Thursday, February 28, 2013

The State of Coastal Lakes in NJ

In mid-February, COA staff attended the Coastal Lakes Summit: Moving to a Healthier and More Resilient Future at Monmouth University.  The Summit was organized by the Urban Coast Institute (UCI).  UCI held its first Coastal Lakes Summit in 2008.

About the Summit

The purpose of the 2013 Summit was to bring together natural resource managers and engineers, municipal officials, representatives of civic groups, community organizations, federal and state agency representatives, and local coastal and watershed management groups to indentify post-Sandy recovery and restoration priorities for the coastal lakes of NJ and to implement lake restoration plans.   

About Coastal Lakes

Deal Lake Photo Credit: Etsy
New Jersey has over 20 coastal lakes!  The coastal lakes, throughout Monmouth and Ocean County, provide local freshwater resources, offer important recreational and aesthetic amenities, and most historically were estuaries.  Many of these lakes used to have a connection to the ocean, before intense man-made development altered the landscape.

Deal Lake is the largest coastal lake in New Jersey; other well-known lakes include Lake Takanesse, Spring Lake, Wreck Pond, Stockon Lake, Little Silver Lake and Twilight Lake.

Sadly over time, these lakes have become merely regional stormwater basins, collecting untreated and unmanaged stormwater runoff generated by the surrounding communities.  What were historically estuaries have become impoundments for excessive algae growth and nutrient loading.

Impact of Superstorm Sandy

While nutrient loading has been an issue within the NJ coastal lakes for quite some time, Superstorm Sandy has presented new issues:
·         Physical Impacts
o   Filling
o   Erosion
o   Shoreline failure
·         Structural Impacts
o   Failed or damaged weir/flume/dam
o   Storm sewer lines filled with sand and debris
·         Environmental Impacts
o   Water quality: contaminants, bacteria, nutrients, sediment
o   Debris: upland wreckage, boats, trees, other submerged material

Fish and Wildlife Issues

Since the coastal lakes were historically estuaries, many of the species needed a delicate balance of fresh and salt water and open exchange with the ocean to survive.  Anadromous fish, like New Jersey’s River Herring, are born in fresh water, spend most of their life in the ocean and then return to fresh water to spawn.  On the other hand, catadromous fish, like the American Eel, live in fresh water and enters salt water to spawn.  Both types of fish need an open exchange between the salt water ocean and the fresh water lake to migrate and spawn properly. 

Over time, human population booms and over-development have closed these lakes off to the ocean, to prevent flooding (among other issues), but also causing declines in fish populations.  The River Herring is now a candidate species under the Endangered Species Act to be upgraded from a “Species of Concern” to Threatened or Endangered. 


To help with stormwater runoff and to return the coastal lakes from impoundments back to estuaries, Summit attendees thought to plant native species around the lakes, create maritime forests (ocean coastal wooded habitats found on higher ground than dune areas), restore riparian corridors, preserve habitat for migratory birds, scrutinize the source of sand for beach replenishment projects, re-establish dunes, and preserve open space.  Creating soft shorelines, is also a good solution for two reasons.  One is so that nesting shorebirds have invertebrates to eat, and to improve water quality.  Soft shorelines filter pollutants out from stormwater runoff.

It is perhaps most important to have a project as a model that can be used to educate the public and local elected officials about the responsibility that comes living near a coastal lake.  The maritime forest project in Ocean Grove/Bradley Beach at Fletcher Lake can serve as a model for citizens to visualize the benefits of preserving the coastal lakes and restoring them to estuaries for generations to come. 

No comments:

Post a Comment