2019 Water Quality Findings & Next Steps

Join the Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership at the May meeting of the Middlesex County Water Resources Association for a presentation on 2019 Water Quality Monitoring Findings and Next Steps for 2020!

Monday May 11, 1:30-3:30 pm. We will meet in the Middlesex County Administration Building, Freeholder Meeting Room

75 Bayard Street / New Brunswick, NJ  08901

More details to follow.

Raritan River Trivia Night!

Who will take home the title of Raritan Queen or Raritan King?!

The LRWP Board of Directors invites you to show off your knowledge about the Raritan River and the larger Raritan Watershed during our first ever RARITAN RIVER TRIVIA NIGHT!

Please join us Tuesday June 30, 5:30 pm via Webex for a friendly competition and conversation with David Tulloch and other members of the LRWP Board.

History, geology, geography, flora, fauna – it’s all fair game.

We guarantee that even if you think you know it all, you’ll learn a lot!

Photo: Alison M. Jones, NoWaterNoLife, taken during a LightHawk, Inc. flight April 19, 2019

Why Should the Environmental World Stand Up Against Systemic Racism?

Out of respect for the recent deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and the many who came before them, the LRWP is pausing our typical monthly content to give space for all of us to reckon, to listen, to learn, and to act.

The Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership stands in solidarity with those protesting police brutality and systemic racial injustices. Our work to address these societal wrongs is rooted in Social Equity and Environmental Justice.

Environmental injustice is term that describes how people of color and poor communities have borne disproportionate harm from pollution and environmental risks, and the discriminatory systems that have perpetuated those inequities.

Especially with respect to environmental and land use issues, the LRWP works to reform a racist system in which the status quo has always been unjust. At the core of our work is a belief that watershed scale land management and environmental planning, especially in Home Rule states like New Jersey, is an urgently needed antidote to environmental racism and environmental injustices.

There are countless links between environmental injustice, environmental harms, racism, and inequality.

Consider lead contamination of water in predominantly black and brown communities, such as Newark, NJ and Flint, MI. These crises are rooted systemic racism.

Consider research findings that, in the U.S., the best predictor of whether you live near a hazardous waste site is the color of your skin.

Consider how legacies of redlining – the government-sanctioned denial of home loans and insurance to communities of color – means that people of color are more likely than white people to live alongside power plants, oil refineries, and landfills.

And consider how environmental racism is fueling the Coronavirus pandemic with resultant health disparities in our communities of color.

George Floyd’s last words “I can’t breathe,” uttered under the knee of an officer of the peace, are as symbolic of our environmental injustices as they are of our history of racism in policing. “I can’t breathe” has been spoken by hundreds of thousands before George Floyd in the context of systemic racism that results in higher asthma rates in communities of color, and more recently, higher incidence of COVID-19 in communities of color.

Next steps

The LRWP believes that community work to address these injustices requires that we relearn our shared history. We must ask ourselves: How has my choice of where and how I live contributed to these abiding injustices? What are my blind spots? What specific actions can I take to make this a more just world?

Going forward the LRWP will double down on efforts to understand how land use decision-making at the municipal level perpetuates environmental inequities at a broader scale. In the short term:

  1. We will continue to pressure NJDEP to act on their (2009) legislated mandate to rank every contaminated site in order of risk and urgency with respect to environmental health, particularly environmental health of communities of color and the most vulnerable. The “Remedial Priority System” was to serve as a corrective to market-driven remediation that prioritizes clean-up of the most economically desirable contaminated sites. 11 years later however the agency still has not published this list
  2. We will continue our water quality monitoring and reporting at non-bathing public beach access sites along the Raritan River that are not monitored by NJDEP or local or County Departments of Health. We focus on these sites in part because they are disproportionately accessed by people of color. We need volunteers. Please volunteer!
  3. We will continue our research into the extent to which our local communities of color are more likely than white communities to be at risk of hazards related to climate change and new discriminatory lending practices called “bluelining.” (report coming June 2020).
  4. We will work to make resources available for our Lower Raritan Watershed community to analyze and understand environmental justice issues in their own neighborhoods. For starters please see our compilation of freely available on-line Environmental Justice, climate change, and health-related analytical tools.
  5. We will educate ourselves about historic and system racism, supporting those who are imagining a new path forward for our state and nation through structural change. Please consider joining us in following these important environmental justice advocates, environmentalists of color and other leaders on twitter and Instagram.

We invite you to join us on the path to an environmentally just Lower Raritan Watershed.

In Solidarity,

The Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership Board

Aerial Tour of the Raritan Basin

One of many Raritan River-adjacent landfills/Superfund sites at-risk of flood impacts
Photo by Alison M. Jones, No Water No Life – taken during a LightHawk flight, April 2019

On Tuesday May 12, 5:30-6:30 pm join Heather Fenyk with the Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership, Alison M. Jones with No Water No Life, and Joe Mish (aka Winter Bear Rising) author of the LRWP series “Nature on the Raritan, Hidden in Plain View” for a virtual tour of the Raritan Basin.

During this hour long tour Heather, Alison and Joe will share and discuss images taken during a LightHawk flight on April 2019. With many thanks to LightHawk, Inc. for the experience – we look forward to sharing some the experience with you.

This was a very special flight. We expect it to be a very special conversation.

Registration required.

Virtual Workshop: Connecting Habitats Across New Jersey

How should we assess areas for habitat connectivity in our urban watersheds? How can we build support for biodiversity planning in our urban core?

In this half day workshop we will learn how to use tools developed by NJDEP to help assess habitat connectivity needs, and hear from NY/NJ Harbor Estuary about findings from recent citizen science connectivity assessments.

To kick things off, we will hear from Isabelle Stinnette with NY/NJ Harbor Estuary Program who will discuss findings from their Aquatic Connectivity Through Climate-Ready Infrastructure Project. This project uses the North Atlantic Connectivity Collaborative protocols (www.naacc.org) in concert with a hydraulic model to make recommendations for connectivity restoration in New Jersey watersheds.

Following Ms. Stinnette’s presentation we will hear from NJDEP zoologist Brian Zarate and his team who will introduce the statewide habitat connectivity plan called Connecting Habitat Across New Jersey (CHANJ), launched last year by the NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife. NJDEP will provide an overview of the major tools that CHANJ offers to guide a multi-scale, all-hands-on-deck approach to improve landscape and roadway permeability for wildlife, demonstrate the new interactive, web-based CHANJ Mapping tool, and show how it can be used to help guide land protection and management and to mitigate barriers to wildlife movement – goals that are particularly urgent in the face of climate change and urbanization.

This online workshop will run from 9:30 am – 12:30 pm on Monday May 4.


Isabelle Stinnette

Isabelle Stinnette is the Restoration Manager at the New York – New Jersey Harbor & Estuary Program (HEP), where she runs the inter-agency restoration work group, tracks restoration progress in NJ and NY, and works with partner agencies to further habitat restoration efforts.  Prior to joining HEP, she worked for the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) as a Restoration Biologist as well as Research Technician expediting storm recovery and resiliency projects.  Isabelle has a M.S. degree from the School of Marine and Atmospheric Science at Stonybrook University and a B.A. from St. Lawrence University.





Brian Zarate

Brian Zarate is a Senior Zoologist with the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife’s Endangered and Nongame Species Program (ENSP).  He coordinates the state’s reptile and amphibian conservation work and leads a statewide wildlife initiative called Connecting Habitat Across New Jersey (CHANJ).  After receiving his BS in Natural Resource Management from Rutgers University in 2001, Brian worked for the U.S. Forest Service in Alaska and then returned to New Jersey to begin employment for the Division. Until 2007 Brian worked under contract for the state through the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey not-for-profit agency and then was hired by ENSP later that year.  Brian serves on committees and boards for the Wildlife Habitat Council, American Turtle Observatory, NRCS, and the Highlands Council.  He’s currently a national co-chair for Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (PARC) and a long-standing member of the Northeast PARC steering committee.




The LRWP explains why we need improved habitat connectivity, especially in our urban areas

Nature of Cities talks about planning for biodiversity conservation, see also their “Building for Birds” on-line tool

PBS’s Eco Sense for Living recently produced a “Wild Crossings” special feature highlighting habitat connectivity in New Jersey

REGISTRATION REQUIRED. Registration closes 6 PM Sunday May 3. Registrants will receive a link to the training on Sunday evening in advance of the Monday session.




Photo: Roger Dreyling, “BioBlitz Foxes” @ Elmwood Cemetery, New Brunswick 6.18.2019

Happy Earth Week from the LRWP!

Watch our Earth Day Message on YouTube!

Happy Earth Week!

My name is Heather Fenyk, and I am President of the Board of the Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership.

During this time of quarantine, we, the Board, our interns and volunteers, miss being together and drawing inspiration from time together outside.

We are trying to find creative ways to connect with each other, and with you.

We know that time outside in nature, connecting with nature, allows us to become bigger than the problems we face.

We also know that service and stewardship gives us a similar broader view.

While we wait in our homes – that may also now serve as office, school, kitchen, classroom or gym – we invite you to prepare for stewardship!

We are now hosting virtual trainings in water quality monitoring or habitat connectivity planning – our first virtual training is pathogens monitoring webinar on Monday April 20. You can also sign up for our Habitat Connectivity planning workshop on May 4. Information on other upcoming events is on our events page.

We will also soon send invitations for a virtual flyover “tour” of our Lower Raritan Watershed. This special event will include Q & A with photographer Alison M. Jones, who will share images of the Raritan Basin taken during a recent flight sponsored by LightHawk.

The Covid-19 crisis has a huge impact on humanity, on our institutions, on ourselves.

During this time, it is hard to stay engaged in the environmental issues we care so deeply about.

We thank you for staying engaged!

We hope to soon see you in the watershed!

POSTPONED – Watchung Mountain Hidden Streams Hike


Registration is now open for the LRWP’s first “Watershed Highlights and Hidden Streams” walking tour of 2020!

Join us Sunday March 29, 2-4 pm as we trace paths through the Watchung Reservation.

Our hike will be led by LRWP Board Member and Rutgers Professor David Tulloch.

We will kick off from the northwest end of The Loop in the Watchung Reservation with a walk down to Blue Brook and Lake Surprise as we talk about the long journey to the Raritan.

Estimated 4 miles of walking.

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

Sky Top Dr, Scotch Plains, NJ 07076

CANCELLED March 21 – South River floodplain clean-up in Old Bridge

TIRES. so. VERY. many. TIRES!

WHAT: A clean-up of the Old Bridge portion of the South River floodplain

WHEN: Saturday March 21, 12:30-3 pm

WHERE: Park at Miller Elementary School / 2 Old Matawan Rd / Old Bridge, NJ 08857, follow signs to the clean-up staging area behind the school

WHO: The LRWP, our Central Jersey Stream Team friends, Middlesex County Division of Parks, and the Township of Old Bridge

WHY: What better way to celebrate the vernal equinox than with a clean-up?!

It is not just tires, there is plenty of other litter in the floodplain – we’ll need folks willing to pick up plastic bottles and cans as well as those who can heave, hoist and lift the larger items.



CANCELLED FREE Build a Rain Barrel Workshop in Perth Amboy


Rain barrels collect and store rainwater from roofs, improving stream health by reducing the amount of water and pollutants that reach local waterways. The water captured by rain barrels has many beneficial uses. Residents can use water from the rain barrels to water lawns and gardens, save money on water bills and reduce stress on wells.

Rain barrels are a great way for homeowners to help protect their water supply by controlling residential storm water runoff.

Join the Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership and NJ Americorps Watershed Ambassador Heather Miara for this FREE workshop! Session participants will learn how using a rain barrel can contribute to improving our water resources and will be instructed on how to build, install and maintain their own rain barrel to take home. Materials will be provided.

Watershed Sculpture Project: Helping Hands!

The Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership invites you and your favorite young person to learn about watershed health, the role of arts in environmental outreach, and to join us in stewardship by creating “watershed sculptures” for inclusion in our 2020 Sculpture Project gallery installation.

This FREE event will be held on Saturday March 7 from 2-4 pm at the Milltown Senior Center: 60 Violet Terrace, Milltown, NJ 08850

So that we can be sure we have adequate supplies, preregistration is requested.


Grant funding has been provided by the Middlesex County Board of Chosen Freeholders through a grant award from the Middlesex County Cultural and Arts Trust Fund.

Program funded by Middlesex County, a partner of the New Jersey State Council on the Arts.


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