Byram Township is the latest Sussex County municipality to receive grant approval for a Lake and Watershed Management Program for 10 of the township’s waterbodies. The grant was provided by the New Jersey Highlands Water Protection and Planning Council (Highlands Council), a regional planning agency that works in partnership with both municipalities and counties in the Highlands region.
“Byram Township, the Township of Lakes, is excited to have received the grant funding from the Highlands Council providing the opportunity to develop a Lake and Watershed Management Plan with the goal of improving water quality within the township’s watersheds,” said Byram Township Manager Joseph Sabatini. “Having an adopted plan will open the door to opportunities to grant funding to implement the recommended improvements.”
The waterbodies included in Byram’s Lake and Watershed Management Program are: Cranberry Lake, Lake Lackawanna, Johnson Lake, Forest Lake, Panther Lake, Wolf Lake, Wright Pond, Jefferson Lake, Stag Pond, and Kofferls Pond.
Byram Township chose to engage the services of Princeton Hydro, an ecological and engineering consulting firm, to support the project work. Princeton Hydro also assisted the township in pursuing the Highlands Council grant opportunity and securing the grant funding.
The Highlands Council was created as part of the New Jersey Highlands Water Protection and Planning Act (the Highlands Act), which was signed into law in 2004. It has funded numerous water-quality-related planning grants throughout the region. The Highlands Council’s aim is to help those communities “take a proactive and regional approach to watershed protection,” according to a Byram Township press release.
“Watersheds are inherently regional; they don’t follow municipal boundaries. So the Highlands Council is in a unique position to address these challenges from that perspective,” said Kelley Curran, Highlands Council science manager. “It’s critical for municipalities to understand what pollutants are entering their lakes from the surrounding watershed before they can effectively address in-lake issues. Across the region, the stormwater inlets and roadways that directly discharge to and affect lakes are owned and maintained by the municipalities, and when we can fully evaluate these inputs, we can plan for how to address water quality impairments.”
For the first phase of the Lake and Watershed Management Program, Princeton Hydro will conduct several analyses, including watershed modeling; hydrologic and pollutant loading analysis; watershed-based and in-lake water quality assessments; and tropic state assessments. Once all the lab data is processed, the watershed modeling is complete, and historical data reviewed, Princeton Hydro will create a General Assessment Report that will summarize the data/observations and identify which watershed management techniques and measures are best suited for immediate or long-term implementation.
“We’re thrilled to be partnered with Byram on this important initiative to bring together under one holistic management plan in one form or another ten private and public lakes,” said Princeton Hydro’s senior manager, Christopher Mikolajczyk, a certified lake manager and lead designer for this initiative. “Byram is the fourth Highlands-based township I have worked with to take this regional approach, which will continue to make a significant impact in managing stormwater, improving water quality, and mitigating HABs throughout the Highlands region of New Jersey.”
The Byram Township press release explained, “Historically, private lake associations and municipalities have worked autonomously to address water quality issues and develop improvement plans. Taking an integrated approach to lake and watershed management, however, has much farther-reaching impacts in improving water quality, reducing aquatic invasive species, and preventing harmful algal blooms throughout an entire region.”
In 2019, the Borough of Ringwood became the first municipality in the state of New Jersey to take a regional approach to private lake management through a public-private partnership with four lake associations within six lakes. The Borough ultimately became a model for similar Highlands Council grants within the region, including West Milford Township, for which the Highlands Council approved funding in 2020 to support a watershed assessment of 22 private and public lakes. Rockaway Township in Morris County also received Highlands Council grant approval in 2021 to complete a Lake Management Planning Study for 11 lakes. Princeton Hydro authored the scopes of work for these projects as well.