River Ecosystem Enhancements
We work with communities to connect them to their rivers and streams, providing technical and financial assistance. Our work focuses on implementing projects that reduce flood risk while enhancing ecosystem performance and community engagement. Relying on bioengineering and analysis of stream channel morphology, we bridge the gap between conventional flood practices – which harden channels and disrupt river processes – and restoration ecology, while engaging local communities in learning how to capture and maintain natural resource values, as well as protecting public safety and property.
River ecosystem enhancements:
- Increase/improve floodplain area or otherwise address flood control issues
- Improve streambank stability
- Improve water quality
- Improve/protect the ecology
- Increase long-term project support through community interaction
View the case studies below, to learn more.
Lower Russian River Bank Stabilization
A team of locally based engineers used several bioengineering techniques to support unstable terraces and stream banks in the area. The completed project benefits the residents of Sonoma County and its tourist industry. The project guarantees the site will permanently support endangered species, such as salmon, and improves river water quality. Erosion has been stabilized, preventing sediment from entering the river system, filling in deep-water pools, and destroying fish habitat. In addition, urban infrastructure is now protected from localized flood damage.
This project restored over 1,310 feet of riverbank, creating a high value fish and wildlife habitat along a 2,925-feet reach of the Russian River. The total riverbank area restored was 4.6 acres, at 3 sites. The project incorporated numerous soil bioengineering techniques to restore lost riparian habitat and prevent continued erosion.
Project Partnership Case Study: Wildcat Creek
The restoration of Wildcat Creek at Alvarado Park in Richmond is a multi-year, multi-agency, public-private partnership that took a watershed-based approach to address sediment, fish passage, flooding, and drainage issues. The project included public and private cost shares, including an industry contribution. The Urban Streams Restoration Program (USRP) assisted in funding the local share of project costs for land acquisition, construction, and landscaping associated with the enhancements of the Wildcat Creek Channel, which was designed in 1985 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE).
Wildcat Creek had a long history of flooding a disadvantaged community that had few resources available to absorb the costs of such natural disasters. Due to the proximity of structures to the creek, the original USACE plan called for a rectangular concrete channel to replace the natural stream, thereby removing significant mature riparian vegetation. That plan was not accepted by the local community, and citizen opposition helped to create a partnership that caused the flood control project to be modified into an environmental restoration project.
Under the modified plan, the creek was reconstructed at a lower profile, using broad terraces to recreate a more natural environment. The project provided over 20 acres of replacement riparian habitat. The East Bay Regional Park District developed a trail along the northern bank of Wildcat Creek, providing additional recreational and environmental enhancements. The project allowed for fish passage to the headwaters of Wildcat Creek and nesting habitat for birds.
Daylighting Case Study: Strawberry Creek
The daylighting of Strawberry Creek in Berkeley, California, took place in 1984 and was one of the first such projects in the United States. Strawberry Creek served as a testing ground for the concept of creek daylighting, which is opening up creeks that are confined to culverts to the open air and restoring ecological function to the stream. At Strawberry Creek, daylighting provided flood and erosion management for a section of the creek that previously ran in a culvert under an
abandoned railyard. The culvert was removed, swales were dug to carry runoff to the creek, boulders and concrete were carefully placed along the stream, and native vegetation was replanted. The project site covered about four acres and restored approximately 200 linear feet of Strawberry Creek.
More than 30 years later, the restoration work at Strawberry Creek is a key feature in a popular urban park. The Strawberry Creek project was funded by a partnership between the City of Berkeley, the City of Albany, a local developer, and the Urban Streams Restoration Program. A majority of the labor was done by volunteers, engaging the community, and helping to make the project a success.