TRENTON – The Department of Environmental Protection said Wednesday that work has started on removing one of three dams from the Raritan River, with the goal of completing the entire project by the fall.
The removal of the Caloco Dam in Bridgewater will enable fish to swim in an area that is 10 miles larger than it had been, in the river’s upper and middle portions, according to DEP Commissioner Bob Martin.
It will take about 2 weeks for full removal of the Caloco Dam.
The project is being carried out and financed by the El Paso Corp. under the terms of an agreement secured earlier this year by the DEP that will open up a large segment of the Raritan River for fish spawning, according to DEP. According to the DEP, the area was previously damaged by pollution from a refinery and three polymer plants that were run by El Paso Corp., which is paying for the dam removal project.
Martin praised the start of the project.
“This is part of a continuing effort by the Christie Administration to protect and improve the quality of waters in New Jersey, and includes a DEP focus on water quality issues regarding the Raritan River,” he said in a statement. “The removal work getting under way this week will result in a significant environmental improvement to the Raritan River, making this a valuable habitat for fish spawning, improving overall environmental conditions in the river system, and expanding recreational opportunities.
Environmental groups, such as the Sierra Club, also hailed the dam removal project.
“Dams cause nutrients to be trapped and cause an increase in water temperature that leads to algae growth and the loss of oxygen in the water,” said executive director Jeff Tittel. “By removing the dam it allows the river to run free with lower temperatures and less pollution.”
Tittel highlighted other benefits as well.
“This will also improve fisheries and the ecosystem by allowing fish to breed in river bottoms and to travel up stream. This will create more recreational opportunities like kayaking ,canoeing and fishing .This being done without cost to taxpayers by having polluters pay .This is a win win for NJ and our environment.
Besides Caloco Dam, the other two dams that will be removed are the Nevius Street Dam and the Robert Street Dam.
The dam removal project was the result of a settlement between the state and El Paso, which the DEP claimed had contaminated parts of the river area through various plants it owns. They include EPEC Polymers Inc. in Flemington, Hunterdon County; Nuodex Inc. in Woodbridge, Middlesex County; EPEC Polymers Inc. in Burlington City, Burlington County; and the Eagle Point Refinery in West Deptford, Gloucester County.
Investigations and/or cleanups are under way at those sites. For a copy of the settlement agreement, visit: http://observer-media.go-vip.net/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2011/07/elpaso-nrd-settlement1.pdf