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2017 Year in Review

Monday, January 08, 2018


2017 was a terrific year of water quality improvement project installation and community engagement for the Sussex County Municipal Utilities Authority-Wallkill River Watershed Management Group.

Volunteer Engagement

  • In 2017, the SCMUA-WRWMG worked with 1,026 volunteers to install rain gardens and plant trees along the Paulins Kill, the Wallkill, and Papakating Creek, helping to improve the in-stream and terrestrial habitat conditions of each water body.

Community Outreach

  • Throughout 2017, 219 people attended presentations given by the SCMUA-WRWMG, allowing the organization to directly educate Sussex County residents about the ongoing need for direct watershed stewardship.
  • Additionally, 596 students participated in educational events led by the Wallkill River Watershed Management Group. Some of the educational events that occurred in 2017 were Earth Energy Day at the SCMUA, an outdoor stormwater lesson at Pope John Middle School for the school’s Robotics Club, and Think Outside Day at the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge.

Watershed Planning and Implementation

  • The SCMUA-Wallkill River Watershed Management Group was recently awarded a grant from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection to continue installing agricultural, stormwater, and riparian reforestation projects across an expanded geographical area. Now the SCMUA-WRWMG will be able to utilize NJDEP funding to work throughout all of Sussex County’s watersheds while continuing to incorporate education and outreach into all aspects of project work.

Riparian Reforestation

  • 4,972 trees and shrubs were planted throughout Sussex County by the SCMUA-WRWMG, TNC, NJ Audubon, and countless volunteer groups.

Wallkill River Reforestation

  • Kristine Rogers, the Watershed Education and Outreach Specialist for the SCMUA-WRWMG, coordinated restoration field days with every environmental science teacher at Sparta High School.
  • To date, 944 Sparta High School students have participated in outdoor fieldwork during their science classes.
  • Since the project began in 2015, a total of 6441 trees and shrubs that were provided by the Arbor Day Foundation and the New Jersey Corporate Wetlands Restoration Partnership were planted along the Wallkill River by Sparta students.
  • The SCMUA-WRWMG received a $3,200 grant from the Lake Mohawk Preservation Foundation to fund the purchase of wetland boots for Sparta High School students to use while participating in the Wallkill River Floodplain Reforestation Project. This is the first grant that the Lake Mohawk Preservation Foundation has awarded since its founding in 2014. The Board unanimously approved the funding because the project directly matches LMPF’s mission of combining science with environmental educational opportunities.
  • In December, the Arbor Day Foundation awarded the SCMUA-WRWMG $8,400 to purchase trees for Phase 2 of its Wallkill River Reforestation Project in Sparta Township.

High Point High School Partnership

  • The SCMUA-WRWMG began a new riparian reforestation project at Woodbourne Park in Wantage Township with the help of High Point High School environmental science students.
  • Following the planting, two of the environmental science students interned with the SCMUA-WRWMG over the summer to gain hands-on field experience prior to entering college.
  • Discussions about installing a rain garden to capture polluted runoff from the parking lots are already underway. If construction plans move forward, High Point students will become directly involved in the design and construction of a rain garden on the school’s campus.

Trout Unlimited Partnership

  • The SCMUA-WRWMG partnered with TU to organize the first annual Sparta Glen Fall Fun Day. The event was open to the public and was organized to celebrate the successful restoration of the Sparta Glen Brook.

Mosquito Control Week

  • In June, the SCMUA-WRWMG partnered with the Sussex County Office of Mosquito Control and Sussex County Clean Communities to organize litter clean-ups in multiple Sussex County townships. During rainstorms, litter collects water, creating potential mosquito breeding habitat. By cleaning up the litter, the SCMUA-WRWMG and its volunteers helped prevent mosquitos from finding standing water to lay their eggs.

Delaware River Watershed Initiative

  • The SCMUA-WRWMG and over 50 conservation organizations have been working collaboratively on land acquisition and restoration projects to help improve the long-term water quality of the Delaware River.
  • As part of the SCMUA-WRWMG’s contribution to this effort, the William Penn Foundation is funding the development of stormwater best management practices in Hampton and Newton, a floodplain reforestation outreach campaign, and a Paulins Kill Lakes Initiative led by the SCMUA-WRWMG.

Stormwater Management

  • The SCMUA-WRWMG received funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to build rain gardens and install porous pavement parking lots at Memory Park in Newton and at McKeown Elementary School in Hampton, helping to prevent polluted stormwater runoff from flowing into local streams via storm drains.
  • The SCMUA-WRWMG installed its 2nd rain garden at Memory Park in Newton thanks to the effort of Nathaniel Sajdak, Watershed Director of the SCMUA-WRWMG, Merriam Avenue School and numerous local partners.
  • The rain garden, designed by Rutgers Water Resources Program, will capture, treat, and infiltrate 909,331 gallons of stormwater runoff.
  • Kristine Rogers, Nathaniel Sajdak, and Brenda Delgrosso (6th grade science teacher) organized the 1st annual Stormwater Summer Camp at McKeown Elementary School in Hampton Township. 17 students from grades 2-7 participated in an interactive week of environmental games, open-ended discussions, crafts, and computer-based modeling exercises to learn about the human role in causing pollution and proper ways to ecologically manage stormwater runoff.
  • In June, the SCMUA-WRWMG’s AmeriCorps NJ Watershed Ambassador led the organization’s first ever rain barrel workshop, helping to teach local residents about ways to collect and reuse rainwater.

Agricultural Restoration: USDA-NRCS Partnership

  • Because of the successful delivery of the Agricultural Outreach and Assistance Program, the SCMUA-WRWMG has been awarded a contribution agreement with USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service to coordinate agricultural best management practice implementation on local farms throughout Sussex County.
  • In 2017, Eric VanBenschoten, Agricultural Outreach Specialist for the SCMUA-WRWMG, worked cooperatively with USDA-NRCS to plan, design, and install agricultural best management practices on Sussex County farms.

Open Space

  • Sussex County voters approved a referendum allowing funding from the Farmland Preservation, Recreation and Open Space Trust Fund to be used for stewardship projects and maintenance of permanently preserved open space. This will allow entities like the SCMUA-WRWMG to utilize money from the Trust Fund to remove invasive species or restore streamside forests that were cut down decades ago.

Sussex County Community College Partnership

  • The SCMUA-WRWMG collaborated with Sussex County Community College (SCCC) to organize the 2nd annual Earth Week Celebration for Halsted Middle School students.
  • The 5th graders came to the college to learn about the human impact on the natural environment and participate in a rotation of different stations led by the SCMUA-WRWMG, SCCC environmental science students, and Sussex County Clean Communities that were focused around watershed stewardship opportunities in Sussex County, the benefits of tree buffers near water bodies, non-point source pollution, aquatic insect identification, and the importance of recycling. The students also had a chance to participate in an on-campus litter clean-up, a plant identification nature walk, and an on-campus stormwater walk, making for a fun and very educational day for Halsted students.
  • In April, the SCMUA-WRWMG organized tree planting days for SCCC environmental science lab classes at the Public Safety Training Academy that is owned by Sussex County Community College.
  • The SCMUA-WRWMG partnered with Stroud Water Research Center to install a water quality monitoring sensor on the campus of Sussex County Community College (SCCC). The sensor will collect continuous turbidity, temperature, depth, and conductivity measurements. SCCC environmental science students are cleaning the devices weekly to ensure that accurate data is being collected that can be used to highlight water quality improvements in the Paulins Kill over time.
  • The SCMUA-WRWMG has begun to plan additional opportunities to collaborate with Sussex County Community College professors and students. Discussions are already underway about installing stormwater best management practices and forested tree buffers on select areas of the campus with the help of SCCC environmental science students.