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2016 Year in Review

Thursday, December 22, 2016


2016 was a tremendous year for the SCMUA-Wallkill River Watershed Management Group in terms of on-the-ground restoration projects, community engagement, and conservation partnership building. Take a look at some of the many highlights from the past year!

Volunteer Engagement

  • Throughout 2016, the SCMUA-WRWMG worked with 1,369 volunteers to plant trees along the Paulins Kill River, the Wallkill River, and the Glen Brook, helping to improve the in-stream and terrestrial habitat conditions of each water body.

 Community Outreach

  • Throughout 2016, 409 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, 528 students participated in educational events led by the Wallkill River Watershed Management Group.  Some of the events that the SCMUA-WRWMG organized for the community were Earth Energy Day at the landfill, an Ideal Farms agricultural best management practice tour with Sussex County Community College students, and a Lafayette Park watershed walk for Jefferson Township Middle School students.

Watershed Planning and Implementation

  • The SCMUA-WRWMG in partnership with NJDEP continued to facilitate the implementation of watershed plans for the Papakating Creek, Clove Brook, and Paulins Kill Watersheds.

 Riparian Restoration

  •  11,165 trees and shrubs were planted in 2016 by the SCMUA-WRWMG, TNC, NJ Audubon, USFWS, USDA-NRCS contractors, and countless volunteer groups.
  •  In 2016, the SCMUA-WRWMG and their partners at The Nature Conservancy completed their 2-year restoration goals for their Paulins Kill floodplain reforestation project.  Throughout 2014-2016, approximately 20 acres along the Paulins Kill were planted with native trees and shrubs, helping to re-establish a forested buffer along the banks of the Paulins Kill.
  • Phase 2 of this reforestation project began in September 2016 and will result in an additional 22 acres of floodplain being planted by 2018.
  • In June, the Wallkill River Watershed Management Group partnered with the Stillwater Environmental Commission to organize a riparian reforestation tree planting day for the 6th and 7th grade students at Ridge and Valley Charter School. The students were able to plant and protect 163 containerized trees on a new state-owned parcel in Stillwater, officially expanding the Paulins Kill reforestation corridor further downstream.

 Wallkill River Reforestation

  • Kristine Rogers, the Watershed Education and Outreach Specialist for the SCMUA-WRWMG, coordinated restoration field days with every biology and environmental science teacher at Sparta High School.
  • To date, 611 Sparta High School students have participated in outdoor fieldwork during their science classes.
  • Since the project began in 2015, a total of 5,591 trees and shrubs that were donated by the Arbor Day Foundation were planted throughout the floodplain by Sparta students.

 Trout Unlimited Partnership

  • The SCMUA-WRWMG partnered with Trout Unlimited to assist with the planting portion of its Glen Brook restoration project.
  • Following the Glen Brook planting, in October, Trout Unlimited and the SCMUA-WRWMG worked together to organize a field day for 49 Pope John High School students.  The students spent the day at the park planting and protecting trees along the brook, learning about macroinvertebrates (aquatic insects) and their importance for determining stream health, and identifying ways that people negatively impact limited freshwater resources.

 Stormwater Management

  • The SCMUA-WRWMG installed its 1st rain garden on the campus of McKeown Elementary School thanks to the effort of Nathaniel Sajdak, Watershed Director of the SCMUA-WRWMG, and numerous local partners. 
  • The rain garden, designed by Rutgers Water Resources Program, will capture, treat, and infiltrate over 500,000 gallons of stormwater runoff and will effectively serve as the nucleus project for the SCMUA-WRWMG’s stormwater program.
  • Every McKeown Elementary student (grades K-6) participated in the rain garden installation!

 USDA-NRCS Partnership

  • Because of the successful delivery of the Agricultural Outreach and Assistance Program, the SCMUA-WRWMG has been awarded a new contribution agreement with USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service to coordinate agricultural best management practice implementation on local farms throughout Sussex County.
  • In 2016, Eric Van Benschoten, 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

  • The SCMUA-WRWMG partnered with The Land Conservancy of New Jersey to assist with the update of Sussex County’s Open Space Plan.
  • The SCMUA-WRWMG was the primary developer of the stewardship section of the plan and advocated for a centralized entity to manage the stewardship of open space lands.
  • The Sussex County Board of Chosen Freeholders formally adopted the plan on September 14, 2016, demonstrating the county’s ongoing commitment to protecting open space.

 Collaboration with Sussex County

  • The SCMUA-WRWMG partnered with the Sussex County Division of Engineering to assist with the streamside planting portion of its viaduct bridge construction project.
  • Rather than merely planting the required shrubs to meet the county’s NJDEP mitigation requirements, the SCMUA-WRWMG created a day-long educational event for Franklin Elementary School students that involved tree planting and protection, aquatic insect identification, and a livestaking demonstration.

 Delaware River Watershed Initiative

  • The SCMUA-WRWMG and over 50 conservation organizations throughout the Delaware River Basin 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.

 Sussex County Community College Partnership

  • The SCMUA-WRWMG collaborated with Sussex County Community College (SCCC) to create an Earth Week Celebration for Halsted Middle School students.
  • The 5th graders came to the college as part of a field trip to learn about the human impact on the natural environment, and participated in a rotation of different stations led by the SCMUA-WRWMG, SCCC environmental science students, and Sussex County Clean Communities.  The students also had a chance to participate in an on-campus litter clean-up and a plant identification nature walk, making for a fun and very educational day for Halsted students.
  • Also, 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.