About the Urban Riparian & Stream Restoration Program
According to a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) study, 55 percent of the nation’s river and stream miles are in poor condition 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 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 stream habitat.
Additionally, Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) predicts surface water in Texas will decline by 3 percent from 2020-2070 due to sedimentation, reducing reservoir storage. It is estimated that reservoirs will lose 104,000 acre-feet of water storage capacity due to sedimentation during that same time period, which is roughly equal to the amount of water for over 231,100 homes based on a family of four use in one year. TWDB reported that dredging the sediment from reservoirs to increase water storage costs twice as much or more than constructing a new reservoir. Therefore, focusing management efforts on quality land management to stabilize stream banks and riparian areas may be one of the most cost effective strategies for extending the life of the state’s water supply reservoirs. Additionally, stream erosion threatens land-use, property values, and human safety by eroding properties, which reduces lot size.
The best-known solution to restore a healthy riparian area is found 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 (TPWD 2004).
As an attempt to shift attitudes toward stream repair, an educational program focused on the emerging discipline of natural stream design was developed. 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.
Fifteen 1-day and one 3-day advanced urban riparian and stream restoration trainings will be conducted in and around large urban centers such as Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston, Austin, and San Antonio. The trainings will be geared toward professionals interested in restoration activities including municipalities, local/state/federal agencies, river authorities, water districts, consultants, land trusts and environmental organizations. The morning sessions will 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. The afternoon sessions will perform a stream evaluation nearby and conclude with a certificate of completion.
A 3-day advanced urban riparian and stream restoration training will be offered to participants after the initial 15 courses. The advanced course will be held in Dallas/Ft. Worth area and will feature lecturers from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Conservation Service, and EPA.
The stream restoration demonstration will be within the Geronimo Creek Watershed in Seguin, Texas at the Irma Lewis Seguin Outdoor Learning Center. Two sites along the stream that have moderate to highly erodible banks were selected. The upstream (baseline) site will have no restoration activities implemented. The downstream site will be revegetated with native species during planting days, which will be open to volunteer groups in order to increase stream restoration education. Water quality monitoring will be performed on-site before, during and after revegetation for up to two years to document changes in physical and chemical characteristics of the stream. Physical measurements will also be taken 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 the riparian and stream restoration trainings and to demonstrate the benefits of similar restoration projects.
This project is funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency through the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.