Volunteers needed for creek study

About 20 so far have offered to help West Amwell conduct a review of the Alexauken, but more are needed.

By: Linda Seida
   WEST AMWELL — About 20 volunteers have come forward to help the township conduct a study of Alexauken Creek, but officials say more volunteers are needed.
   The study will be used to develop a protection plan for the creek and its watershed. With a $239,000 grant from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, an effort will be mounted to identify any sources of pollution and areas of erosion. In addition, an attempt will be made to map the creek’s headwaters.
   "Volunteers will be given a seven-hour training course with classroom and field instruction and will ultimately be assigned a one-mile segment of the stream to monitor over a two-month period," Environmental Commission Chairwoman Catherine Urbanski said.
   The state has classified the Alexauken as a Category 1 waterway, which affords it the highest level of protection. But its headwaters lack the same protection because they are unmapped.
   "It is of particular importance to map the headwaters," Mrs. Urbanski said. "Although the Alexauken is classified as a Category 1 stream protected with a 300-foot buffer, this protection is not afforded to its unmapped valuable headwaters."
   In February, volunteers will be asked to begin a visual assessment of the five-mile creek, which runs through West Amwell, East Amwell and Delaware townships as well as a small portion of Lambertville. Its watershed encompasses 28.6 miles of streams.
   About 61 percent of the creek’s watershed is located in West Amwell, according to Mrs. Urbanski. Delaware Township contains about 30 percent, East Amwell contains 8 percent, and Lambertville holds 1 percent.
   Persons who have stepped forward to monitor the creek are a diverse group, according to Faith Zerbe, monitoring coordinator with the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, one of the partners involved in the project.
   "Volunteers range from residents that have lived in the area for over 30 years to AmeriCorps volunteers that are new to the watershed," Ms. Zerbe said. "Training of volunteers will take place during the winter, and teams of volunteers will organize on specific days to perform the assessments."
   According to Mrs. Urbanski, "The assessment will help identify, among other things, vegetated buffer width, vegetated buffer condition, canopy cover (winter), trees leaning, pool variability, floodplain encroachment, bank stability, channel condition, manure presence, available cover for aquatic life, barriers to fish movement and will also provide information on the unmapped headwaters."
   "Preliminary field visits have been conducted in order to develop appropriate monitoring protocols for the Alexauken," Ms. Zerbe said. "The draft monitoring plan will be sent to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection for approval in January. The monitoring teams will be using datasheets, cameras and GPS units to assess the watershed and walk the stream.
   "Start date for this is mid- to late February. Stormwater outfalls will also be assessed in an effort to determine where retrofits may be appropriate."
   While parts of the creek run through public land, it also flows through privately held lands. Landowners will be notified of the ongoing assessment, according to Ms. Zerbe.
   Persons interested in volunteering should contact Ms. Zerbe at faith@delawareriverkeeper.org or (215) 369-1188.