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Great Falls of the Passaic River at Paterson, N.J

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Barnegat Bay Nutrient Loading and Eutrophication

Project Title: Barnegat Bay Nutrient Loading and Eutrophication
Project Number: LJ00DSK
Project Chief:
Project Start Date: 02-MAR-2009

Project End Date: 31-MAR-2012

Project Objectives

1. Document the influence of human altered land use on past and present nutrient export from the BB-LEH watershed to the BB-LEH estuary using physical and chemical watershed data and land-use patterns, and spatially explicit models;
1.1. More sensitive modeling of loading will be developed and relative contributions of nutrient loadings from lawn care practices, protected riparian buffers, and stormwater management systems (SWMS) and other land-use characteristics will be estimated.

Statement of Problem

The Barnegat Bay-Little Egg Harbor (BB-LEH) estuary, which also includes Manahawkin Bay, has been classified as a highly eutrophic system based on application of NOAA’s National Estuarine Eutrophication Assessment (NEEA) model (2007) and Nixon’s trophic classification (1995). Nitrogen loading from the BB-LEH watershed and overlying airshed has resulted in shifts in ecosystem structure and function of the estuary reflected by the repeated occurrence of detrimental toxic and nuisance algal blooms, loss of essential seagrass habitat, and declining fisheries. Most of the nitrogen load enters the estuary from watershed surface-water inflow. While nitrogen loading has been modeled in several watersheds dominated by agriculture, the proposed project uses novel methods of modeling nutrient flow to characterize the effects of rapid urbanization and altered land use in the BBLEH watershed.

Strategy and Approach

The most recent and comprehensive data available will be used to determine current nitrogen and phosphorus loading, and both temporal and spatial variability. Loading determined for earlier time periods, together with other monitoring data for earlier time periods, will be evaluated for potential utility in characterizing an appropriate reference condition for use in establishing nutrient criteria. Meteorological, hydrologic, water-quality, land-use, and atmospheric data will be used in conjunction with the models PLOAD (CH2M Hill, Inc,) and BASINS3 (USEPA). Loading will be determined from model simulations for subbasins which lack sufficient data to directly calculate nutrient loads.

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