Krock Esser Engineering merged with OHM Advisors in 2015. OHM Advisors serve as Reminderville’s Municipal Engineers. They are community builders, fund finders, planners & designers, construction managers, technical advisers, problem solvers, and community partners.
Gene Esser, Village Engineer 330-562-1234 email@example.com
Terry Bowlin, Engineering Assistant 330-562-1234 firstname.lastname@example.org
Lake Erie Starts Here and Begins with HEALTHY STREAMS!
Imagine taking a walk in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and seeing a beautiful bubbling brook meandering through the valley. Chances are that the stream has banks covered with herbaceous plants and woody shrubs like purple coneflower and buttonbush and are shaded by a variety of stately trees such as willow and sycamore. As you wander down the gently sloping floodplain and get closer to the stream you can see minnows swimming in the clear water, water boatman striding on the surface, and dragonflies hovering above. Looking down, you are able to see all the way to the bottom, where there are mixed cobbles, pebbles, and smaller grains of sand in the streambed. This variety of sediments creates a diversity of habitats. Imagine lifting a rock and finding a crayfish among a multitude of other small creatures, making their homes and raising their families in the bottom sediments. We would definitely call this stream healthy. So what makes a “healthy” stream?
Channels that bend and curve. Stream channels are unique and take on their size and shape based on how much water they carry before and after storm events, the size of their watersheds (how much land they drain), the type of land use within the watersheds (agricultural, residential, or urban,) whether that land is steep or flat, and even the type of soils they flow over. Streams naturally meander—twisting and turning over the landscape. Stream water tends to run faster in straight sections, and slow down on the curves where sediments are deposited. Eroded material is transported along with the stream water, dropping out where water moves slower—especially along the inside of the curves. In this way, streams form their bank patterns, including sand bars and islands. These patterns change over time, adjusting to changes within their watersheds and the stream’s attempt to reach equilibrium. Healthy streams also carry organic matter such as leaf litter and woody material, which are food sources for stream-dwelling organisms.
It’s why we call it a FLOODplain… Healthy streams spill water out onto their floodplains when rainstorms add to the base flow volume of water. Therefore, it is vital for stream banks to be low enough to allow flood waters to escape from the channel to disperse, slow down, soak into the ground, and later evaporate into the air. Stream channels that are able to flood onto their banks give the storm water and the suspended sediment a place to go, instead of sending it all downstream. Naturally vegetated floodplains are the best!
Healthy riparian areas. “Riparian” refers to the land that runs alongside the stream. Riparian areas extend beyond the immediate streambanks into the floodplain and are periodically impacted by flooding. Riparian areas—when large enough and managed in a “natural” vegetated state—help to stabilize streambanks, limit erosion, cool the water to hold more oxygen, and filter out runoff pollutants. Healthy riparian areas perform a vital service to water quality, which is a great benefit to all of us.
Unfortunately, not all streams are healthy because their natural state has been changed. For example:
Changing their size and shape. Many streams have been degraded by our attempts to make the stream channel “fit” the developing landscape around it. Straightening a stream channel involves removing the meandering bends, which reduces the overall length of the channel. Since a straight line is the shortest distance between two points, shorter, straighter channels deliver water faster downstream than channels with many twists and turns. As streamwater velocity increases, so does its erosive power, and the higher-energy stream water increases erosion on both the banks and channel bottom leading to increased suspended sediment (muddying the waters) and greater sediment deposition. Muddy water reduces photosynthetic activity of aquatic plants, causing oxygen reduction and habibat loss for aquatic creatures.
Replacing healthy vegetation decreases stability. Replacing natural plants and shrubs with lawn or turf grass within riparian areas lessens the stability of the stream banks. The short length of a grass root is not able to anchor soil during a storm or absorb water from the soil following a storm, functions performed easily by the longer, more developed root systems of native herbaceous plants and woody shrubs. Native plants and shrubs can also stand up to storm water runoff as it rushes over the ground toward the stream. Mowing grassy stream banks makes the problem worse. Dumping grass or leaves into stream channels also upsets the healthy stream nutrient balance, and adds to pollution.
Encroaching on their space. We appreciate the beauty of streams and like to be close to them, but should “keep our distance” if we want to respect and protect them. Over the years, riparian landowners who build too closely to streams have experienced property damage from flooding and/or loss of land from streambank erosion. Building next to a stream creates problems and can put you and your property in harms way, especially during storm events.
Riparian Setbacks: A solution to protect streams. There are ways to keep streams and the people who live near them healthy and functioning well. One of the best ways is to adopt riparian setback legislation to protect streams and their riparian areas by keeping them in as natural a vegetated state as possible. Riparian setbacks establish “no-disturb” zones along the length of streams to protect both the water quality of the streams and the riparian landowners from destructive forces of flooding and erosion.
Riparian setbacks afford protection to riparian areas that return benefits to all community residents. The benefits of improved riparian areas and water quality within a community include, but are not limited to:
- *Reduce flood impacts by absorbing peak flows, slowing the velocity of floodwaters and regulating base flow.
- *Stabilize the banks of streams to reduce bank erosion and the downstream transport of sediments eroded from stream banks.
- *Reduce pollutants in streams during periods of high flows by filtering, settling and transforming pollutants in runoff, before they enter streams, and pollutants already present in streams.
- *Provide areas for natural meandering and lateral movement of stream channels.
- *Reduce the presence of aquatic nuisance species to maintain diverse and connected riparian vegetation.
- *Provide high quality stream habitats with shade and food to a wide array of wildlife by maintaining diverse and connected riparian vegetation.