Stream Corridor Restoration and Management

The stream is part of a larger system called the riparian or stream corridor, which incorporates:

  • the stream channel (water flowing in it at least part of the year)
  • floodplain (highly variable areas on one or both side of the stream channel that is inundated by floodwaters at some interval, from frequent to rare)
  • transitional upland fringe (a portion of the upland on one or both sides of the floodplain that serves as a transitional zone or edge between the floodplain and the surrounding landscape)  

This corridor is a valuable ecosystem providing many functions since the beginning of time.  Recently, more and more people are recognizing the importance of stream corridors.  

Urbanization, more than any other common land use, damages the quality of streams.  With the alteration of the landscape from vegetation to hard surfaces, such as roads and parking lots, the velocity of runoff increases and the filtering capacity decreases.  As a result, this increased runoff causes erosion problems leading to undercut banks, flooding, and loss of habitat.  

Channel size is determined by sediment discharge, sediment particle size, stream flow, and stream slope. 

The figure below was proposed by Lane (1995) and shows this relationship. 

Water flowing through a channel, such as a stream, has the ability to do work (i.e. transport sediment). 
There are three main modes of sediment transport  
1.  solution load — dissolved material carried in the flow (in effect invisible)
2.  suspended load — finer sediment (silts and clays) suspended by turbulence in the flow
3.  bed load — coarser sediment (sand and gravel) that slides, rolls or skips along the stream bed.

A natural stream channel has a definitive dimension, pattern and profile.  David Rosgen developed a classification systemwhich further profiles these stream characteristics.  For more information visit the Wildland Hydrology website.

With and increased awareness of human-induced effects on the natural stream corridor ecosystem, more and more emphasis has been places on the restoration of these critical areas.  Stream corridor restoration can range from very simple to very complex.  An array of practices can be used in restoring natural stream functions.  Some of these practices include vegetative plantings, log jam removal, fencing (to keep animals out), and a variety of bioengineering practices.

For more information on management and restoration practices:

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Water has developed a series of Ohio Stream Management Guide fact sheets.
These fact sheets are available for on-line viewing and download as PDF files.

An Introduction to Stream Management
An overview of streams as a water resource and the inter-actions between land uses and stream resources.

Who Owns Ohio’s Streams?
Questions and answers regarding the rights and responsibilities of landowners and the authorities and duties of government with regard to surface water.

Natural Stream Processes
An overview of stream ecosystems, processes, and terms.

Permit Checklist for Stream Modification Projects
Overview and contact information for permits, requirements and consultations, which may be necessary for completion of projects in or adjacent to streams.

Restoring Streambanks with Vegetation
Construction guidelines for planting dormant cuttings of willow (or other rapidly-rooting species) to quickly establish living erosion barriers.

Trees for Ditches
Guidelines on species selection, planting locations and maintenance to achieve environmental and economic benefits while maintaining drainage capacity.

A Stream Management Model
A walk-through guide to the stream management display and demonstration at the Ohio Farm Science Reviews Gwynne Conservation Area.

Biotechnical Projects in Ohio
Biotechnical practices using vegetation and other natural materials are defined, and several projects using these techniques are described and mapped.
Contacts for on-site visits to some of these sites are listed.

Tree Kickers
Construction guidelines for using hardwood logs anchored to a streambank at an angle to divert stream flow energy away from undercutting the streambank.

Evergreen Revetments
Construction guidelines for creating a buffer system made of cut evergreen trees attached to each other and anchored into an eroding streambank.

Forested Buffer Strips
Benefits of vegetation left or restored along streams.

Live Fascines
Construction guidelines for protecting streambanks with long bundles of live woody vegetation placed in shallow entrenchments parallel to the flow of the stream.

Gabion Revetments
Construction guidelines for protecting submerged streambanks by placing stone-filled wire baskets in shallow entrenchments along the stream.

Riprap Revetments
Construction guidelines for protecting streambanks by layering various size rocks along a sloping bank.

Live Cribwalls
Definition, use, and guidelines for constructing cribwalls to aid in the establishment of willow cuttings on streambanks.

Stream Debris and Obstruction Removal
Questions and answers to assist landowners in maintaining a free flowing stream without logjams.

A description of the procedures and materials necessary to stabilize streambanks by directing the current away from the outside of a stream meander.

Eddy Rocks
Construction guidelines for placing groupings of large rocks in small streams or modified channels to help restore
natural stream features and enhance in-stream habitat.

Large Woody Debris in Streams
The benefits of all woody material left in and along the stream.

Gravel Riffles
Construction guidelines for the procedure of placing gravel and cobble-sized stones at intervals in a modified or heavily
impacted stream in order to stabilize the substrate.

Vegetative Plantings/Species Selection 
         Restoring Stream Greenways  
         Biotechnical Stream Bank Protection  
         Planning Biotechnical Streambank Protection  

Additionally, a technical field guide Stream Corridor Restoration:  Principles, Processes and Practices prepared by the
USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service is available on-line.  

There are many benefits to maintaining the natural riparian corridor. Among other things, natural corridors provide a variety of functions including: storing flood waters, filtering pollutants, recharging groundwater, and providing habitat for plants and animals. 
If you own property containing or adjacent to a stream, our office recommends establishing a management plan.  

The following information has been established to inform landowners on the importance of protecting and restoring these vital habitats.

Stream Management Brochure  
Common Flooding Myth  
Common Myth about Yard Waste  
Benefits of Riparian Trees
“Life at the Water’s Edge:  A stream reference manual for the homeowner.” (contact our office for a copy)