According to a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) study, 55 percent of the nation’s river and stream miles are in poor condition partially due to streamside disturbance and poor riparian vegetation cover. Riparian and stream degradation is a major threat to water quality, in-stream habitat, terrestrial wildlife, aquatic species and overall stream health.
Proper management, protection and restoration of riparian areas will
- decrease bacteria, nutrient and sediment loadings to water bodies;
- lower in-stream temperatures;
- improve dissolved oxygen levels;
- improve aquatic habitat; and
- ultimately improve macrobenthos and fish community integrity.
Traditional approaches to repairing degraded stream segments rely heavily on hardscapes such as concrete, gabions and rip rap. While these methods work effectively to mitigate the loss of the stream bank in the immediate area of installation, they do not account for the upstream and downstream impacts to this modification of stream hydrology. Moreover, traditional hardscape techniques fail to account for the preservation of a stream’s habitat.
The best-known solution to restore a healthy riparian area is by identifying and correcting the cause of the erosion or degradation and thus minimizing the effects, either by changing practices, revegetating and/or stabilizing the channel.
In an attempt to shift attitudes toward stream repair, TWRI and project partners developed an educational program focused on the emerging discipline of natural stream design. Natural design works to maintain or restore the primary stream functions of water transport, sediment transport and wildlife habitat though the use of selected vegetation and engineered placement of existing riparian features such as rocks or fallen timber.
The project team is conducting fifteen 1-day and one 3-day advanced urban riparian and stream restoration trainings held in and around large urban centers such as Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston, Austin and San Antonio. The trainings are geared toward professionals interested in restoration activities including those with municipalities, local/state/federal agencies, river authorities, water districts, land trusts and environmental organizations as well as consultants. The morning sessions consist of educational presentations focused on protecting water quality and restoring riparian buffers, stream classification and restoration, watersheds and environmentally sensitive areas, followed by lunch. In the afternoon sessions, participants learn stream surveying techniques at a nearby stream and receive a certificate of completion.
The team will offer a three-day advanced urban riparian and stream restoration training to participants after the initial 15 courses. This advanced course will be in Dallas/Fort Worth area and will feature lecturers from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service and EPA.
We are conducting a stream restoration demonstration project on the benefits of restored and healthy riparian areas within the Geronimo Creek watershed in Seguin, Texas at the Irma Lewis Seguin Outdoor Learning Center. We selected two sites along Geronimo Creek that have moderate to highly erodible banks. We are not implementing any restoration activities at the downstream (baseline) site. We are revegetating the upstream site with native species during planting days. These planting days are open to volunteer groups to increase stream restoration education. We will perform water quality monitoring on-site before, during and after revegetation for up to two years to document changes in physical and chemical characteristics of the stream. We will also take physical measurements to assess the change in the stream bank (erosion), bedload and suspended sediments rate in the stream, and the change to the erosion hazard index ranking because of vegetation cover. The data and observations gained over time from this project will be used in TWRI’s Urban Stream Processes and Restoration trainings and to demonstrate the benefits of similar restoration projects.