Trout Scapes recently completed the removal of an obsolete dam on the lower Lamington River in central New Jersey. The Lamington is a large tributary of the North Branch Raritan which in turn flows into the Raritan River and then into the Atlantic. This project will eventually benefit native American shad, river herring, American eels, and striped bass as well as smallmouth bass and stocked trout on a public access site owned by Raritan Headwaters Association, a local watershed organization (https://www.raritanheadwaters.org/ ). A dam has existed here or nearby since Colonial times, the original mills for which the initial dam was built were burned down by British soldiers and the grain and finished flour ransacked. The most recent version, built in 1914 for unknown reasons as no mills continued operation at that time, had fallen into bad repair and was actually breached by a series of hurricanes in the late 1950s.
The breach of the dam has caused a new channel to form and that new channel continues to erode the banks, threatening nearby Milnor Road. The removal included removal of the concrete structure, the placing of the river back into its original channel, the protection of the banks along Milnor Road, a lowering of the bank upstream of the dam to allow better floodplain access, and the creation of vernal habitat on WRP (wetland reserve program) lands adjacent to the former dam.
The dam was removed using Farm Bill and US Fish & Wildlife funds among other funding sources, and it benefits several key species of fish and wildlife that call the area home. Plantings are ongoing and will be completed in spring ’20.
Several environmental groups have joined together in planning for a September project along the Pootatuck River intended to improve that stream’s habitat for wild brook trout, with the goal of increasing the native trout population there.
The physical improvement project is planned for the “left bank” of the Pootatuck River, located just upriver of the Pootatuck’s confluence with its tributary, Deep Brook. In riverine terms, the left bank refers to the left bank of the river when looking downriver. Work is planned to improve about 165 linear feet riverbank overall.
The construction is planned for September, a month when the river typically has a low water level, allowing simplified low-water access for the heavy equipment that will temporarily be positioned on the riverbed.
At a recent meeting of the Inland Wetlands Commission (IWC), Michael Jastremski, who is the Housatonic Valley Association’s (HVA) watershed conservation director, described the planned project to IWC members. The Pootatuck Watershed Association (PWA), which is sponsoring the riverbank project, has hired Mr Jastremski as its project manager. The Pootatuck River is in the Housatonic River watershed.
The Candlewood Valley Chapter of Trout Unlimited, a coldwater fisheries conservation group, also is participating in the trout habitat project, as is the Newtown Forest Association.
The project budget is approximately $50,000 in private funds. The Town of Newtown plans to make an in-kind contribution of roughly $2,000 to the project in the form of providing tree trunks with attached root wads, plus some large boulders, and town workers’ labor costs.
Mr Jastremski said May 13 that 10-foot-long tree trunk sections that have the dead tree’s root wad still attached to the trunk will be buried horizontally and perpendicularly along the riverbank, with a small fraction of each tree trunk’s root wad exposed at the riverbank at the river’s high-water level. Boulders also will be placed along the riverbank.
The root wads will provide shelter and protective cover for the native trout that live in the river, with the intent of providing physical conditions conducive to their longevity and eventual reproduction. The riverbank’s geometry also will be improved, with stable shallow slopes created to replace currently unstable vertical riverbank sections.
Also, large boulders will be positioned in excavations on the riverbed to create riverine pools, where trout would gather.
Trout Scapes River Restoration LLC of Bozeman, Mont., has been hired for technical planning and to perform the heavy construction required for the project.
Following the earthmoving aspects of the riverbank project, willow and dogwood trees will be planted alongside the river to improve trout habitat by providing shade to keep the water cool in the summertime.
“The whole idea is to work with the stream to replicate natural conditions” that are beneficial to trout, Mr Jastremski said.
The area where the project will occur is part of a Class 1 Wild Trout Management Area, as designated by the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP). It is one of nine such areas in Connecticut where trout populations are able to sustain themselves by natural reproduction. The presence of brook trout indicates excellent water quality. Recreational fishing in the area is allowed on a catch-and-release basis.
Mr Jastremski explained that DEEP wants those participating in the trout habitat project to be on the lookout for wood turtles, a protected species that lives in the area
Due to the nature of the planned work, the project requires approvals from DEEP, the state Department of Agriculture for access to the river, and the US Army Corps of Engineers.
Joe Hovious is the PWA’s vice president as well as a member of Trout Unlimited’s board of directors.
Mr Hovious said May 14 that after the construction work is done, there will be a need for volunteers to help plant the shade trees along the riverbank. Such tree planting has occurred in the area in the past as part of a long-term effort to improve the trout habitat along the river.
By: Andrew Gorosko, Newtown Bee, Newtown, CT
Working for the coldwater conservation organization, Trout Unlimited of which Trout Scapes is a TU Business Member, we recently restored a 1/3 mile reach of the Musconetcong (Musky) in northwest New Jersey on state owned land between the towns of Asbury and Bloomsbury. Most of the water up and downstream is in private hands, but this section is owned by the NJ Division of Fish & Wildlife and maintained as public fishing access for trout.
BELOW: pre restoration
BELOW: post restoration
This work was funded by William Penn Foundation, Theodore Gordon Flyfishers, a Trout Unlimited Embrace A Stream (EAS) grant, as well as contributions from 7 NJ based TU chapters. The project lead is Cole Baldino, TU’s NJ Delaware River Coordinator and TU national staffer working to protect and restore NJ trout tributaries to the Delaware River. This property had once been leased to fishing clubs, and the clubs were fond of building stone dams to try to create deep pool habitat. Instead, the dams got “pushed down” by flows and that allowed the water to flow towards the banks, widening the river by as much as 44′ in places. Point bars adjacent to newly restored pool habitat act to narrow the flows back to normal which for this reach is between 65′ and 72′ in width. Not only will anglers benefit, but so will paddlers as this is a popular spot with canoes and kayaks.
BELOW: pre restoration
BELOW: post restoration pocket water
Trout Scapes River Restoration LLC is pleased to announce that we will be working in Connecticut on two new projects. Connecticut is home to native brook trout as well as wild brown and rainbow trout in most of its major drainages. Trout Scapes will be restoring a tributary of the Housatonic River, the Pootatuck River, in Newtown, CT and performing survey and design work on nearly one-half mile of the Norwalk River in Wilton, CT ahead of restoration construction as early as summer ’18. Both projects are on public lands, and both projects’ clients are watershed and conservation organizations working hard to protect and restore coldwater resources in that state.
ABOVE: Pootatuck River showing exposed banks
The Pootatuck project includes root wads to restore two sections of eroding banks while creating deep pool habitat for summer thermal relief for native brook trout. Trout Scapes will use soil bioengineering techniques on the banks and bed manipulation in the river bed to restore this section of the river above the Deep Brook tributary. Work is tentatively slated for summer ’18.
BELOW: the Norwalk River in Wilton, CT showing various man-made legacy impacts
BELOW: Norwalk River showing a remnant dam that still negatively impacts the river in high flows
The Norwalk River’s Schenck’s Island section in downtown Wilton, CT is already popular with anglers, dog walkers, bird watchers, and other visitors. A portion of this section of the river is owned by a local land trust with the town owning the rest of this stretch of .45 miles. This river is both a trout stocked and wild brown trout river, and it suffers in locations from man’s impacts including stormwater runoff, building too closely and within the floodplain, channelization, obsolete dams, and tree and shrub removal to list a few. Restoration of this section will showcase the river in the town once a formal design has been created and permits have been approved, hopefully by summer ’18.
TSRR was invited to bid on and ultimately won the restoration of a badly eroded bank along the Capoolong Creek, a wild trout stream in Hunterdon County, NJ by the Division of Fish & Wildlife who own this property. The old railroad bed perched above the creek is a popular hiking trail onto state lands for hunters, anglers, hikers, dog walkers, and horseback riders, and the trail was being eroded away with no place to relocate it as it abuts a private property and not other state lands.
BELOW: Eroded bank pre restoration
The project consisted of arresting future erosion by refocusing the river’s energy away from the bank in high water, restore some of the lost material to the bank, plant it with native trees, shrubs and seed mix, and allow the state to do additional work to restore the trail itself now that it will no longer erode into the stream below. The slope of the eroded bank was covered in invasive Japanese stiltgrass which dies off in winter and does not have a root system to hold soils in place.
The river’s energy was redirected off the right bank (looking downstream) and large boulder barbs were buried under what appears as a normal bank that will push the high flows off the right bank and into the deep pool, scouring the pool and lessening energy that could damage the bank further. During the permitting process, a state threatened salamander species was found to be on site, and TSRR worked with Division biologists to not only keep them out of harm’s way during the construction phase of the restoration, but we also incorporated some of their habitat needs into our final design.
Wild brown trout began moving into the newly restored pool as heavy equipment was leaving the site, and we watched as one of the trout rise consistently upstream in a pool above our work, seemingly oblivious to having an excavator working 50 yards downstream.
BELOW: keying in a boulder weir
BELOW: a tough planting location!
Below: the finished product minus seed sprouting….
The NJ Division of Fish & Wildlife will monitor this species of salamander throughout the reach sampled for this project to see if numbers increase and to see if the restored bank is now good habitat for them as the exposed banks had not been previously.
The three of us had a small part to play in these restoration projects while in our former roles and it is great to know that shad and striped bass are back in a watershed they haven’t had access to in nearly 300 years due to old mill dams. This is exciting news and demonstrates clearly the positive impacts of removing obsolete dams on our rivers and streams.
Trout Scapes River Restoration LLC is working in the Musconetcong watershed in northwest, New Jersey. The “Musky” as it is locally referred to is the NJ Highlands region’s longest trout river at 42 miles from its headwaters at Lake Hopatcong southwest to the Delaware River where it supplies millions of PA and NJ residents with drinking water downstream.
TU Business Spotlight: Trout Scapes River Restoration, LLC
Like any great company, Trout Scapes River Restoration, LLC is about great people. Brian Cowden is one of those great people. Brian comes to Trout Scapes after being the V.P. of Sales & Marketing for a Montana based river restoration firm. Prior to that role, Brian worked at Trout Unlimited where he was on Eastern Conservation Staff for seven years as the Musconetcong Home Rivers Initiative Coordinator, working to restore and protect a major Wild & Scenic tributary to the Delaware River. That work included restoring degraded river channels and banks on the mainstem and tributaries, removing obsolete dams, and working on critical lands protection for the “Musky” River in northwestern New Jersey.
But Brian isn’t the only A Team player at Trout Scapes. Lance Bigelow received a B.S. in Agronomy-Plant Protection Option from Montana State University, Bozeman. He has more than twenty years of extensive knowledge dealing with both riparian and upland environments. During this time period, he has been involved with projects in Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Colorado, Oregon, New Jersey, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Virginia, California, New York, Washington, and New Mexico. Lance specializes in the successful enhancement of rivers and streams by manipulating the natural streambed and incorporating restoration techniques and habitat enhancements that consistently improve the riparian ecosystem while also improving recreational opportunities.
The third principal in this great company is Eric Werhand. Eric received his Fish and Wildlife Management degree from Montana State University in 2003. Within the past 12 years in the environmental consulting field he has participated in all phases of stream restoration, fishery enhancement, and pond construction projects. This experience has led to wide-ranging knowledge of project design, site surveying, permit acquisition, project budgeting, construction oversight, and site reclamation. These projects have encompassed a diversity of habitats from the freestone rivers of the Intermountain West to native Brook Trout rivers along the East Coast.
Paired with a team of first-class equipment operators, Trout Scapes can do magic between the high water lines on any body of water. Their in-stream restoration improves sediment transportation and increases aquatic habitat for the benefit of all aquatic species. Pools are deepened to connect to groundwater, providing thermal relief and protection from predators. Riffles are created and enhanced to increase and diversify macro-invertebrate populations as well as to create spawning habitat. Woody debris and large boulders are added for habitat diversity to create prime lies for trout. Banks are restored as necessary, and they work closely with clients to plant native vegetation to further provide shade and cover while the roots help hold banks stable. Of utmost importance, they reconnect the river to its floodplain wherever possible. But it’s not just about the technical aspects, it’s about something deeper.
It’s all about passion. Passion is what drives Trout Scapes River Restoration LLC in everything they do. Whether restoring or enhancing a trout river or designing and building a pond, passion drives their thinking. The passion shines through on every project for Trout Scapes. It isn’t just a job, it’s a mission. And it’s a mission that dovetails perfectly with the mission of Trout Unlimited. That’s why we’re proud to have Trout Scapes River Restoration, LLC as a TU Business member.
Trout Scapes River Restoration, LLC
Bozeman, MT 59715
Trout Scapes is proud to announce that the NJ Division of Fish & Wildlife has hired our firm to restore a badly eroded bank that has a popular walking trail along Capoolong Creek at the Capoolong Creek Wildlife Management Area in Pittstown, in Hunterdon County. This stream is a wild brown trout stream that is popular with anglers as well as hikers and dog walkers using the access trail along the stream.
(above: a hiker uses the walking trail along the badly eroded bank)
Loss of this hiking trail to further bank erosion would mean a total loss of access into this popular Wildlife Management Area as the existing 15′ right of way abuts a private property. Also, the bank’s erosion has added tons of sediment into the pool below as well as throughout the reach immediately downstream. Restoration efforts will include soil bioengineering of the bank, in-stream restoration to include pool and riffle restoration for trout habitat, and native willows and riparian seed mix planted during construction which is slated for summer 2017. Stay tuned for progress on this and many other Trout Scapes projects coming this year…..