Saw Mill Creek Wildlife Management Area

Category: Existing Restoration/Preservation, and/or Mitigation Site

Location: Divided vertically by the New Jersey Turnpike – Western Spur, bordered on the south by New Jersey Transit Boonton Line, on the East by the Hackensack River, and on the west by 1-E landfill in Kearny and Lyndhurst, Hudson and Bergen Counties respectively.

Latitude/Longitude: 40.77082/ -74.10130

Current Land Use: Wildlife management area, mudflats, tidal marsh, and open water

Size: 741 acres

Current Ownership: NJDEP (NJMC has management agreement.)

Site Description: Early in the 20th century, the Saw Mill Creek area adjacent to the Hackensack River was diked and drained for mosquito control. Over ensuing decades, the marsh subsided due to the oxidation of the peat, a result of the draining of this marsh. The overall biodiversity declined, so that by mid-century, the number of wetland species that occupied or utilized the marsh had significantly decreased. On November 25, 1950, a powerful nor’easter struck the region. Its high winds, rain, and storm tides destroyed the Saw Mill dikes, reopening the vast wetland to the Hackensack River tides. The common reed (Phragmites australis) that had previously colonized the area began to die-off, and smooth cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora) began to infiltrate the marsh. S. alterniflora now occupies hundreds of acres in the Saw Mill area. The Saw Mill Creek Wildlife Management Area, including the large, contiguous expanse of mudflat area known as the Saw Mill mudflats, is home to myriad wildlife, including some species classified by the state as threatened or endangered. The significant species found here include striped bass, fiddler crabs, diamond-back terrapin, great blue heron, osprey, common moorhen, least bittern, and the state endangered least tern and black skimmer. Recreational use has also returned to the area, including angling, canoeing, kayaking, and NJMC boat tours. Waterfowl hunting is permitted during the regular hunting season.

Existing Site-Specific Data Inventory

A. Survey, Maps, and GIS

HMD regional data exists inclusive of this site. Pre-restoration site survey conducted in 1997.

B. Real Estate/Ownership

Owned by NJDEP (NJMC has management agreement.)

C. Site History & Land Use

General site history and land use contained in 1980 DeKorte Master Plan and 1983 Sawmill Creek Basin Reports. Site-specific report developed in 1986.

D. Biological Studies – Fauna

Avian studies conducted in 1970 and 1989.Benthic macroinvertebrates studied in 1991 and heavy metal concentrations in terrapins studied in 2000.

E. Biological Studies – General Environmental

General baseline data collected for 1984 Sawmill Basin EIS and 1988 NJ Turnpike Widening EIS. Site specific studies conducted in 1987, 1988, 1999 and 2002.

F. Geotechnical

General baseline data collected for 1984 Sawmill Basin EIS and 1988 NJ Turnpike Widening EIS. Site specific soil investigation conducted in 1983.

G. Hydraulics and Hydrology

General baseline data collected for 1984 Sawmill Basin EIS and 1988 NJ Turnpike Widening EIS.

H. Water and Sediments

General baseline data collected for 1984 Sawmill Basin EIS and 1988 NJ Turnpike Widening EIS. Site specific studies conducted in 1987, 1999, 2000 and 2002.

I. Historical/Cultural Resources

Information contained with the 1980 DeKorte Park Master Plan.

J. Restoration/Remediation Design Plans

Preservation plan for the site contained in 1979 DeKorte Park Master Plan. Restoration design plan developed in 1997.

Site reports

Site #7 – Saw Mill Creek Wildlife Management Area

Category: Existing Restoration, Preservation, and/or Mitigation Site

Location: Divided vertically by the New Jersey Turnpike – Western Spur, bordered on the south by New Jersey Transit Boonton Line, on the East by the Hackensack River, and on the west by 1-E landfill in Kearny and Lyndhurst, Hudson and Bergen Counties respectively.

Latitude/Longitude: 40.77082 / -74.10130

Current Land Use: Wildlife management area, mudflats, tidal marsh, and open water

Size: 741 acres

Current Ownership: NJDEP (NJMC and NJDEP have an agreement for NJMC management rights.)

Site Description: Early in the 20th century, the Saw Mill Creek area adjacent to the Hackensack River was diked and drained for mosquito control. Over ensuing decades, the marsh subsided due to the oxidation of the peat, a result of the draining of this marsh. The overall biodiversity declined, so that by mid-century, the number of wetland species that occupied or utilized the marsh had significantly decreased. On November 25,  1950, a powerful nor’easter struck the region. Its high winds, rain, and storm tides destroyed the Saw Mill dikes, reopening the vast wetland to the Hackensack River tides. The common reed (Phragmites australis) that had previously colonized the area began to die-off, and smooth cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora) began to infiltrate the marsh. S. alterniflora now occupies hundreds of acres in the Saw Mill area.

The Saw Mill Creek Wildlife Management Area, including the large, contiguous expanse of mudflat area known as the Saw Mill mudflats, is home to myriad wildlife, including some species classified by the state as threatened or endangered. The significant species found here include striped bass, fiddler crabs, diamond-back terrapin, great blue heron, osprey, common moorhen, least bittern, and the state endangered least tern and black skimmer. Recreational use has also returned to the area, including angling, canoeing, kayaking, and NJMC boat tours. Waterfowl hunting is permitted during the regular hunting season.

Existing Site Specific Data Inventory

* – Report repeated under multiple data categories and/or sites.

A.  Survey, Maps, and GIS

Relevant survey, mapping, and GIS data for the Meadowlands can be found in the Meadowlands-wide site report under data category A.

1.      Wetland and Water Resource Engineering Consultants. Survey of Original Conditions at Skeetlkill Creek Marsh Wetlands Mitigation Site. January 1997. [1a] Pre-restoration site survey. Contours are at one foot intervals.

B.   Real Estate/Ownership

Saw Mill Creek Wildlife Management Area is owned by NJDEP. NJDEP and NJMC established an agreement for NJMC management rights on November 6, 1998.

C.  Site History & Land Use

2.      *BSC Engineering. Sawmill Creek Basin Water Quality Management: Basin Hydrology and Pond Hydraulics Report. July 1983. [2a] One of five reports prepared for the HMDC as part of an overall Water Quality Management effort that was part of the DeKorte Park planning process. This report details existing hydrologic and hydrology data for the Sawmill Creek Basin and the proposed recreation pond components.

3.      *BSC Engineering. Sawmill Creek Basin Water Quality Management: Recreation Pond Design Report. HMDC. 1983. [1a] One of five reports prepared for the HMDC as part of an overall Water Quality Management effort that was part of the DeKorte Park planning process. Discusses background and existing hydrology of the site of a proposed 160-acre pond between present day Harrier Meadow and 1-E Landfill.

4.      *BSC Engineering. Sawmill Creek Basin Water Quality Management: Wastewater Treatment Design Report. HMDC. 1983. [1a] One of five reports prepared for the HMDC as part of an overall Water Quality Management effort that was part of the DeKorte Park planning process. Proposed a wetland-based leachate/wastewater treatment system, which was never built. Covers purpose, goals, problems, background, and current conditions. Contains a map of sampling sites. Analyzed surface water, landfill leachate, and sediment. Focused on area west of turnpike (i.e. in and around present day Kingsland Impoundment, Harrier Meadow, and the 1-E landfill).

5.      *HMDC. Facts about DeKorte State Park. 1980. [1a] The DeKorte Park Master Plan, a leachate treatment design, a sediment analysis, and a dredging feasibility study were examined. Also investigated the methane utilization, garbage composting, leaf composting, and vegetation issues related to the landfills. DeKorte State Park encompasses the Saw Mill Creek Wildlife Management Area.

6.      *Kraus, M. L. & D. J. Smith. Competition and Succession in a Perturbed Urban Estuary: The Effects of Hydrology. Proceedings of the National Wetlands Symposium: Mitigation of Impacts and Losses. 1986. [1a]Describes the effects on vegetation of the re-introduction of tidal flow into the Sawmill Creek marsh as a result of the 1950 storm which breached the dikes and tidegates that were built in the 1800′s in an attempt to drain and reclaim this large marsh area.

D.  Biological Studies – Fauna

7.      *Black, I. H. Past and Present Status of the Birds of the Lower Hacken sack River Marshes. New Jersey Nature News. 25(2):57-70. 1970. [1a]Describes the highlights of the bird population of the lower Hackensack River marshes between 1961 and 1967. It compares the bird data of 1961-1967 to that of 1969, and also compares the shorebird numbers of 1961-1967 to those found prior to 1936 in the Secaucus and Newark marshes.

8.      *Dentzau, Michael L. Analysis of the Benthic Macroinvertebrate Population of the Sawmill Creek Tidal Mud Flat. HMDC. 1991. [1a] A total of 12 benthic samples were collected using an Eckman grab sampler at low tide from the mudflat area west of and adjacent to the New Jersey Turnpike – Western Spur. The samples were maintained alive and were processed in the lab using a 1.0 millimeter mesh sieve. The densities reported were an average of all samples collected. No raw data are provided.

9.      *Mattson, Chester P., and Richard W. LoPinto. Phytoplankton for Industrial Pollutants in the Hackensack Meadowlands. Proceedings of University Seminar on Pollution and Water Resources, Volume VIII. 1975. [1a]Discusses the methods used to perform phytoplankton bioassays (using ten different phytoplankton cultures) on three different effluent types – landfill leachate, effluent from a metal finishing factory, and effluent from a metal plating factory. Samples were collected from the Hackensack Meadowlands.

10.  *McIntyre, C. Heavy Metal Concentrations in Sediment and Diamondback Terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin terrapin): Tissues from Two Sites in New Jersey. Hampshire College. 2000. [1a] Terrapins were collected from two sites in New Jersey, one being the Saw Mill Creek Wildlife Management Area in 1999. Stomach content and liver tissues were analyzed for seven metals. Also analyzed water and sediment samples and looked at isotopic ratios of lead.

11.  *U.S. Coast Guard & USACE. Draft Environmental Impact Statement and Section 404 (b)(1) Evaluation – New Jersey Turnpike Widening Project: Interchange 11 to U.S. Route 46. New Jersey Turnpike Authority. 1988. [1a]States project purpose and need, alternatives, affected environment, and environmental consequences.

12.  *Wargo, J.G. October Avian Species Richness: A Natural Marsh vs. An Enhanced Marsh. Rutgers University. 1989. [1a]Avian observations were made in a natural and an enhanced marsh during summer & fall 1987 and spring, summer, and fall 1988. Species richness and species diversity were compared. The results were suggested for use as baseline data for future monitoring & evaluation.

13.  *Yuhas, C.E. Benthic Communities in Spartina alterniflora and Phragmities australis Dominated Salt Marshes. Rutgers University. 2001. [1a]Core samples were collected at the creek bank and edge of vegetation in natural & mitigated cordgrass (Spartina) marshes and in a common reed (Phragmites australis) dominated marsh. A recolonization experiment using sediment from an undisturbed & uncontaminated site was also conducted. The diversity and abundance of benthic communities in the samples were analyzed.

E.   Biological Studies – General Environmental

14.  *Hover, V.C. Trace Metal Cycling in Contaminated Estuarine Sediments, Hackensack Meadowlands District, NJ. Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, v. 31. 1999. [1a]Determined the spatial variability of contaminant metals throughout the Meadowlands with respect to marsh types – common reed (Phragmites australis), natural cordgrass species (Spartina spp.), and restored cordgrass species (Spartina spp.) – to obtain baseline information on trace metal contents and speciation in sediment and porewaters. The initial sampling concentrated on areas of natural and restored Spartina marshes in the Sawmill Creek and Mill Creek areas, respectively.

15.  *HMDC. The Environmental Impact Assessment for the Sawmill Creek Basin Water Quality Management Plan. March 1984. [1] Details the environmental impacts of the Sawmill Creek Basin Water Quality Management Plan, including the following five design reports: 1) Report of Soil & Foundation Investigations; 2) Basin Hydrology & Pond Hydraulics Report; 3) Recreation Pond Design Report; 4) Leachate Collection Design Report; and 5) Wastewater Treatment Design Report. Accounts for the environmental setting and the innovative natural treatment system design concept, describes the existing conditions within the site, gives a detailed project description by element, and discusses the environmental impacts.

16.  Kraus, Mark L. Accumulation and Excretion of Five Heavy Metals by the Saltmarsh Cordgrass Spartina alterniflora. Bull. NJ Acad. Sci, Vol 33, No. 2 pp 39-43. 1988. [1a] Leaves, roots rhizomes, and seeds, as well as excreted salts from smooth cordgrass were collected from the marshes of the Sawmill Creek WMA. These soils, as well as soil and sea salt samples, were analyzed for Cd, Pb, Cr, Cu, and Ni.

17.  *Kraus, M. L. Wetlands: Toxicant Sinks or Reservoirs? Proceedings of the National Symposium: Wetland Hydrology. Association of State Wetlands Mangers. 1987. [1a] Details a study undertaken to determine the role emergent plants play in the uptake, and thus potential export, of heavy metals out of contaminated estuarine marshes in the Meadowlands. Collected soil and plant (four species) samples from four sites – Saw Mill Creek Wildlife Management Area, Western Brackish Marsh, and two unidentified sites – and analyzed the samples for Cu, Ni, Cd and Pb.

18.  *Ravit, B. and J. Ehrenfeld. Microbial Community Structure of Salt Marsh Macrophyte Rhizosphere as an Indicator of Contamination. MERI. 2002. [1a] Compared microbial communities in the rhizosphere of smooth cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora) and common reed (Phragmites australis) from Sawmill Creek Wildlife Management Area and Kearny Freshwater Marsh in the Meadowlands to those in the Mullica River. Spiked sediments with tetrabromol-bisphenol-A (a flame retardant) to analyze its degradation in the different sediments.

19.  *U.S. Coast Guard & USACE. Draft Environmental Impact Statement and Section 404 (b)(1) Evaluation – New Jersey Turnpike Widening Project: Interchange 11 to U.S. Route 46. New Jersey Turnpike Authority. 1988. [1a]States project purpose and need, alternatives, affected environment, and environmental consequences.

F.   Geotechnical

20.  *Converse Consultants, Inc. Sawmill Creek Basin Water Quality Management: Report of Soils and Foundations Investigations. HMDC. 1983. [1a]Details soils and foundation investigation that was completed for the proposed construction of leachate/wastewater treatment system and recreational paths and bridges in the Saw Mill Creek Basin.

21.  *Ducks Unlimited, Inc. Baseline Monitoring Program: Soil and Sediment Contamination at Wetland Enhancement Sites within the Hackensack Meadowlands. March 1998. [1a] Describes the results of soils sampling and analysis at several wetland restoration sites in the HMD, including Berry’s Creek Canal site (also known as Oritani Marsh), Harrier Meadow, Mill Creek Marsh, and the Saw Mill Creek Wildlife Management Area. Preliminary surveys were conducted to screen soils at the sites for detection of the presence of potential chemical contaminants that might affect future plans for wetland restoration.

22.  *U.S. Coast Guard & USACE. Draft Environmental Impact Statement and Section 404 (b)(1) Evaluation – New Jersey Turnpike Widening Project: Interchange 11 to U.S. Route 46. New Jersey Turnpike Authority. 1988. [1a]States project purpose and need, alternatives, affected environment, and environmental consequences.

G.  Hydraulics and Hydrology

23.  *BSC Engineering. Sawmill Creek Basin Water Quality Management: Basin Hydrology and Pond Hydraulics Report. July 1983. [2a] One of five reports prepared for the HMDC as part of an overall Water Quality Management effort that was part of the DeKorte Park planning process. This report details existing hydrologic and hydrology data for the Sawmill Creek Basin and the proposed recreation pond components.

24.  *BSC Engineering. Sawmill Creek Basin Water Quality Management: Recreation Pond Design Report. HMDC. 1983. [1a] One of five reports prepared for the HMDC as part of an overall Water Quality Management effort that was part of the DeKorte Park planning process. Discusses background and existing hydrology of the site of a proposed 160-acre pond between present day Harrier Meadow and 1-E Landfill.

25.  *BSC Engineering. Sawmill Creek Basin Water Quality Management: Wastewater Treatment Design Report. HMDC. 1983. [1a] One of five reports prepared for the HMDC as part of an overall Water Quality Management effort that was part of the DeKorte Park planning process. Proposed a wetland-based leachate/wastewater treatment system, which was never built. Covers purpose, goals, problems, background, and current conditions. Contains a map of sampling sites. Analyzed surface water, landfill leachate, and sediment. Focused on area west of turnpike (i.e. in and around present day Kingsland Impoundment, Harrier Meadow, and the 1-E landfill).

26.  *U.S. Coast Guard & USACE. Draft Environmental Impact Statement and Section 404 (b)(1) Evaluation – New Jersey Turnpike Widening Project: Interchange 11 to U.S. Route 46. New Jersey Turnpike Authority. 1988. [1a]States project purpose and need, alternatives, affected environment, and environmental consequences.

H.  Water and Sediments

27.  *BSC Engineering. Sawmill Creek Basin Water Quality Management: Wastewater Treatment Design Report. HMDC. 1983. [1a] One of five reports prepared for the HMDC as part of an overall Water Quality Management effort that was part of the DeKorte Park planning process. Proposed a wetland-based leachate/wastewater treatment system, which was never built. Covers purpose, goals, problems, background, and current conditions. Contains a map of sampling sites. Analyzed surface water, landfill leachate, and sediment. Focused on area west of turnpike (i.e. in and around present day Kingsland Impoundment, Harrier Meadow, and the 1-E landfill).

28.  *Hover, V.C. Trace Metal Cycling in Contaminated Estuarine Sediments, Hackensack Meadowlands District, NJ. Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, v. 31. 1999. [1a]Determined the spatial variability of contaminant metals throughout the Meadowlands with respect to marsh types – common reed (Phragmites australis), natural cordgrass species (Spartina spp.), and restored cordgrass species (Spartina spp.) – to obtain baseline information on trace metal contents and speciation in sediment and porewaters. The initial sampling concentrated on areas of natural and restored Spartina marshes in the Sawmill Creek and Mill Creek areas, respectively.

29.  Konsevick, E. A Statistical Approach to Detecting the Geochemical Distribution of Heavy Metals in Tidal Flat Sediments of the Sawmill Creek Wildlife Management Area. Rutgers University. 1993. [1a] A total of 36 shallow sediment cores were collected at the Saw Mill Creek Wildlife Management Area and analyzed for Cu, Cr, Fe Mn, Zn, grain size, and percent organic matter. In addition, a location and depth variable was assigned to each sample. Subsequent multivariate statistical analysis revealed the dominant factors controlling the residence of metals were the diagenetic processes associated with burial.

30.  *Kraus, M. L. Wetlands: Toxicant Sinks, or Reservoirs? Proceedings of the National Symposium: Wetland Hydrology. Association of State Wetlands Mangers. 1987. [1a] Report on a study “to determine what role emergent plants play in the uptake, and thus potential export, of heavy metals out of contaminated estuarine marshes” in the Meadowlands. Collected soil and plant (four species) samples from four sites (two of which are not precisely identified). Analyzed for copper, nickel, cadmium and lead. Concentrations were higher in the soil than in plants.

31.  *McIntyre, C. Heavy Metal Concentrations in Sediment and Diamondback Terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin terrapin): Tissues from Two Sites in New Jersey. Hampshire College. 2000. [1a] Terrapins were collected from two sites in New Jersey, one being the Saw Mill Creek Wildlife Management Area in 1999. Stomach content and liver tissues were analyzed for seven metals. Also analyzed water and sediment samples and looked at isotopic ratios of lead.

32.  *Ravit, B. and J. Ehrenfeld. Microbial Community Structure of Salt Marsh Macrophyte Rhizosphere as an Indicator of Contamination. MERI. 2002. [1a] Compared microbial communities in the rhizosphere of smooth cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora) and common reed (Phragmites australis) from Sawmill Creek Wildlife Management Area and Kearny Freshwater Marsh in the Meadowlands to those in the Mullica River. Spiked sediments with tetrabromol-bisphenol-A (a flame retardant) to analyze its degradation in the different sediments.

33.  *U.S. Coast Guard & USACE. Draft Environmental Impact Statement and Section 404 (b)(1) Evaluation – New Jersey Turnpike Widening Project: Interchange 11 to U.S. Route 46. New Jersey Turnpike Authority. 1988. [1a]States project purpose and need, alternatives, affected environment, and environmental consequences.

I.    Historical/Cultural Resources

34.  *HMDC. Facts about DeKorte State Park. 1980. [1a] The DeKorte Park Master Plan, a leachate treatment design, a sediment analysis, and a dredging feasibility study were examined. Also investigated the methane utilization, garbage composting, leaf composting, and vegetation issues related to the landfills. DeKorte State Park encompasses the Saw Mill Creek Wildlife Management Area.

J.   Restoration/Remediation Design Plans

35.  Wetland Resource Engineering Consultants. Restoration Design Plan for Skeetkill Marsh. January 1997. [1a]Design plan for restoration of the site.  Contours are at one foot intervals.

36.  *Wehran Engineering and Zion and Breen Associates. Master Plan: Richard W. DeKorte State Park. 1979. [1a] Master plan for the creation of the 2,000 acre DeKorte State Park (which encompasses the current Kingsland Impoundment) complete with key engineering, environmental, landscape architecture, and park use recommendations. Plan calls for 800 acres of active and inactive landfills to be developed, and 1,200 acres of tidal marshes (including the Saw Mill Creek Wildlife Management Area) to be preserved. An artificial marsh system was designed to treat Erie Landfill’s leachate. The detailed circulation and vegetation plans are also included.

K. Bibliographic Updates                   

Site #7: Saw Mill Creek Wildlife Management Area