Streams and rivers serve many purposes, including water supply, wildlife habitat, energy generation, transportation and recreation. A stream is a dynamic, complex system that includes not only the active channel but also the floodplain and the vegetation along its edges. A natural stream system remains stable while transporting a wide range of flows and sediment produced in its watershed, maintaining a state of “dynamic equilibrium.” When changes to the channel, floodplain, vegetation, flow or sediment supply significantly affect this equilibrium, the stream may become unstable and start adjusting toward a new equilibrium state. This transition may take a long time and cause big changes to water quality, habitat and adjacent property.
Stream restoration is the re-establishment of the general structure, function and self-sustaining behavior of the stream system that existed prior to disturbance. It is a holistic process that requires an understanding of all physical and biological components of the stream system and its watershed. Restoration includes a broad range of measures, including the removal of the watershed disturbances that are causing stream instability; installation of structures and planting of vegetation to protect streambanks and provide habitat; and the reshaping or replacement of unstable stream reaches into appropriately designed functional streams and associated floodplains.
Professional Development Hours: 7