Conservation Organizations Celebrate $96,400 in Federal Funds to Improve the Musconetcong River

New Funding Opportunity Opens Doors to Address Flooding, Water Quality

HACKETTSTOWN, N.J. – On November 20, Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed, Musconetcong Watershed Association, New Jersey League of Conservation Voters, and Mayor Matthew Murello of Washington Township (Morris County) gathered along the banks of the Musconetcong River to celebrate a new grant from the Delaware Watershed Conservation Fund. A total of $96,400 was received by Musconetcong Watershed Association and with their matching funds, $192,800 will be leveraged for floodplain and stream restoration that will reduce flooding and improve water quality on the Musconetcong River, the longest tributary of the Delaware River in New Jersey.

“Along with member organizations, Musconetcong Watershed Association and New Jersey League of Conservation Voters, the Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed advocated for six million dollars during fiscal year 2019 Federal Interior Appropriations for the Delaware Watershed Conservation Fund. Now, thanks to this grant program, organizations and municipalities can combat critical issues facing the future of the watershed, such as flooding, degraded water quality, and habitat loss,” said Sandra Meola, Director, Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed. “In total, 13.3 million people receive their drinking water from the Delaware River Watershed, so protecting the main stem and its tributaries is critical to our health and safety.”

“The Delaware River Watershed holds national significance and deserves federal investment to restore and conserve the natural resources it supplies for so many. As the Delaware Watershed Conservation Fund approaches its third round of requests for proposals, I continue to be impressed by the depth and breadth of the projects it supports, including addressing flooding and improving water quality for the Musconetcong River,” added Representative Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), Member of the House Committee on Appropriations.

Local flooding is a concern in Washington Township in Morris County and Hackettstown in Warren County, two highly developed municipalities that lack impervious surfaces where rain can be absorbed. Musconetcong Watershed Association’s project will restore floodplains, which will give the river more room to accommodate large floods and keep communities safe. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, during Hurricane Irene in 2011, the Musconetcong River peaked at about 8.8 feet, more than two and a half feet over flood stage. Flood waters were held back by the remains of the Beatty’s Mill Dam, worsening local flooding, which is why Musconetcong Watershed Association is removing the broken remains of the 1797 mill dam to restore the river’s natural course.

“With this award from the recently approved Delaware Watershed Conservation Fund, we are bringing federal funds, matched with Highlands Council funds and corporate donations, to address local flooding concerns in the Hackettstown area and improve the recreational fishery in the Musconetcong River. We thank the municipal, county, Highlands Council officials who have made this project possible, along with our Congressional delegation who has been instrumental in funding the Delaware Watershed Conservation Fund,” said Alan Hunt, Executive Director, Musconetcong Watershed Association.  “This project builds on prior projects, including the Gruendykedam removal in 2008 and Seber Dam removal in 2009, both in the Hackettstown area, and will restore another .15 miles of river corridor and 2.5 acres of floodplains which are critical for flood mitigation and fish habitat.”

Floodplains also act as natural filters, absorbing harmful chemicals and other pollution, and making rivers healthier for drinking and fishing. Therefore, Musconetcong Watershed Association’s project will have the added benefit of improving aquatic habitat for freshwater mussels, crustaceans, worms, and other wildlife that live at the bottom of the river; and native fish, such as Eastern Brook Trout and American Eel, which support recreational fishing. After Musconetcong Watershed Association completes their project, flooding will be reduced, wetlands will be restored that increase water storage, and riverbank erosion will be reduced.

“Development in New Jersey’s Highlands region has replaced water-retentive forests with impervious, hard surfaces like buildings and parking lots. That means water no longer finds its way underground and pools on the surface, increasing flooding and allowing polluted runoff from roads to enter waterways. We’ve partnered with Washington Township and the Musconetcong Watershed Association to tackle these critical issues on the Musconetcong River,” stated Lisa Plevin, Executive Director, New Jersey Highlands Council.

The Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed, Musconetcong Watershed Association, and New Jersey League of Conservation Voters aim to increase funding for the Delaware Watershed Conservation Fund from $6 million to $10 million in fiscal year 2020 to better address environmental and water quality issues throughout the watershed. The House Interior Appropriations included $10 million for the fund in their interior appropriations bill this summer, while the Senate Interior Appropriations bill signed in October included only $6.5 million.

Over 1.9 million New Jersey residents rely on the Delaware River Watershed for their drinking water. The Delaware River Watershed Conservation Fund supports ongoing conservation efforts, increases capacity, and creates opportunities for cross-organization collaboration -- that’s why we’re urging Congress for an increase from six million in fiscal year 2019 to ten million in fiscal year 2020. Broadening nonprofits and local government's ability for on-the-ground restoration and conservation projects will only benefit those who rely on this river for their drinking water,” added Ed Potosnak, Executive Director, New Jersey League of Conservation Voters.