Upper Wallkill River Watershed Riparian Restoration and Floodplain Reforestation Corridor Initiative

Project Purpose:
The goal of the Upper Wallkill River Watershed Riparian Restoration and Floodplain Reforestation project is to restore resilience and functionality to a degraded section of the Wallkill River in Sparta Township, New Jersey, while educating a new generation of students to become actively engaged in the protection of the local environment. The Sussex County Municipal Utilities Authority-Wallkill River Watershed Management Group (SCMUA-WRWMG) aims to reforest a floodplain area that has become overrun by invasive reed canary grass (Phalaris arundinacea) and phragmites (Phragmites australis) in order to improve the surface water quality of the Wallkill River, enhance critical wildlife habitats, and restore the health and ecosystem functions of the floodplains and the surrounding wetlands through shade production, streambank stabilization, pollutant filtration, and invasive species eradication. The project is intended to be implemented with significant assistance from community volunteers, including students from both Sparta High School and Sparta Middle School.

 

Brief Description:
The SCMUA-WRWMG’s Wallkill River Riparian Restoration and Floodplain Reforestation Project is intended to establish a 4.5+/- mile contiguous reforestation corridor along Wallkill River in Sparta Township, New Jersey. The project will improve the surface water quality along a section of the Wallkill River that is currently on the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s 303(d) list for temperature impairment. The proposed Wallkill River project is being modeled after a successful reforestation project along a four mile contiguous corridor of the Paulins Kill in Lafayette and Frankford Townships that is also currently being implemented by the WRWMG in partnership with The Nature Conservancy, NJDEP, USDA-NRCS, US Fish and Wildlife Service and many other project partners. Both projects are similarly attempting to reforest former agricultural floodplains that have become dominated by invasive reed canary grass and have failed to naturally reforest on their own.


As part of the corridor project, the SCMUA-WRWMG will secure the necessary approvals from the owners and/or land managers of the state-owned public lands, adjoining USDA-NRCS federal easement site, and other adjacent properties owned by Sparta Township and Sparta Township Board of Education to implement restoration activities along the Wallkill River. Significant progress has already been made towards obtaining these approvals with the WRWMG already organizing two restoration field days with students from Sparta High School that resulted in the planting and protection of 125 native, containerized trees and 250 black willow live stakes, donated by USFWS, on a 4-acre parcel owned by Sparta Township. With a project nucleus now in place, the WRWMG’s goal is to continue planting and protecting a combination of native, containerized trees, bare root whips, and locally-harvested livestakes throughout targeted areas of the corridor in accordance with the USDA-NRCS standard of 200 stems per acre.

 

News of this project progress has recently spurred representatives of the Fred S. Burroughs North Jersey Chapter of Trout Unlimited to contact the WRWMG to request technical guidance and assistance with the riparian restoration and tree planting component of their Sparta Glen Brook Restoration Project, scheduled to begin in spring 2016. Recognizing that the Sparta Glen Brook is an important tributary to the Wallkill River, the confluence of which is located just upstream of the proposed Wallkill River reforestation corridor, a tremendous opportunity is unfolding to uniquely bring together two separate restoration projects in Sparta Township in a way that will greatly benefit the watershed health and water quality of the headwaters area of the Wallkill River watershed. Additionally, both 2 projects will utilize Sparta students and volunteers in the planting work, providing an educational opportunity to raise awareness among community members about the importance of watershed stewardship.

 

Resource Values/Project Outputs:
This project aims to improve water quality and restore areas that have been similarly compromised by deforestation, agriculture, and historic flooding, and are now suppressed from succession by dense infestations of invasive reed canary grass and phragmites. Scientific studies conducted by Stroud Water Research Center show reforesting stream corridors helps stabilize the banks, reduce erosion, and increase the river’s ability to process pollutants while providing habitat for native species by adding large woody debris into the water. Since the Wallkill River has been identified on the NJDEP 303(d) list as impaired for aquatic life due to temperature, the shade produced over time from the tree canopy will help lower the temperature throughout this river reach, improving in-stream habitat for aquatic life, most notably native trout populations. Additionally, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, and the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service have also expressed their support for the project based upon the benefits it will provide to water quality, critical wildlife habitat, and the health of the floodplain. The WRWMG also feels strongly that one of the greatest outcomes of the Wallkill River Reforestation Project is the educational platform that will be generated for Sparta Township students and community volunteers. The close proximity of both Sparta High School and Sparta Middle School to the proposed project corridor will allow it to serve as a long-term, hands-on outdoor classroom for the students. By directly assisting with the implementation, maintenance, and monitoring of the restoration effort, the students will be provided a unique opportunity to develop a life-long appreciation for protecting the health of their local watershed.

Estimated Total Cost/Budget for Year 1 of the Project:

  • Trees: #2 containerized native species (1,000 trees @ $10/tree) = $10,000

  • Tree Shelters: 5’ Tubex Combitube (1,000 tree shelters @ $3.50 each) = $3,500

  • 6’ PVC Stake (1,000 stakes @ $1.60 each) = $1,600

  • Tubelings (157 trays of 32 = 5,024 tubelings @ $1.15 each) = $5,777.60** **to be provided / funded by the Arbor Day Foundation

  • Tree shelters: 2.5’ Tubex Standard (1,000 tree shelters @ $2.00 each) = $2,000 **to be installed on 20% of the tubelings

  • 3’ PVC Stake (1,000 stakes @ $1.00 each) = $1,000

  • Shipping cost for tree shelters and stakes = $750

  • WRWMG Labor: project coordination and planning, tree planting,

  • tree shelter installation, and site maintenance for Year 1 of the project = $25,000


Estimated Total Cost for Year 1 of the Project: = $48,627.60

What is requested from the CWRP / Contribution:
We would like to use a CWRP contribution to fund a portion of the Wallkill River Watershed Management Group’s time and effort to coordinate the project (project planning, tree/tree shelter installation, and site maintenance). Additionally, we are requesting funding to purchase 500 #2 containerized native trees for the site along with tubes and stakes for the requested trees. This funding will help us leverage additional resources from outside organizations and project sponsors to fund the remainder of the estimated Year 1 project costs as well as to further expand the size of the initial project corridor.

  • Trees: #2 containerized native species (500 trees @ $10/tree) = $5,000

  • Tree Shelters: 5’ Tubex Combitube (500 tree shelters @ $3.50 each) = $1,750

  • 6’ PVC Stake (500 stakes @ $1.60 each) = $800

  • Tree shelters: 2.5’ Tubex Standard (1,000 tree shelters @ $2.00 each)** = $2,000 **to be installed on 20% of the tubelings

  • Shipping cost for tree shelters and stakes = $375

  • WRWMG Labor: project coordination and planning, tree planting, tree shelter installation, and site maintenance for Year 1 of the project = $15,000


Total CWRP Amount Requested for Year 1 of the Project: = $24,925.00


Point of Contact:
Kristine Rogers
Watershed Education and Outreach Specialist
Sussex County Municipal Utilities Authority-Wallkill River Watershed Management Group
Phone: 973-579-6998 ext. 110
Email: krogers@scmua.org
Website: www.wallkillriver.org

Schedule:
During Year 1 of the project, the proposed planting is estimated to take place in April-May and October-November of 2016.


Permit Status:
No permits are required for the planned hand planting that will take place at the site.


List of Partners:
NJDEP, USDA-NRCS, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Arbor Day Foundation, Sparta Township Environmental Commission, Sparta Township Board of Education, Sparta High School and Middle School, the AmeriCorps NJ Watershed Ambassador Program, the Lake Mohawk Preservation Foundation, and Trout Unlimited

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