Abstract: May 29  9:30 AM (BACK)

Sustainable Stream Management (in the City of Austin)

Morgan Byars, P.E.
City of Austin
Austin, Texas

The Stream restoration practice requires disciplines in planning, engineering, science, landscape design, real estate, construction and land management.   The array of professions and approaches to stream restoration has provided a diverse vocabulary to describe the work.  The term restoration simply implies corrective action to a prior disturbance, but the semantics used to describe stream restoration practices can influence the vision of success.  The City of Austin Stream Restoration Program has adopted the term “Sustainable Stream Management” to help guide its actions for the protection and restoration of streams in a municipal context.  The core values include community, environmental protection, public safety, cost-effectiveness, economic impact and maintenance.  A clear definition of success can be achieved when holding this principle throughout the development of a stream restoration project.

Sustainable stream management infers value placed on waterway protection to prevent future degradation and equally restoration or retrofit of previously impacted areas to become higher functioning landscapes.  The City of Austin has placed an emphasis on waterway protection since the 1980’s as exemplified through the Comprehensive Watershed Ordinance which includes impervious cover limits, stream buffers and storm water management controls.  However decades of uncontrolled land development, stream encroachment, channelization and adverse maintenance practices have resulted in degraded stream systems and damages associated with stream erosion.  The City of Austin Stream Restoration Program has been implementing innovative stream stabilization and bioengineering projects since the 1990’s.  Over this this time there has been an evolution from single objective erosion control projects to multi-mission stream restoration planning that includes goals for water quality protection, habitat enhancement, flood hazard mitigation, public recreation, mobility, community desires and reduced long-term maintenance.   Stream restoration under the auspices of sustainable stream management includes active, passive, direct, indirect and adaptive management strategies weighing the community factors of environment, economy and quality of life.  Current efforts in the City of Austin to further promote this ideal include development of new open channel design criteria, more protective land use regulations, establishment of riparian (no-mow) grow zones and ongoing research on storm water runoff management.