(Cherry Hill, NJ) – The Camden County Freeholder Board will begin an expansive project to improve the water quality of Newton Lake by early October. The project will affect the waterway stretching from Cuthbert Boulevard to the vicinity of the Black Horse Pike, and will primarily remove sediment from the creek and improve natural infrastructure, including riparian buffers to reduce the effect of future sedimentation.
“We are extremely grateful for the expertise of the Camden County Municipal Utilities Authority (CCMUA) as they have worked with us on every phase of the design and work plan to ensure that both the process, and the result, are environmentally safe,” said Freeholder Jeff Nash, liaison to the Parks Department. “The project will begin this fall, and continue as long as weather permits. It can resume in July of 2019, and is expected to be completed by 2021.”
The Freeholder Board and the CCMUA have been working with local residents, the Camden County Soil Conservation District, Delaware Riverkeeper, the Newton Creek Watershed Association and other community groups, to ensure that the project is environmentally sound. This process has included working with each group to spread information about the steps parkgoers can take to help keep the creek safe and clean for everyone. The groups have also been included in the beginning of the planning phase and will continue to be consulted as the final design is developed.
“Newton Lake is classified as eutrophic, which means that it is shallow, contains murky water and has a soft bottom. It also has algal blooms and excessive aquatic plant growth,” Nash explained. “The water quality project will significantly reduce the siltation and nutrient enrichment of the lake and not only improve aesthetics, it will also promote more recreational uses such as fishing and boating.”
Sedimentation is a natural process that occurs as soils and other matter collect in the bed of a lake or river. Sediment problems can disrupt drainage systems and other complications for the waterway. This project will remove sediment from Newton Lake, and by doing so, improve water access and quality. In addition, improvements are planned to stabilize surrounding streambanks and outfalls ill slow any future sedimentation.
“The county hired a nationally renowned consulting engineer to develop the project design, and we are excited about the overall impact that this will have on the creek and the park,” Nash continued. “This project represents a substantial investment in the health of the creek and the continued enjoyment of Camden County’s parks and waterways. Furthermore, this is not just about dredging, but ensuring we are preserving and building-up the banks of the creek, supporting and allowing riparian buffers to grow, and trying to end much of the non-source point pollution that has contributed to the sedimentation of the waterway and spadderdock growth suffocating the waterway.”
Deepening the lake will reduce the excessive growth of aquatic plants and increase the water depth and volume of the lake, resulting in a more ecologically sustainable healthier lake. The project will remove nutrient-laden sediments from the lake, and improve conditions for the stressed fish community.
“In order to make this capital project truly worthwhile and an exercise we will not have to do again for a long period of time we are also looking at repairing and addressing outfall pipes, storm drains and educating private property owners throughout the waterway itself,” Nash said. “The issue we are having with sedimentation is occurring in several different places, so it is imperative for the health of the lake that we address them at the starting point of the runoff.”
The project is being funded by the New Jersey Environmental Infrastructure Trust financing program. The county will then pay back the loans over the course of the next 30 years at a minimal rate.