no means are memories ever lost, they are stored in pristine condition in unconscious archives. The key to recovery can be a scent, sight or a sound. Prompted by clues hidden in unrelated conversations, a single phrase or word can bring an experience back into sharp focus. Old, faded photographs of no particular beauty or composition can instantly bring the past into laser focus as the prompts to our memories are as individual as fingerprints.

So it is that each time I paddle the river, it becomes a physical journey through the accumulated memories collected over hundreds of miles, paddled on the same stretch of river. Each trip is like opening the old family album to add new photographs and seeing the older images as the pages are turned. It is as if a gravitational pull compels you to linger a bit longer in the realm of old memories.

There is hardly a location on the river that does not hold a memory for me. Digital images and photographs, abound, however, it is being present on the river that provides access to memories not captured by the camera or pushed aside by the endless flow of freshly minted memories.

Every time I pass the drainage above the mouth of Pleasant Run, my mind immediately plays the video of the snowy winter day I pulled out of the current into the safe harbor of a drainage stream to warm my hands under my arms. The heavy snow quickly covered me and my boat as I leaned forward, folded arms resting on my thighs. I felt safe and comfortable as the canoe was stabilized in the heavy slush and well within the six-foot-wide drainage stream away from the main current. The snow was almost a foot deep along the high bank and to my surprise a dark brown mink was porpoising through the deep snow toward the drainage and my canoe. The mink came within arm’s reach before it realized the convenient bridge and large lump of snow was an existential threat.

One summer day I had my young daughter in the bow of my canoe, as we approached the tower line near home, a large fish jumped clear of the water, hit the gallon jug of juice she was holding, bounced off the opposite gunnel and fell back into the river. Her expression was priceless, as was mine, to witness a scene that could only happen in a cartoon. Can’t pass under that tower line without reliving that moment! Though many years have passed, the clarity and even the emotion of that comedy is still retained in the tower line archives.

On an initiation canoe trip with my four-year-old grandson, I paddled close to a high shale cliff, as in my experience cliffs were a major attraction to young boys. Sure enough, Caleb was impressed and asked how to get to the top. Before I could answer I noticed a large animal on the narrow shelf at water’s edge below the cliff. We closed in on a supersized beaver munching some delicate vines growing on the cliff face. The beaver slowly moved into deeper water but not before swimming on the surface a few yards in front of the canoe. You will not be able to see it, but when I pass that cliff, it reveals a crystal-clear video of that priceless moment. Of course, the next day Caleb never mentioned the beaver to mom but was totally impressed by Grampy carrying the canoe over his head.

One early spring day after ice-out, the river was running high, and the only ice that remained was found in deep cuts into the bank where trees were washed away. As I rounded a sharp bend in the river, I kept about three feet off the left bank to avoid the main current. Immediately on my left was a large ice-covered cove about twelve feet into the high vertical bank. I could not believe what I saw! Standing in sharp contrast to the empty expanse of graying ice, was an otter!  As it ran toward me, I realized its only escape route was into the water next to my canoe. At less than two feet away I watched the otter dive into the fast-moving muddy water in the narrow space between my boat and the ice shelf. I thought I was hallucinating, perhaps hypothermic. I never saw an otter on the river before or since. Consider, this bend in the river projects the memory of my close encounter with an otter, exclusively for me. It is my personal archive, available to no one else.

Memories are where you first met them, they are safe from prying eyes and remain where you last left them. The storage capacity is infinite and the keys to unlock them are everywhere.

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 jjmish57@msn.com.

October 3 – Walk in the Watershed, South Bound Brook/Bound Brook!

Please join us Sunday October 3, 2-4 pm for our second “walk in the watershed” in South Bound Brook/Bound Brook with LRWP Board Member and Rutgers Professor David Tulloch! We also expect Green Brook Flood Control Commission Chair Raymond Murray to join us for part of our tour.

Plan to meet at D&R Canal Lock 11 in South Bound Brook. There is limited parking in this lot, however there is plenty of street parking.

We will start our conversation at D&R Canal Lock 11, explore a bit of the canal and talk about its function and its relationship with the health of the river. From there we will walk over to Bound Brook to see the flood control gates by the traffic circle and the levees at Billian Legion Park. We will continue our walk up the Lincoln Ave Bridge to take in views of the Raritan.

August 14 Raritan Dams Tour with John Jengo!

Please join us Saturday, August 14th for a three hour tour of the Headgates, Robert Street and Nevius Street dams. This tour will be led by the very wonderful and informative hydrogeologist John Jengo, PG, LRSP. The tour will include discussion of past and future dam removals, and will be a chance to see the scale of the dams so that downstream removals can be understood in context.

We will kick things off promptly at 8:30 am at Headgates Dam, followed by the Robert Street and Nevius Street dams. We estimate the trip will be approximately 3 hours. We will be walking along the river banks to see these sites, so plan on wearing appropriate footwear. For those interested, we can also visit the Weston Mill Dam site at the end of the day, which can be viewed from the Weston Causeway Bridge.

The LRWP is grateful to John Jengo for offering this opportunity. Registration is limited to 18 people. Directions and parking information will be sent to registrants in advance of the event.

For more information on these dams, and dam removal in the Lower Raritan and Raritan Basin, please see John Jengo’s blog series on the LRWP website. Please also see the LRWP’s letter to NJDEP regarding the importance of the Headgates Dam Removal.

ABOUT JOHN W. JENGO, PG, LSRP: John is a licensed Professional Geologist in several Northeastern and Southeastern states and a Licensed Site Remediation Professional in New Jersey. John works as a Principal Hydrogeologist in an environmental consulting firm in southeastern Pennsylvania. He has degrees in geology from Rutgers University (1980) and the University of Delaware (1982). Over the last 30 years, he has conducted the characterization and remediation of large, complex contaminated industrial sites throughout New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. He played a key role in Natural Resource Damage (NRD) assessments that led to groundbreaking legal settlements to remove numerous low head dams on the Raritan and Millstone Rivers to restore historically significant migratory fish spawning runs. As technical project manager, he planned, permitted, and successfully managed the removal of the Calco Dam, the Robert Street Dam, and the Nevius Street Dam between 2008-2013, and the removal of the Weston Mill Dam on the Millstone River in 2017, along with leading the archaeological investigation of the former Weston Mill in the Borough of Manville and Franklin Township.

Raritan River Pathogens Results for 8.12.2021

The Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership and Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Middlesex County run a volunteer pathogens monitoring program from May to September every Summer. On Thursdays we collect water quality samples at 6 non-bathing public access beaches along the Raritan River, and report out the results on Friday afternoons. Our results for 8.12.2021 are a mixed bag. Numbers for the upstream sites (Riverside Park, Rutgers Boathouse, and Edison Boathouse) are high, whereas downstream toward the Raritan Bay the numbers improve (Ken Buchanan Waterfront Park, South Amboy Waterfront Park, Perth Amboy’s 2nd Street Park). As always, if you choose to recreate on the water this weekend, stay safe, and be sure to wash your hands!  See here for more information on our pathogens monitoring program.

A few additional things to share:

#1 Holy smokes was it a hot day for monitoring yesterday! If you are out in this crazy heat, stay hydrated!

#2: LRWP volunteers and friends are AMAZING!!

Gratitude to: Dorina Cardinale, Janet Sacklow, Jason Acevedo, Andrew Gehman and Maya Fenyk for sampling yesterday. And special thanks to Jesse Stratowski with Rutgers Recreation for opening things up at the boathouse for us!

Thanks also to LRWP Water Quality Outreach Project Coordinator Jocelyn Palomino and Rutgers Environmental Stewards Program Steward Julisa Collado (and her father Jose) for coordinating a fun youth outreach event at our last stop in Perth Amboy.

We enjoyed catching up with friends who joined us for outreach: a pair of white swans, Elizabeth Pyshnik with Rutgers Cooperative Extension Water Resources Program, Renee Skelton with Perth Amboy SWIM, Raritan Riverkeepers Bill Schultz & Lorraine McCartney, and Michael DuFour with Sky Horse Tech LLC who brought the very cool “water drone” prototype, designed for in-channel sampling (see photos).

July 24 Watchung Mountain “Hidden Streams” Hike

Registration is now open for the LRWP’s first “Watershed Highlights and Hidden Streams” walking tour of 2021!

Join us on Saturday July 24, 10-noon as we visit one of the northernmost areas of the Lower Raritan Watershed and explore the Watchung Reservation’s Blue Brook and Lake Surprise.

The walk, guided by our own David Tulloch, will help our hikers begin to discover this massive Olmsted Brothers-designed park. With help from a few maps, Dr. Tulloch will talk about the context of the park within the watershed as well as the context of this culturally-significant historic landscape within the surrounding communities of Union County.

We will be meeting in the Watchung Reservation at the area called The Loop (Some park signs point towards the Loop and its playground). At 10am our group will depart on foot from the building (with bathrooms) shown with the red marker below (40.687, -74.374).

Estimated 4 miles of walking.

Registration required. Please check the LRWP website for updates, especially in the case of inclement weather.

The Watchung Reservation is in Scotch Plains, NJ 07076

Summer 2021 Raritan Pathogens Monitoring Update

For Summer 2021 the Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership and our Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Middlesex County partners are building up our pathogens monitoring program in several new ways.

  1. With grant support from The Watershed Institute we have engaged Jocelyn Palomino as a Project Coordinator to lead sampling and conduct outreach focused on engagement with the Spanish-speaking community. This will involve sampling demonstrations at our Perth Amboy 2nd Street Park site, boat trips, and more.
  2. Earlier this Spring we started meeting with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regarding improving our understanding of pathogens flows into the Raritan. In addition to our six (6) non-bathing public access beach monitoring sites, for Summer 2021 the EPA will monitor an additional 22 in-channel sites for fecal/enterococcus going all the way up to Bound Brook and including the D&R Canal;
  3. With support from the EPA, we will continue genetic source studies at our 6 sites AS WELL AS at the EPA’s 22 new sites to determine whether the fecal is human/bird/dog/horse etc.;
  4. We are working with Interstate Environmental Commission to compare IDEXX vs. membrane filtration technology. This means that each of our samples will be analyzed by BOTH methods during this monitoring season. It will be an interesting comparison to run these numbers for the whole summer. NJDEP ONLY accepts the more stringent IDEXX method.
  5. We are working with Rutgers Office of Analytics to develop a predictive model based on our data. That is, our goal with the model is to input precipitation, rainfall, tidal influence, etc. for those dates that we cannot go out sampling, and still get a good sense for what the likelihood of fecal/entero levels.
  6. We are planning more water-based reconnaissance for outfalls and compromised sewage infrastructure at our sites, particularly the Piscataway site.
  7. We are working with Brenda Allen, a doctoral candidate with the Center for Remote Sensing and Spatial Analysis, to help us understand possible land use impacts on our numbers, and help us prioritize where we start our on-the-ground sleuthing;
  8. We are working with a start-up technology company to deploy a water-based drone that can travel the Raritan catching samples as-needed. They will deploy the drone within the next few weeks.

We continue to build a research program to better understand risks, and in this regard we are working to get Middlesex County Health involved. With EPA now very invested, we hope that with the IDEXX vs. membrane filtration comparison study we’ll be able to convince NJDEP to work with us (and our data) as well.

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