Stream restoration

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Robinson Creek in Boonville, California had highly eroded stream banks prior to initiation of a stream restoration project.

Stream restoration or river restoration, sometimes called river reclamation in the UK, describes a set of activities that help improve the environmental health of a river or stream. These activities aim to restore the natural state and functioning of the river system in support of biodiversity, recreation, flood management and landscape development.[1]

Improved health may be indicated by expanded habitat for diverse species (e.g. fish, aquatic insects, other wildlife) and reduced stream bank erosion.[2] Enhancements may also include improved water quality (i.e. reduction of pollutant levels and increase of dissolved oxygen levels) and achieving a self-sustaining, functional flow regime in the stream system that does not require periodic human intervention, such as dredging or construction of flood control structures.[3][4] Stream restoration projects can also yield increased property values in adjacent areas.[5]

Stream restoration differs from:

  • river engineering, a term which typically refers to alteration of a water body for a non-environmental benefit such as navigation, flood control or water supply diversion;
  • waterway restoration, a term used in the United Kingdom describing alterations to a canal or river to improve navigability and related recreational amenities.

Restoration techniques[edit]

Robinson Creek restoration project (2005) included re-shaping of stream bank slopes, addition of live willow and large rock baffles, removal of invasive species and revegetation with indigenous species.[6]

Restoration activities may range from a simple removal of a disturbance which inhibits natural stream function (e.g. repairing or replacing a culvert,[7] or removing barriers to fish such as weirs), to stabilization of stream banks, to more active intervention such as installation of stormwater management facilities, such as riparian zone restoration and constructed wetlands.[8] The use of recycled water to augment streamflows that have been depleted as a result of human activities can also be considered a form of stream restoration[9]

Successful restoration projects begin with careful study of the stream system, including the historical weather patterns, stream hydraulics, sediment transport patterns and related conditions. Researchers evaluating restoration projects have found that many of these projects subsequently fail (e.g., with flooding or excessive erosion) because the projects were not designed with a sufficient scientific basis; restoration techniques may have been selected for aesthetic reasons.[3][4]

In-stream techniques[edit]

Channel modification[edit]

Modifications to a stream channel may be appropriate to address degradation. Channel modifications may yield improved habitat for wildlife and plants in a stream corridor, but can result in flooding, excessive erosion or other damage if not carefully planned. Design of modifications involves a careful analysis of a complex fluvial processes.[10] Alterations may include channel shape (in terms of sinuosity and meander characteristics), cross-section and channel profile (slope along the channel bed). Alterations affect the dissipation of energy through the channel, which has an impact on stream velocity and turbulence, sediment volume and size distribution, scour, and water surface elevations, among other characteristics.[11]

Cross-vanes and related structures[edit]

A cross-vane is a "U"-shaped structure of boulders or logs, built across the channel to reduce velocity and energy near the stream banks. It reduces bank erosion, maintains channel capacity and provides other benefits such as improved habitat for aquatic species. Similar structures used to dissipate stream energy include the W-Weir and J-Hook Vane.[12]

Engineered log jams[edit]

An emerging stream restoration technique is the installation of engineered log jams.[13] Reintroduction of large woody debris into a stream is a fairly recent method that is being experimented with in streams such as Lagunitas Creek in Marin County, CA [14] and Thornton Creek, in Seattle, WA. Because of channelization and removal of woody debris, many streams now lack the hydraulic complexity that is necessary to maintain bank stabilization and a healthy plant/animal habitat. Engineered log jams are individually designed to meet the needs of specific restoration projects, but there are overarching design elements. One element is to anchor logs along the stream bank in order to create a physical blockade against erosion. Large wood pieces, both living [15] and dead,[16] play an important role in the long-term stability of engineered log jams. A second element of engineered log jams is to improve fish habitat. Log jams add diversity to the water flow by creating riffles, pools, and temperature variations. This is vital to fish because it provides the right circumstances to spawn, rest, feed, hunt, and hide.[citation needed]

There are inherent dangers to engineered log dams. If not properly implemented, they cause erosion and sediment in unwanted areas leading to more damage than repair.[citation needed] Furthermore the individual pieces of wood in logjams are rarely stable over long time periods and are naturally transported downstream where they are trapped by further logjams,[16] if logjams are near to urban areas this can lead to wood being trapped against bridge piers or blocking culverts.

Off-line techniques[edit]

As part of a stream restoration project, stormwater management facilities may be installed in the immediate corridor or in upland areas. These facilities, which reduce the velocity and/or the volume of stormwater entering the stream channel, can also improve water quality, and include:

Monitoring of restoration projects[edit]

Sponsors of restoration projects may conduct monitoring of stream conditions after construction, to evaluate effectiveness. In some projects it may take considerable time before there is evidence of desired biological activity, such as fish spawning. Therefore monitoring efforts may be conducted for several years after a restoration project has completed.[17] "Practical River Restoration Appraisal Guidance for Monitoring Options" is a guidance document that aims to assist all practitioners in the process of setting monitoring protocols as part of a river restoration project.[18]

Information resources[edit]

The River Restoration Centre, based at Cranfield University, is responsible for the National River Restoration Inventory which is used to document best practice in river watercourse and floodplain restoration, enhancement and management efforts in the UK.[19][20]

Other established sources for information on river and stream restoration include the National River Restoration Science Synthesis (NRRSS) in the United States of America,[21] and the European Centre for River Restoration (ECRR) which holds details of projects across Europe, and in conjunction with the LIFE+ RESTORE project, has developed a ‘RiverWiki’- based inventory of river restoration case studies which is freely available to view online.[22]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "What is river restoration, and how to do it?". Utrecht, Netherlands: European Centre for River Restoration. Retrieved 2014-09-19. 
  2. ^ "What is Stream Restoration?". Rockville, MD: Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection (MCDEP). Retrieved 2014-09-19. 
  3. ^ a b Gilman, Joshua B.; Karl, Jarrod (2009). "Challenges of Stream Restoration as a Stormwater Management Tool; Part 1: A designer's perspective". Stormwater 10 (3). ISSN 1531-0574.  May 2009.
  4. ^ a b Dean, Cornelia (2008-06-24). "Follow the Silt". New York Times. 
  5. ^ Bailey, P., and Fischenich, J.C. (2003). "Landscaping Considerations for Urban Stream Restoration.” EMRRP Technical Notes Collection. Document no. ERDC TN-EMRRP-SR-42, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Ecosystem Management and Restoration Research Program. Vicksburg, MS. p. 4.
  6. ^ Mendocino County Resource Conservation District, Ukiah, CA (2008). "Robinson Creek Restoration Project." Project No. DWR P13-045.
  7. ^ Lawrence, J.E. M.R. Cover, C.L. May, and V.H. Resh. (2014). "Replacement of Culvert Styles has Minimal Impact on Benthic Macroinvertebrates in Forested, Mountainous Streams of Northern California". Limnologica 47: 7–20. doi:10.1016/j.limno.2014.02.002. 
  8. ^ Cronin, Amanda (March–April 2003). "Restoring Paradise in Moscow, Idaho". Land and Water 47 (2): 18. ISSN 0192-9453. 
  9. ^ Bischel, H.N.; J.E. Lawrence; B.J. Halaburka; M.H. Plumlee; A.S. Bawazir; J.P. King; J.E. McCray; V.H. Resh; R.G. Luthy (1 August 2013). "Renewing Urban Streams with Recycled Water for Streamflow Augmentation: Hydrologic, Water Quality, and Ecosystem Services Management". Environmental Engineering Science 30: 455–479. doi:10.1089/ees.2012.0201. Retrieved 10 November 2013. 
  10. ^ Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW); U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington Department of Ecology (2004). Stream Habitat Restoration Guidelines (PDF) (Report).  "Fluvial Geomorphology." Stream Habitat Restoration Guidelines.
  11. ^ WDFW et al. (2004) "Channel Modification."Stream Habitat Restoration Guidelines.
  12. ^ Rosgen, David L.(2006). "The Cross-Vane, W-Weir and J-Hook Vane Structures...Their Description, Design and Application for Stream Stabilization and River Restoration." Paper delivered at American Society of Civil Engineers Conference, Reno, NV, 2001; updated 2006.
  13. ^ WDFW et al. (2004) "Large Wood and Log Jams." Stream Habitat Restoration Guidelines.
  14. ^ Lawrence, J.E., V.H. Resh, and M.R. Cover (2014). "Large-wood Loading from Natural and Engineered Processes at the Watershed Scale. River Research and Applications". River Research and Applications 29: 1030–1041. doi:10.1002/rra.2589. 
  15. ^ Lawrence, J.E., V.H. Resh, and M.R. Cover (2014). "Large-wood Loading from Natural and Engineered Processes at the Watershed Scale. River Research and Applications". River Research and Applications 29: 1030–1041. doi:10.1002/rra.2589. 
  16. ^ a b Dixon, S.J., and Sear, D.A. (2014). "The influence of geomorphology on large wood dynamics in a low gradient headwater stream. Water Resources Research". Water Resources Research 50: 9194–9210. doi:10.1002/2014WR015947. 
  17. ^ "Stream Restoration Effectiveness Monitoring". MCDEP. Archived from the original on 2013-10-02. 
  18. ^ "Practical River Restoration Appraisal Guidance for Monitoring Options (PRAGMO)". Cranfield, Bedfordshire, UK: River Restoration Centre (RRC). 2011. 
  19. ^ "National River Restoration Inventory". RRC. Retrieved 2014-09-19. 
  20. ^ "Manual of River Restoration Techniques". RRC. Retrieved 2014-09-19. 
  21. ^ "The National River Restoration Science Synthesis database at NBII". Santa Barbara, CA: National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, University of California. 2005. 
  22. ^ "The RESTORE River Wiki Database Of River Restoration Projects". Environment Agency, UK et al. Retrieved 2014-09-19. 

External links[edit]