Assessing recreational impacts of the Paulins Kill River Restoration Project

Kyle Walker


The Columbia Lake Dam, a 5.5 meter run-of-the-river dam located in northwestern New Jersey, was removed in 2019 as part of The Nature Conservancy’s Paulins Kill River Restoration Project. For my Capstone project, I will study how removal of the Columbia Lake Dam has altered the biological and recreational value of the river, and use those findings to predict the impacts of forthcoming dam removals in the Paulins Kill.

To determine the effect of the dam removal on habitat quality, I will determine the magnitude of changes in dissolved oxygen and temperature as a result of dam removal using continuous data collected at upstream and downstream sites.

To better understand recreational impacts, I will distribute a survey to recreational users of the river to establish their perceptions and opinions of the Columbia Lake Dam removal. I will reconcile the findings from the two components of my study to determine whether or not recreational impacts predicted from biological information are reflected in the opinions of recreational users.

Many scientists have studied the ecological effects of dam removals, but a greater understanding of the relationship between ecological and social, cultural, and economic impacts is needed in order to successfully plan river restoration strategies that benefit the public. This research will allow The Nature Conservancy to understand successes and shortcomings of the Paulins Kill River Restoration Project, as well as contribute to the broader knowledge of the many consequences of dam removals.