Tag: Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership

Weston Mill Dam Removal

Article and photos by John W. Jengo

The Weston Mill Dam and the former Weston Mill gristmill and sawmill site are located approximately 1.5 miles upstream of the Millstone River’s confluence with the Raritan River, and immediately downstream of the Weston Causeway (Wilhousky Street) Bridge in the Borough of Manville and the Township of Franklin, Somerset County, New Jersey. The dam crest length was approximately 112.5 feet long and there was a concrete approach apron that ranged in thickness from 5 to 6.75-inches that extended 17.5 to 18.5 feet upriver of the dam spillway. The location of the mill was depicted on early Colonial-era and Revolutionary War military field maps, and the mill and dam were picturesque landmarks that were often photographed by local residents, including images included in the book Franklin Township [NJ] – Images of America, published in 1997.

Through an intensive deed search, I determined that a gristmill and dam were established on the east bank of the Millstone River at the project area circa 1747, most probably built by Abraham Brokaw, and the mill was subsequently involved in a Revolutionary “Forage War” skirmish between British and American forces on January 20, 1777 while under the ownership of Abraham Van Nest.  Recovery of two cornerstones during 1983 salvage operations suggest major mill building and rebuilding efforts occurred in 1803 and 1844 by John M. Bayard and Isaac R. Cornell, respectively.  Though the mill remained active at this site into the early twentieth century (it was the most productive mill in the Millstone River/Stony Brook drainage), under various private owners and incorporations (Weston Mill Company, Inc.; Community Flour Mill and Grain Company; Union Mills Company, Inc.), and the dam underwent significant structural repairs between circa 1922 and circa 1948 by its last owner (Wilbur Smith), it ultimately fell into disuse and disrepair. On May 31, 1982, the mill building partially collapsed into the Millstone River. Mill artifact salvage operations were initiated on June 25, 1983 but were abandoned when arson claimed the collapsed structure on July 7, 1983.

When I first began assessing this dam in 2009 as a candidate for removal, the Weston Mill site included the brownstone and concrete foundation remains of a gristmill that had enclosed a turbine room (formerly the water wheel pit) and a tailrace room, and there were associated powertrain components scattered throughout the site, including multiple bevel gears, possible mortise and pin gears, sprocket gears, drive shafts, counter shafts, flat belt pulleys, and other mill-related power-train apparatuses. A concrete coring project conducted in August 2015 at five representative locations on the dam approach apron (the same effort that determined the thickness of the apron) revealed two concrete approach aprons, which suggested that the dam was reinforced or rebuilt with concrete in two different periods in the early- to mid-twentieth century and that this run-of-the-river dam may have been built on top of a timber crib dam of unknown age.

Routine visits to the dam site over the next eight years would indicate that beginning in 2015, the eastern 78 feet of the dam crest (i.e., the top of the spillway) and spillway began to noticeably subside and detach from the concrete approach apron, placing undue stress on the riverward mill foundation wall to the east.  By mid-2017, the collapsing dam crest and spillway had subsided almost to the level of the downstream pool elevation, had deflected outward some five feet downriver, and in doing so, the flow of the river was redirected toward the mill ruins on the east bank, potentially causing adverse effects to the mill foundation and complicating the dam removal.

The dam removal and the engineering plans were re-designed to include emplacing scour protection around the Weston Mill foundation walls to arrest the damage to the ruins and preserve the remaining fabric of the site for future study.  The first step in the dam removal process, which commenced on August 14, 2017, was to initially breach a portion of the dam to reduce the differential head between the upstream and downstream pools. The initial breach width of 35 feet, located near the center point of the dam, produced the desired upstream pool drawdown and a relatively low current velocity through the breach. Once the upstream impoundment had drained, the contact between the concrete approach apron and the riverward mill foundation wall was accessible to be saw cut to isolate the apron from the mill wall prior to further demolition. This was done to ensure that neither the weight of the demolition excavator or the vibration of the hydraulic hammer would destabilize the riverward foundation wall.

After the saw cut was completed, the concrete approach apron, an underlying concrete sub-apron, and dam spillway were carefully detached and removed.  Imported rip rap was then emplaced around the mill foundation walls. My experience working on the rivers of this watershed indicated that natural sedimentation from storm events would eventually blanket and in-fill the rip rap, enhancing the stability of the scour protection armament. Finally, a restored river channel thalweg were excavated and contoured appropriately.  It was during these excavations that segments of a timber crib dam, secured to the river bed by using 17.5-inch to 20.5-inch long, 1.125-inch square iron spikes, were extracted that clearly indicated that the pre-concrete dam structure was a timber crib construction.  Three primary types of roughly square timbers believed to be part of the timber crib dam were identified: 13-foot long lap jointed foundation logs with iron spikes, 9.25- to 9.75-foot timbers with two mortise joints (some with intact dowels), and 3.8-foot timbers with tenons at one end.  Several timbers of this historical structure were saved and donated to the Borough of Manville, Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park, and NJDEP, who had purchased the dam site in 2013 from a private owner, an acquisition that allowed the dam removal to proceed.

Monitoring of the river reach above the former Weston Mill Dam in spring 2018 following the August 2017 dam removal found definitive evidence of successful American shad spawning, an astonishing and long-awaited result given this river reach had effectively been blocked to migratory fish for over 270 years.  Five juvenile shad averaging 4.3 inches in length were found 4.5 miles upstream of the dam at the base of Blackwells Mills Dam during a monitoring visit, highlighting yet again the dam removals can yield near-instantaneous positive results even after centuries of impeding fish migration and spawning.

Video of the Weston Mill Dam removal can be viewed here:

Endnote: Because of the archaeological discoveries made before and during the dam removal, and the rich cultural history of Weston Mill, a standalone video on the History of Weston Mill was developed and can be viewed here:

John W. Jengo, PG, LSRP 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.

Rowing on the Raritan Boat Building Project

The LRWP’s new “Rowing on the Raritan Boat Building Project” seeks volunteers to participate in boat-building to provide the inaugural fleet of a community-based rowing program on the Raritan River. The goal is to construct two cedar strip rowing boats during a 90-day building period beginning the week of January 24, 2021. No experience required. Volunteers will have the opportunity to learn through hands-on activities, as well as through live-streaming and recorded instructional sessions.

We are now taking registrations for our “soft” launch the week of January 25. Each time slot is limited to four (4) participants.
Boat build activities will take place at 100 Kirkpatrick Street in New Brunswick, NJ (the former Fresh Grocer site across from the New Brunswick train station).
Feel free to participate as “observer” – watch our volunteers build the boats via street-level windows.

Requirements for Participation:   

Age 18+

No boat-building experience required

Free to register and participate

Participants will be screened at the beginning of each shop session and expected to follow Covid-19 Safety Protocol.

Volunteer Dates and Times (Please register via our events page):

Mon 2-5:00 p.m.Wed 3-5:00 p.m.Wed 5-7:00 p.m.Sat 8-10:00 a.m.Sat 10-12:00 a.m.
1/251/271/271/301/30

With thanks to Derek Hartwick-Head Rowing Coach- U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, and the New Brunswick Parking Authority for their partnership on this project.

Green Brook clean-up 2020

The last clean-up of 2020 is in the books!

HUGE THANKS to the 60+ intrepid souls who joined the Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership and Central Jersey Stream Team out on the Green Brook floodplain for our last clean-up of the year. It was a cold, windy, rainy, mucky start to the day – really only the cold abated by the time we wrapped up.

With appreciation to Green Brook Township, Green Brook Regional Centre, GreenBrook Lions, Sewa Central Jersey, Mr. Kevin Ellis’ Middle School Science class, our Hackensack Riverkeeper friends and all the wonderful volunteers for giving of their time to clean up our watershed!

A crazy amount of trash was collected including a mini fridge, large screen TV, a big inflatable banana and so much more. See below for a few photos from the day. See you in 2021!!

LRWP board member Anton Getz and CJST board member Jens Riedel spot an inflatable banana on the Green Brook
Green Brook Middle School science teacher Kevin Ellis and his students
Central Jersey Sewa volunteer fill dozens of bags with plastic bottles
THANK YOU VOLUNTEERS!!

December 5 Clean-up in Green Brook!!

~SAVE THE DATE~ Join the Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership, Central Jersey Stream Team and friends for a clean-up of the Green Brook!

WHAT: a clean-up of the Green Brook on Saturday December 5 from 10AM to 1PM

WHERE: Green Brook Regional Center, 275 Greenbrook Rd, Green Brook Township, NJ 08812

This Event is Co-coordinated by the Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership and Central Jersey Stream Team. With special thanks to the Green Brook Department of Public Works for cartage and supplies.

Please wear closed toe shoes and clothes you are willing to get dirty and wet. Gloves and bags will be provided.

*** For more information contact Heather hfenyk@lowerraritanwatershed.org or Jens jens.riedel@cjstreamteam.org ***

Nov 30: Stream Monitoring Training, 5:30-7:30 pm

Calling all Streamkeepers and Civic Scientists!

A healthy stream is a complex place. Vegetation grows along its banks, shading the stream and filtering pollutants before they enter the waters. Wildlife find shelter and food near and in its waters. And within the stream itself are fish, insects, and other organisms with specific needs for oxygen, food, and shelter. Certain land uses affect habitat quality and stream health. A stream corridor functions holistically, and any changes to a part may affect the entire habitat.

A habitat assessment is a summary of different characteristics of a stream segment that help us better understand the health of our area streams. When we understand issues that affect our streams, we can do a better job of protecting them.

Please join the LRWP and Americorps Watershed Ambassador Caitlin DiCara on Monday November 30 for a two-hour FREE virtual Stream Habitat Assessment training.

This training will detail the “how-tos” of assessing the health of our local streams in preparation for Spring 2021 monitoring.

We will also provide general overview of our adopt-a-stream and stream monitoring program, and answer participant questions about these program and program requirements.

This FREE training will run from 5:30-7:30 PM from the comfort of your own home. Registration required.

We look forward to seeing you on November 30!

Heather Fenyk

Jon Dugan

Caitlin DiCara, NJ Watershed Ambassador Program

For more information, contact Heather Fenyk: hfenyk@lowerraritanwatershed.org  OR #908.349.0281

Click here for more info on the LRWP’s water quality monitoring programs

Nov 30: Stream Monitoring Training, 9-11 AM

Calling all Streamkeepers and Civic Scientists!

A healthy stream is a complex place. Vegetation grows along its banks, shading the stream and filtering pollutants before they enter the waters. Wildlife find shelter and food near and in its waters. And within the stream itself are fish, insects, and other organisms with specific needs for oxygen, food, and shelter. Certain land uses affect habitat quality and stream health. A stream corridor functions holistically, and any changes to a part may affect the entire habitat.

A habitat assessment is a summary of different characteristics of a stream segment that help us better understand the health of our area streams. When we understand issues that affect our streams, we can do a better job of protecting them.

Please join the LRWP and Americorps Watershed Ambassador Caitlin DiCara on Monday November 30 for a two-hour FREE virtual Stream Habitat Assessment training.

This training will detail the “how-tos” of assessing the health of our local streams in preparation for Spring 2021 monitoring.

We will also provide general overview of our adopt-a-stream and stream monitoring program, and answer participant questions about these program and program requirements.

This FREE training will run from 9–11 AM from the comfort of your own home. Registration required.

We look forward to seeing you on November 30!

Heather Fenyk

Jon Dugan

Caitlin DiCara, NJ Watershed Ambassador Program

For more information, contact Heather Fenyk: hfenyk@lowerraritanwatershed.org  OR #908.349.0281

Click here for more info on the LRWP’s water quality monitoring programs

 

Lower Raritan Pathogens Results for 10.22.2020

The LRWP and Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Middlesex County monitor for Fecal Coliform and Enterococcus at six non-swimming public beach access sites along the Lower Raritan during the warmer summer months. Fecal Coliform and Enterococcus are indicators of disease-causing bacteria in our waterways.

The EPA recommends that a single Enterococcus sample be less than 110 Colony Forming Units (CFU)/100mL for primary contact. Enterococci levels are used as indicators of the possible presence of disease-causing bacteria in recreational waters. Such pathogens may pose health risks to people fishing and swimming in a water body. Sources of bacteria include Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs), improperly functioning wastewater treatment plants, stormwater runoff, leaking septic systems, animal carcasses, and runoff from manure storage areas. Enterococci levels are often high after heavy or consistent rainfall.

Below are our pathogens results for October 22, 2020.

Field notes for October 22, 2020

Fog blanketed much of the East Coast through the morning, and hung heavy over the Raritan until burning off around noon. Called “advection fog,” the mist forms when warm, moist air passes over a cool surface. Advection describes the movement of fluid, in this case the fluid is wind. When the moist, warm air made contact with the cooler surface air, water vapor condensed to create fog.

Ever wonder how all the rain that falls onto a highway is “disappears” for a safe driving experience? It is transferred via stormwater infrastructure — that is, pipes or channels — to and “outfall” at which the stormwater enters receiving waters (rivers, streams, or creeks). This outfall at New Brunswick’s Boyd Park conveys rainwater from Route 18 (above the arches) into the Raritan River at the Rutgers Class of 1918 Boathouse.

Lower Raritan Pathogen Results for 10.15.2020

The LRWP and Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Middlesex County monitor for Fecal Coliform and Enterococcus at six non-swimming public beach access sites along the Lower Raritan during the warmer summer months. Fecal Coliform and Enterococcus are indicators of disease-causing bacteria in our waterways.

The EPA recommends that a single Enterococcus sample be less than 110 Colony Forming Units (CFU)/100mL for primary contact. Enterococci levels are used as indicators of the possible presence of disease-causing bacteria in recreational waters. Such pathogens may pose health risks to people fishing and swimming in a water body. Sources of bacteria include Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs), improperly functioning wastewater treatment plants, stormwater runoff, leaking septic systems, animal carcasses, and runoff from manure storage areas. Enterococci levels are often high after heavy or consistent rainfall.

Below are our pathogens results for October 15, 2020.

Field notes for 10.15.2020

What a beautiful day for monitoring! Americorps Watershed Ambassador Caitlin DiCara helped us out with monitoring. We were also joined at our Piscataway and New Brunswick sites by our Windows of Understanding 2021 artist Marcia Shiffman. Marcia’s work for 2021 will focus on communicating the “hidden” social justice issue of inequitable access to nature.

Caitlin DiCara and Marcia Shiffman at our Riverside Park (Piscataway) site

We talked with Marcia and Caitlin about social barriers and physical obstacles to enjoyment of blue or green spaces or parks. In preparation for our listening session on Social Justice and Access to Nature, we identified a number of barriers to accessing nature. All of the below we observe as issues at non-bathing public access beach pathogens monitoring sites. These include:

-Difficulty in accessing green/blue or park space because of landscape design

-Difficulty in accessing green/blue or park space because of cost

-Not feeling welcome in a natural blue/green space or park because of economic status, or ethnic or cultural difference

-Cultural and/or language restriction present other barriers to enjoyment of time in natural spaces

-Bullying behaviors or material obstacles limit enjoyment of time in natural spaces for persons with disabilities

-Fear, anxiety, or feelings of helplessness in the face of crime limits time in natural spaces

What obstacles or barriers have we missed?

Our Thursday “regulars” fishing at the Edison Boat Launch
Not much tugging at these poles, Edison Boat Launch 10.15.2020

An Interview with LRWP Board Member Anton Getz

Interview by Emily Koai, LRWP Spring 2020 Raritan Scholar

Anton Getz, LRWP’s newest board member, is a Mapping Specialist with Michael Baker International, where he is the GIS Lead, Project Manager, and Instructor for their Floodplain Management Division. Volunteers for LRWP’s stream clean-ups will likely remember Anton as the fellow “in the water” during our events, where he helps strategize safe removal of large items from our streams. Anton has a background in geography, and is passionate about environmental stewardship and sustainability, natural resource conservation, clean water advocacy, sustainable land use, historic preservation, and local food systems.

LRWP Board Member Anton Getz at a stream clean-up – his natural habitat!

EK: Could you tell us a little about yourself and your background?

AG: I have lived in the Lower Raritan Watershed my whole life. I went to Rutgers and studied Geography, and now work on flood hazard mapping, mitigation, and risk communication for a living. I have a love and appreciation for nature and the outdoors and have a known bad habit of taking too many outdoorsy photos. I’m also an animal person and have always had dogs as a companion.

EK: Did you have any passion projects in your career that led you to where you are today?

AG: I have been doing consulting work for FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program for over a decade. This work is mostly focused on floodplain mapping, but also includes working on regulations, insurance implications, and hazard mitigation. The FEMA program has helped me see how our land development patterns have gravitated towards water over time. Serious flood hazard exist that are not obvious to normal folks on a day-to-day basis. It is so difficult to successfully communicate data, hazards, and risks to people! This work has shown how interdisciplinary water issues are—public safety, environmental health, public policy, economic activity, and social “sense-of-place” all play a role in our relationship with water.

EK: How has working with the LRWP helped enhance your personal goals for the watershed?

AG: I have been doing cleanups with LRWP for few years and joined the board earlier in 2020. We had a full slate of event-planning for the year until COVID-19 hit. So, I would say goals and progress have been slowed for the moment, but I hope that I can help grow the cleanup program, recreational activities, and donor support.

EK: How have you encouraged engagement with the watershed in your community?

AG: I’m more of a doer than a talker. I stay late at cleanups! Sometimes to the dismay of the organizers…and I work hard. Perhaps you can call it inspiration through action.

EK: Why are stream cleanups important with regard to community engagement?

AG: Stream cleanups personalize the impact of our collective human activities. We can be very insulated from the full life cycle of our consumption choices—not seeing where our stuff came from or where it goes after we are done with it. Doing a stream cleanup sheds lights on the question of where it goes, and even where it came from. “Why are there so many pieces of Styrofoam coffee cups in the river?  How did a municipal recycling bin get into the river? Why are there plastics bottles filled with pee in the rivers?” With this knowledge, communities can make informed decisions about collective and personal activities. Do they want to zone and approve more businesses that produce single-use litter in their towns? Will individuals choose to purchase more package-less food from a farmer’s market? And so on.

EK: How do you see this work progressing in the future?

AG: We were trending towards and starting to plan more cleanups and more community events with growing and diversified engagement. The LRWP has certainly impressed me with its ability to attract and engage a really diversified group of supporters and volunteers. However, uncertainty has descended upon us with the COVID-19 outbreak. When and how we return to community events is unknown at this point. I hope it does not discourage turnout when we do start to resume activities, but perhaps instead inspires people to act more locally on behalf of the health of the environment and people.

EK: What is your message to anyone that wants to be more engaged?

AG: I am relatively new to the environmental non-profit world in terms of taking action beyond what I do on my own, at home, such as limiting water and energy usage, eating locally, taking care of material items so they last, etc. So it’s never too late to start. My advice would be to find a cause you believe in, talk to people involved with that cause, ask questions, and volunteer your time. It will open up doors.

Raritan River Pathogen Results for 9.24.2020

Article and photos (except as noted) by LRWP Board President Heather Fenyk

The LRWP and Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Middlesex County monitor for Fecal Coliform and Enterococcus at six non-swimming public beach access sites along the Lower Raritan during the warmer summer months. Fecal Coliform and Enterococcus are indicators of disease-causing bacteria in our waterways.

The EPA recommends that a single Enterococcus sample be less than 110 Colony Forming Units (CFU)/100mL for primary contact. Enterococci levels are used as indicators of the possible presence of disease-causing bacteria in recreational waters. Such pathogens may pose health risks to people fishing and swimming in a water body. Sources of bacteria include Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs), improperly functioning wastewater treatment plants, stormwater runoff, leaking septic systems, animal carcasses, and runoff from manure storage areas. Enterococci levels are often high after heavy or consistent rainfall.

Below are our pathogens results for September 24, 2020. We are quite surprised by how bad these results are, given that we haven’t had rain for over a week.

Please note: results are preliminary and pending quality control.

Field Notes for 9.24.2020

Hell Money

“Hell Bank Note” found in the water at Boyd Park

We aren’t quite sure what to make of this $10,000 “Hell Bank Note” found floating on the Raritan at Boyd Park. However, we DO know a great way to spend a Saturday and help the earth at the same time! Help us get trash like this out of the water during our Saturday September 26 socially-distanced clean-up of Seeley’s Run in Franklin Township! Due to COVID we are asking that folx register in advance.

Birding!

It is always a treat to go out sampling with a birder. LRWP volunteer Roger Dreyling knows his birds, and has a great eye for capturing them on film. We identified several types of gulls yesterday, saw osprey, mallards, cormorants, and caught up with a loon in South Amboy! It was fun to hear its haunting cry.

Common Loon – Photo: Roger Dreyling
Double Crested Cormorant – Photo: Roger Dreyling

Pathogens Samples transfer

No doubt stranger items have been exchanged in the IKEA parking lot in Elizabeth, NJ. Still, passersby were curious as we scooped ice and sample bottles from one cooler to another not far from a sea of pressed plywood and Swedish meatballs. Many thanks to IEC’s Jessica Bonamusa for saving us a trip to her lab Brooklyn.

Water quality samples transfer to our IEC lab liaison.

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