With the removal of the pipeline in the 1800s, the Musconetcong River returns to a more natural state
Soon there may not be anything too remarkable about this part of the Musconetcong River. And that’s the point.
Until last month, oil lines from the late 1800s crossed the river between Washington Township in Warren County and Lebanon Township in Hunterdon County.
They haven’t been active for decades. Until recently, they served as a reminder of a bygone industrial era for this rural and wooded area of New Jersey and a nuisance to those who walked the river.
The removal of the pipes is heralded as another step in the return of Musconetcong to a more natural and fluid state.
“In their day (the hoses) were a wonderful technology that gave a boost to the local economy in this region, but by now they had become obsolete and posed a danger to the safety of kayakers and canoeists. ”Said Cindy Joerger, Executive Director of Musconetcong. Watershed association.
Representatives from the National Park Service and energy company Chevron celebrated the completion of the project on Tuesday with river defenders and local officials at the site, now dotted with freshly planted trees.
“We are happy that we can be the agent of change… to bring this river back to a more natural state, to remove the obstacles that once stood there and to make it available for recreation and beauty for generations to come.” said Henry Stremlau, an operations manager for Chevron Environmental Management Co., which deals with the remediation of the property.
The Musconetcong is a tributary of the Delaware River and flows over 40 miles from Lake Hopatcong. It holds national designations in the Wild and Scenic River program and the National Water Trails system.
Nine old oil lines crossed the river approximately 1,500 feet downstream from the Changewater Road Bridge and two miles upstream from Highway 31.
They were installed in 1887 as part of the Tidewater / Getty pipelines, which at the time was a new method of transferring crude from western Pennsylvania to the ports of Bayonne, New Jersey. A pumping station on the Hunterdon side was helping it flow.
“This stretch of the Musconetcong has been an important part of New Jersey’s industrialization in this region since iron forges were first built just up the river in the mid-1700s, followed by others. industries “, including a woolen mill, a distillery and graphite. mills, said the mayor of the canton of Lebanon, Mike Schmidt. “Tidewater’s operations followed these. “
The pumping facility acquired storage tanks in the early 1900s, said Stremlau, the Chevron representative. In the 1950s, its predecessor Texaco reversed the hoses, using them to transfer products like kerosene and diesel fuel from Bayonne refineries for local distribution.
The facility was closed in 1981. There are still houses in the area known as Tidewater Houses, where the employees lived, said Schmidt, the mayor of Lebanon township.
Most of the signs of the oil pumping station seem to be gone now. A wide rolling field leads to the wooded riverbank on the County Warren side, and houses line the river through the woods near the shipyard on the Hunterdon side.
Anyone traveling on the river itself would see mostly forest here. The site is delimited by a straw floor, carpets to fight against erosion and rows of young trees and shrubs. One side is guarded by a chain-link fence.
Summer rains delayed the removal of the pipes, but the work was completed on October 15, Stremlau said. He added that remediation efforts at the site are nearing completion.
Paul Kenney, of the National Park Service’s Wild and Scenic Rivers program, said free-flowing rivers are “better for the environment.” There have been many efforts to remove dams on local waterways, including the Musconetcong.
The pipeline has not completely disappeared. Schmidt said segments elsewhere in the Canton of Lebanon have been reused for fiber optic cables.
But the river itself will now look more like it was before the industry.
“Since we have been living here,” said the mayor, “it is particularly important to us that old uses have been responsibly returned to their natural state. “
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Steve Novak can be reached at [email protected].