An update received May 26, 2009, from Brian Cowden, the Musconetcong Home Rivers Initiative Coordinator.
Re: Musconetcong Home Rivers Initiative update Spring 2009

Can you believe that year one of the Musconetcong Home Rivers Initiative is well behind us already? For me, it has been a whirlwind of activity. The Musky now has 2 fewer dams with several more dams on the chopping block. Next to be removed will likely be the Finesville Dam, the first dam upstream of the Delaware. Removing this dam may mean that American Shad will once again swim in the Musky to spawn. Other diadromous fish may also benefit as will brown trout coming into the river to spawn in the late fall, now blocked from doing so above this dam. In 2008 and early this spring, we have planted riparian buffers on some 18 acres of river bank to help stabilize the banks, shade the river to keep it cooler, and filter out non-point pollution and runoff. Although I struggled at times late in the year last year to find funding for my salary, the project funding has come in steadily which is a blessing to our work in the watershed. As of this writing, my salary is fully funded for this calendar year although we scratch for every penny in these difficult economic times. All salary is grant funded or privately funded and we all know the difficulties that grant foundations are going through with their stock market investments.

The good news is that year two brings some exciting new projects and a continuation of the dam removal work and riparian buffer plantings we began last year. I'm happy to report that 8 of our 9 chapters have been involved in various Musky HRI projects and many members from the Forks of the Delaware (PA) chapter have also lent a hand at times. Volunteer help is what I count on for our projects and that is almost as hard to find as salary! While I appreciate greatly all the help I have received, it would be nice to see some new faces mixed in because we are limited in what we can accomplish simply by our volunteer help. Here is a partial list of work to look forward to in this year and into 2010:

· River restoration work on over 1 mile of the river by Joseph Urbani & Associates out of Bozeman, MT. Joe's work is leading edge in river restoration techniques and his use of large boulder placement and bedload manipulation techniques add tremendous fish habitat as well as narrow the river, deepen it, and provide continuous scouring action to keep holes deep and add prime lies for large fish. He also adds gravel spawning bars, and his work at the Warren County Rod & Gun club last year showed several new redds in a river not known as trout production water. The work planned with Joe is all public land or publicly accessible lands along the main river and should excite our anglers.

· Much work has been done to preserve the Warren Glen paper mill (formerly FiberMark) and to remove that dam, the largest such dam on the Musky and dam # 3 above the confluence with the Delaware. With the preservation of this property and the removal of the dam, TU would be leading the largest dam removal project in the state along with a nearly one mile river restoration project, also the largest in the state. Much work is yet to be done to make this a reality, but if/when it happens, the Musconetcong Gorge will once and for all be open to the public. This Gorge rivals the Ken Lockwood in beauty and the boulder sizes are nearly twice those in the Ken Lockwood Gorge on average. Within a year or two of restoration, this will be a prime fishing destination in our state.

· TU has petitioned the state division of Fish & Wildlife to make the Point Mountain Trout Conservation Area (TCA) a year round TCA and remove its seasonal status. We have broad support for this to happen and any change would occur on January 1, 2010 when the new regulations become law. Current regs allow for a 6 fish limit over the first six weeks of the season before a change to one fish over 15" the rest of the year. For those who fished it during the late fall and winter months, this stretch held over some very large fish which continue to thrive in this area even after the spring opener.

· Speaking of Point Mountain TCA, does everyone know where the "S" bend is in that stretch? Just above that is a long, wide, shallow stretch that nobody or very few ever fish. The reason is that is does not have good holding water for the most part, and it also warms up the river about 2 degrees on a hot day because of its width and the shallow, dark colored rocks which absorb the sun. We are looking at having Joe Urbani restore that stretch, narrowing it and deepening it so that we add another 1/4 mile of fishable water in this 1.1 mile TCA. Hunterdon County Parks, owners of the one bank, are very supportive of our efforts, we only lack full funding for the project at this time, but hope is on the horizon. More details to follow...

· With TU's involvement in the Finesville Dam removal, fish habitat and river restoration are a full part of this dam's removal, unlike the Gruendyke and Seber dams where fish habitat was an oversight. Where there is now one long, slow moving pool will be six smaller pools with four riffles and some runs along the ½ mile impacted by the dam currently. And that land will become state owned Green Acres land and accessible to the public based on TU's direct efforts with the landowner. This area, 5 acres in total on just the one bank, was planted with a riparian buffer last fall by the TIC program at Holland Twp. School's which included their entire 8th grade class.

· We have partnered with Heritage Conservancy, our principle land trust partners to work on numerous preservation efforts. They are center stage on the Warren Glen paper mill acquisition and are also working on the defunct Hughesville paper mill and an 8 acre parcel across from Alba Vineyards, another prime fishing spot in Pohatcong and Holland Twps. on the lower river.

· We have drafted with help from partners on the Musconetcong River Management Council the publication A Guide to Living in a Healthy Musconetcong Watershed, a landowner's guide to caring for the environment that is the Musky watershed. Full publication and distribution are pending and help is needed with photography and layout.

· We have numerous riparian projects lined of for this late summer and into the fall. Some are on private lands on tributaries to the Musky and others on public lands, but all are important to our mission to restore the river. Check the state website often for work dates ( US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has expressed a strong interest in helping with funding for both riparian plant materials as well as some salary for yours truly. This would be a multi-year agreement and would ensure funding for these types of projects without the need to write a grant for each project. Two weeks ago three USFWS biologists toured the Musky with me to see past work, planned work for 2009 and potential sites beyond this year.

· A lawsuit against the DEP recently by business owners along Lake Hopatcong, the Musky headwaters, threatened to cut off flows out of the lake and into the upper river which would have had devastating effects to the upper watershed. The court case was dismissed out of hand but is being appealed. TU is prepared to file a friend of the Court brief should this case come to trial in the future and a TU letter writing campaign to the DEP Commissioner asking him to vigorously fight on the river's behalf was very well received and noted within the Lake Hopatcong communities. Thank you to all who took 30 seconds to write or fax Commissioner Mauriello!

· With Heritage Conservancy's preservation of the historic Cliffdale Inn property in Port Murray (lower Mansfield Twp. above Penwell), a full 1,900' of the river banks are now open to the public and are receiving regular stockings of trout. We have also placed signage on this property asking the public to practice Catch & Release trout fishing. This is yet another site of river restoration for Joe Urbani and the site of NJTU's first annual pig roast on June 20th (buy your tickets before we are sold out!). TU's COO, Chris Wood will be in attendance at our pig roast so if you ever wanted the ear of a TU officer, here's your chance!

· We have some momentum to start a new, 10th TU chapter which would cover the lower Musky as well as the lower Pequest and Pohatcong Rivers, areas which NJTU has poor coverage and a weak voice currently. If this moves forward, careful consideration will be given to the surrounding chapters, including PA chapters that pull some members from this area.

I hope that you find the projects and activities of the Musky HRI intriguing and that you will consider coming out to help on one or more projects. In our first year, we totaled over 1,200 hours of volunteer time. If each NJ member gave only one hour per year, we'd total 4,000 hours and be able to move small mountains. Please consider helping out. Not only do we need strong backs for native tree and shrub plantings and rock rolling projects, but we need help with outreach and education, publishing, fundraising, engineering and survey work, monitoring for water temperature, land preservation, and other worthwhile causes to further TU's Musky mission.

And make sure you remember to get out fishing, after all, that is what binds us together and is the reason we all sent in our dues to help with the conservation of our coldwater resources.

Tight lines,