Friday, August 10, 2007 - 8:00 AM

COS 159-1: A framework for urban stream restoration: Lessons learned from Los Angeles

Elizabeth J. Ruther and Tom O. Moody. Natural Channel Design, Inc.


Stream restoration in highly urbanized areas is a relatively new and challenging field. Success of any stream project is dependent on how effectively it meets expectations. In the urban setting, restoration projects generally involve the removal of existing structural elements and replacing them with softer alternatives. This is especially true in urban settings where existing channels are currently providing benefits considered valuable or essential to the community. These benefits include flood control, minimum maintenance, public safety, and protection of property, bridges, utilities, and other infrastructure. Urban stream restoration then, is the science of incorporating additional benefits that may be less apparent to the public, but no less important. These benefits include increasing water quality, recycling stream nutrients, absorbing and breaking down toxins, increasing water supply, transporting sediment, dissipating energy, providing habitat, and providing aesthetics. Urban restoration efforts should work to combine the natural system that functioned efficiently and effectively before development and the values, needs, and desires of the current surrounding community. From this experience, we developed four key goals for urban stream restoration projects. They are: 1) The restoration design should adequately maintain the benefits of the existing channel, 2) the project should provide additional 'restoration' benefits, 3) the project should provide a successful demonstration of urban stream restoration to increase awareness and educate community members, and 4) the project should improve the science of urban stream restoration. A greater framework that incorporates our technical approach and the human dimension of urban stream restoration will be presented.