Dep Awards $7.3 Million In Grants to Enhance Ecosystems and Water Quality for Northwestern New Jersey Rivers

To enhance ecosystems and water quality in the Paulins Kill and Pequest River watersheds of northwestern New Jersey, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection has awarded $7.3 million in grants to nonprofits and local government agencies Acting Commissioner Shawn LaTourette announced today.

The grants are funded through DEP’s Office of Natural Resource Restoration, which works with responsible parties to restore natural resources injured by oil spills and other discharges of hazardous substances. Natural Resource Damage (NRD) settlements obtained by DEP are routinely deployed to enhance natural resources such as wetlands, waterways, and habitats in compromised watersheds.

“New Jersey’s plentiful natural resources belong to all of the people of the Garden State, and when they are harmed, we owe it to the people to pursue those responsible and ensure that the resources can recover,” said Acting Commissioner LaTourette. “The Paulins Kill and Pequest River are regional treasures that support a great diversity of wildlife and are among New Jersey’s most important trout-production streams, and my DEP colleagues and I are excited to facilitate restoration projects that enhance ecological conditions for these two river systems that flow through the heart of the scenic Skylands.”

The DEP has awarded grants for the following projects:

The Nature Conservancy, $4,765,905, for the removal of the Paulina Dam in Blairstown, Warren County, which is the dam furthest downstream on the Paulins Kill. The removal of this dam will reconnect 7.6 miles of mainstem and tributary habitat and is the last of three dams to be removed in a broader effort reconnecting 45 miles of Paulins Kill waterways to a free-flowing state that allows migratory fish passage. The Columbia Dam was removed in 2019, followed by the County Line Dam this year.

GreenTrust Alliance, $1,331,539, for the design and implementation of stream restoration and floodplain enhancement on Trout Brook, a tributary of the Pequest River, in Allamuchy Township, Warren County. The project will restore and relocate approximately 2,000 feet of stream and enhance 19.5 acres of wetlands. The project aims to significantly improve both water and habitat quality.

The Nature Conservancy, $673,086, for the completion of the restoration design and permitting for restoration efforts in the Hyper Humus section of the Paulins Kill Wildlife Management Area. This project includes stream and other hydrologic restoration, habitat enhancement and planting plans to restore a 1,200-acre section of the Paulins Kill Wildlife Management Area at the headwaters of the Paulins Kill.

The Nature Conservancy, $436,400, for engineering studies, design plans and permitting for the removal of the Upper E.R. Collins Dam and Lower E.R. Collins Dam on the Pequest River in Belvidere, Warren County. The completion of design is the first step in achieving the removal of these dams that contribute to hazardous flooding in the area. Their removal will enhance water quality, restore natural river functions, and increase habitat for native fish populations.

The Land Conservancy of New Jersey, $92,296, for the design and construction of stream habitat restoration and riparian enhancement at the Yards Creek Preserve in Blairstown, Warren County. Restoration activities include the removal of culverts, the re-establishment of hydrologic connections, and wetland enhancement. The project also calls for the decompaction and restoration of the removed driveway and reuse of materials to re-establish site access away from the restored stream.

Sussex County Municipal Utilities Authority, $78,588, to conduct restoration activities on the site of the former Culver Lake Golf Course in the Upper Paulins Kill watershed. Restoration activities will include planting riparian buffers, removing and replacing culverts, creation of shallow water habitat pools and enhancement of wetlands to provide water quality benefits to the Paulins Kill.

"The Nature Conservancy is grateful for this grant program, which will fund three major projects to improve the freshwater connectivity and quality in the New Jersey’s Paulins Kill and Pequest rivers,” said Barbara Brummer, State Director of the New Jersey Chapter of The Nature Conservancy. “Removal of antiquated dams and restoration of headwaters are priorities for healthy ecosystems and will also improve recreational opportunities for New Jersey residents.”

“The Land Conservancy truly appreciates the support of the Office of Natural Resource Restoration for its planned restoration at Yards Creek Preserve in Blairstown. As members of William Penn’s Delaware River Watershed Initiative, restoration along the Paulinskill and its tributaries is of primary importance to us,” said Sandy Urgo, Vice President of Land Preservation and Stewardship at The Land Conservancy of New Jersey.

“The Office of Natural Resource Restoration’s Paulins Kill and Pequest Grant Program is providing a tremendous opportunity for conservation organizations and local partners to work together to harness and strengthen existing momentum for restoration and stewardship initiatives throughout these two watersheds,” said Nathaniel Sajdak, Watershed Director for the Sussex County Municipal Utilities Authority -Wallkill River Watershed Management Group.

“The grant that our organization will be receiving is going to help us implement water quality and habitat improvement projects on a retired golf course, while simultaneously enabling us to engage the local Culver Lake community in hands-on educational efforts to do so." Remediating contaminated sites and restoring damaged natural resource is a key priority of the Murphy Administration.

The DEP’s Office of Natural Resource Restoration works with responsible parties who wish to voluntarily assess natural resource damages, undertake restoration projects, or settle their natural resource damage liability. Where necessary, DEP works with the Office of the Attorney General to pursue Natural Resource Damage claims through the courts.

These settlements, which are in addition to the costs of cleaning up a pollution event, help DEP to facilitate many different types of ecological restoration projects throughout the state. For more information, visit www.nj.gov/dep/nrr/ 

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