Lake Carasaljo: Keeping Stormwater Runoff at Bay

By Alexis Eades

Bioretention systems and rain gardens were installed to protect this popular lake. These best-practice installations help prevent suspended solids, hydrocarbons, nutrients, pathogens and debris from discharging into Lake Carasaljo.

A coworker here at Colliers Engineering & Design once told me that we don’t just fix problems, we fix problems and then make it pretty. A recent project in New Jersey, Lake Carasaljo: Keeping Stormwater Runoff At BayBrick Township MUA’s Lake Carasaljo Stormwater Runoff Improvements project, is the perfect example of this.

Brick gets much of its water supply from the Metedeconk River, which is also a major branch of Barnegat Bay, one of only twenty-eight Congressionally-designated estuaries in USEPA’s National Estuary Program. These two facts mean that the water quality of the river is pretty darn important.

As such, in 2013 a diverse stakeholder group (including the BTMUA) developed the Metedeconk Watershed Plan in order to protect the water quality and fight degradation through restoration projects. They realized the Metedeconk River watershed, being a relatively highly populated and developed area, has some stormwater runoff problems.

Lake Carasaljo forms a section of the South Branch Metedeconk River, one of two main branches that drain to the Metedeconk River and hence the Barnegat Bay estuary.  Located in Lakewood, New Jersey, Lake Carasaljo Park has outdated stormwater infrastructure and dozens of outfalls that discharge directly into the river and lake with no water quality treatment. Obviously, all this pollution has affected the South Branch and other waterways within the watershed.

Enter Colliers Engineering & Design as the design engineer for a NJDEP grant funded effort in cooperation with the BTMUA and Lakewood Township. Our collective goal? To retrofit antiquated stormwater infrastructure currently serving existing development and use Stormwater Best Management Practices/Green Infrastructure approaches to Lake Carasaljo stormwater runoff improvementsrestore groundwater recharge, reduce runoff, and improve water quality.

In the end, we selected six sites for retrofit. We added beautiful BMP bioretention systems and rain gardens, which catch suspended solids, hydrocarbons, nutrients, pathogens and debris from discharging into the lake. Elevation differences caused us to build, under-drained bioretention systems at four sites, and infiltration systems at the other two. In order to capture the “first flush” of runoff after a storm, all six BMPs were designed as passive systems. What does this mean? Excess runoff from larger storms can be directed into the original conveyance system.

First, it provides a demonstration project of how effective stormwater management retrofits using green infrastructure can be accomplished in the built environment, which other governmental entities can use as a model for successful implementation.  Second, it advances water resources research with a modified bioretention soil mix and post-construction testing to determine efficacy. Third, it provides opportunities to educate the general public about the importance of stormwater runoff impacts and practical (and attractive) solutions.

Just as impressive as our project’s ability to reduce stormwater pollutant loading is the fact that it also improved the Park aesthetically.

Lake Carasaljo Park is heavily used by the community. With a walking trail and a gorgeous shoreline, residents of Lakewood and its surrounding towns deserved for renovations to add to its beauty. As of the Fall of 2018 when we completed the project, Lake Carasaljo Park not only has better infrastructure to combat stormwater runoff, but it looks good too.Lake Carasaljo stormwater runoff improvements

So, yes, we “fix problems and make them pretty”. To simply fix a problem is often enough. Enough. That word says so much. We don’t aim to do just enough. We aim to complete our assigned task satisfying all the necessary technical checkmarks (safety, budget, timetable, etc.) and then make sure our solutions integrate with the communities we serve. “Making it pretty” means that we strive to have designs as attractive as they are effective, not just a basic one that will get the job done. We always try to add that je ne sais quoi, because buildings and parks and even utilities like stormwater drains help to shape the communities they are in.

Editor’s Note: The Lake Carasaljo project won two project awards this year:

  • NJAWRA 2019 Excellence in Water Resource Management Award
  • NJSME 2019 Municipal Project of the Year Award
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