Abstract: Opening Plenary Session  4:15 pm (BACK)

Advancing the Science, Policy, and Approach of Stream Restoration

Will Harman, PG
Stream Mechanics
Raleigh, NC 

We have seen tremendous change in the last 30 years regarding the management of our streams and rivers. Throughout the 1800s and much of the 1900s river management was focused on “improvements” for the purposes of drainage, flood control, and navigation. In the late 1900s, scientists and engineers began to incorporate principles of fluvial geomorphology into river restoration, and the term “Natural Channel Design” was born. In the early 2000’s, stream mitigation regulations began to shift the focus to restoring physical, chemical, and biological functions. The restoration of stream functions goes beyond the stability focus of natural channel design.

Amid these changes, however, traditional methods of flood control and channelization remain. And even with a focus on restoration-based methods, uncertainty remains about the effectiveness of these newer approaches. Some research shows that restoration is effective and other studies show it is not. Confounding the issue, most research studies do not specify the restoration approach or techniques used.

Stream Mechanics has been working with the Environmental Law Institute, through a grant from the US Environmental Protection Agency, to evaluate the science of stream restoration, the approaches used, and the policy guiding stream mitigation activities. The purpose of the project is to develop a stream restoration/mitigation handbook that can be used to apply the best-available science to achieve better stream restoration results. This presentation will provide what we’ve learned so far from examining stream mitigation protocols from across the country, the science behind stream restoration, and a new framework for organizing stream restoration approaches and techniques, including suggestions about how to match approaches/techniques with watershed problems.