Destroying a Dam — and Restoring an Ecosystem
University researchers are monitoring how the removal of the Columbia Lake Dam will help restore the Paulins Kill to health.
“Water quality will be improved,” predicts Montclair State Earth and Environmental Studies Professor Joshua Galster, who is measuring the impact of the dam’s removal on the Paulins Kill ecosystem together with Sustainability Science major Carolina Lemanski. “Fish passage and habitat will be improved. The dam is about a quarter mile upstream from where the Paulins Kill meets the Delaware, so we hope fish like shad will swim upstream once the dam is removed and the river is restored.”
“It is a special kind of satisfaction to know that after more than 100 years and $8 million, American shad will no longer bump their noses on the Columbia Dam when they return to spawn and people will have a cleaner, healthier waterway for recreation,” says Barbara Brummer ’68, The Nature Conservancy’s NJ State Director and Montclair State College of Science and Mathematics Advisory Board Chair.
Galster welcomes the opportunity to be part of the dam removal project. It began in July and involves The Nature Conservancy, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and others.
“It is a special kind of satisfaction to know that after more than 100 years and $8 million, American shad will no longer bump their noses on the Columbia Dam when they return to spawn.”
Galster and Lemanski are mapping the depth of the Paulins Kill riverbed along six river cross sections located between the dam and the Delaware River. They will ultimately compare measurements taken before and after the removal of the dam to assess changes in river depth. “We’re looking to see if there is change — either erosion or deposition — during different stages of the dam removal process,” says Galster, who hopes the project will extend through next year and engage additional student researchers.
According to College of Science and Mathematics Dean Lora Billings, the researchers’ work could also have potentially far-reaching implications. “Their expert analysis may provide the scientific basis for decisions about future dam removals.”