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2023 Year in Review

Friday, December 08, 2023


Here's a look back at what the SCMUA-WRWMG was able to accomplish over the past year!

Volunteer and Community Engagement

  • In 2023, the SCMUA-WRWMG worked with 492 volunteers who contributed a total of 795 volunteer hours. Volunteers participated in litter clean-ups, tree plantings, rain garden installations/maintenance, and floating treatment wetland planting events organized by the SCMUA-WRWMG. Volunteer groups included the AmeriCorps NJ Watershed Ambassadors, residents of Lake Owassa and Crandon Lakes, staff and board members at Fairview Lake YMCA, and local students from Merriam Avenue School, Halsted Middle School, Newton High School, High Point High School, Sussex County Technical School, McKeown Elementary School, Long Pond Middle School, and Princeton University.
  • In 2023, the SCMUA-WRWMG welcomed Ally Karanikas, a rising freshman at Cornell University, to serve as the SCMUA-WRWMG’s summer intern. Then, in September, the SCMUA-WRWMG welcomed Ethan Melniczik to complete a year-long term of service as the AmeriCorps NJ Watershed Ambassador for the Wallkill Watershed.

In-Person and Virtual Lessons

  • This year, 678 participants attended presentations and educational events led by the WRWMG.
  • The SCMUA and WRWMG hosted an Earth Day educational event at the Sussex County Municipal Utilities Authority in Lafayette. 207 elementary and middle school students from Lafayette Township School, Pope John Middle School, Frankford School, McKeown Elementary School, and Long Pond School attended the event.
  • The SCMUA-WRWMG participated in the 1st annual Earth Day Fair organized by the Sparta Environmental Commission. The event consisted of a series of 12 different exhibitors and an upcycled children’s crafting station led by Sparta Middle School and High School student volunteers.
  • The WRWMG Education Specialist and SCMUA Recycling Coordinator created a joint display at the NJ State Fair to highlight the WRWMG’s stormwater management programs and the SCMUA’s recycling programs. In September, the pair collaborated again at Sussex County Day to educate residents about their ecological work.
  • The SCMUA-WRWMG hosted an emerald ash borer virtual training with an entomologist from the NJ Department of Agriculture to teach participants how the emerald ash borer is diminishing ash tree canopy cover and increasing the volume of polluted stormwater runoff entering the lake. Participants were then provided with replacement trees to plant on their properties that were funded by the SCMUA-WRWMG’s NJDEP grant.
  • In March, the SCMUA-WRWMG and Rutgers Water Resources Program hosted a joint workshop to educate residents about the benefits of rain gardens for stormwater management. Then, attendees worked one-on-one with Rutgers’ engineers and landscape architects to receive customized rain garden design plans for their properties and rebate funding from the SCMUA-WRWMG to offset the costs of rain garden construction.

Delaware River Watershed Initiative

  • The SCMUA-WRWMG and over 50 conservation organizations have been working collaboratively on land acquisition and restoration projects to improve the water quality of the Delaware River.
  • The SCMUA-WRWMG helped organize the 5th annual Northwest NJ Rivers Conference with 12 different workshops about open space, watershed restoration, recreation, and economic opportunities in northern NJ.

Riparian Reforestation

  • The SCMUA-WRWMG Education Specialist formed a new partnership with TerraCycle, an international corporation specializing in recycling hard-to-recycle items. Thus far, TerraCycle has helped the WRWMG properly recycle 1,489 lbs. of tree tubes that have been removed from its floodplain reforestation sites.
  • The SCMUA-WRWMG and volunteers planted 346 trees and shrubs in the Paulins Kill and Wallkill Watersheds.
  • The SCMUA-WRWMG received a $274,800 multi-year grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to complete the riparian reforestation and wetlands restoration of the former Culver Lake Golf Course. The project will install best management practices to improve water quality, enhance forested habitat connectivity for threatened and endangered species documented on the site, and increase outdoor recreational opportunities.

Wetlands Enhancement Project

  • The SCMUA-WRWMG worked with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to install shallow habitat pools and beaver dam analogs (artificial beaver dams) in the wetlands of the SCMUA’s Paulinskill Water Treatment Facility. A 3-acre warm season grass field is also planned to be installed this winter to benefit grassland birds.

Agricultural Restoration

  • The SCMUA-WRWMG’s Ag Outreach Specialist worked with USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service to implement agricultural practices including brush management, cover crop, high tunnels, water lines, and a solar pump system at local farms.

Stormwater Management

  • Wallkill Valley Girl Scouts worked with the SCMUA-WRWMG’s Education Specialist as part of the WRWMG’s TreeHabilitate Program to educate youth about the benefits of trees for stormwater management.
  • Two rain gardens (615 square feet) were installed at High Point Regional High School in Wantage, NJ and a 1,430 square feet rain garden was installed at Sussex County Technical School in Sparta Township. Collectively, these projects are projected to manage 185,239 gallons of runoff annually, helping to keep the Wallkill River Watershed clean.
  • In the Pequest Watershed, the SCMUA-WRWMG worked with Rutgers Water Resources Program, Long Pond School 6th graders, and the Andover Department of Public Works to construct a rain garden that manages stormwater runoff from the school’s paved parking lot.
  • This year, the SCMUA-WRWMG’s stormwater management program helped install seven homeowner rain gardens at Culver Lake, Kemah Lake, and Lake Owassa.
  • The SCMUA-WRWMG worked with local contractors to install a porous asphalt parking lot and tree trenches at Newton’s Halsted Middle School. The projects reduce pollution by allowing stormwater runoff to slowly soak through the pavement to the soil underneath rather than running across the landscape where the stormwater could pick up different pollutants like road salt and motor oil that could contaminate the Paulins Kill River.
  • Utilizing funding from the NJ Corporate Wetlands Restoration Partnership, the SCMUA-WRWMG installed 6 floating treatment wetlands at Bass Lake and Fairview Lake with Princeton University students and Fairview Lake YMCA staff/board members. The native vegetation installed on each island purifies the lake through nutrient uptake by plant roots and microbe consumption of harmful algal bloom (HAB)-causing cyanobacteria. The program’s goal is to reduce HAB development in Sussex County’s lakes.
  • As part of a webinar series organized by Rutgers Water Resources Program, the SCMUA-WRWMG Director presented about the success of the SCMUA-WRWMG’s floating treatment wetlands stormwater management program to participants throughout New Jersey.