More Streambank Maintenance Tips

Saving channelized streams from further damage PLUS enhancing the health and productivity of riparian areas.

Protecting Riparian Areas

Usually, cows and fish aren’t mentioned in the same sentence, unless one is discussing a menu option. One exception is in Alberta, Canada, where cattle ranchers and fishermen work together for the good of both parties.

Cows and Fish, officially the Alberta Riparian Management Society, was started by the Alberta Beef Producers and Trout Unlimited Canada in 1992. According to its web site, Cows and Fish is a nonprofit organization that works to foster a better understanding of how improved grazing practices can enhance the health and productivity of riparian areas.

Amanda Halawell, a range and riparian specialist for Cows and Fish, says funds usually aren’t available through their program for ranchers to use for improvements. Yet, she notes, “Sometimes there are grant funds available. For example, the westslope cutthroat trout is a threatened species in Alberta and there are cost sharing opportunities to make improvements in its habitat.”

Halawell or her co-workers do provide technical help to ranchers at no cost.

For more information, see:
Alberta Riparian Management Society

Bottoms Up

While Wayne Kinney is all for repairing stream banks, he would rather start at the bottom. “One of the biggest things in the Midwest is most of the streams have been straightened,” says Kinney, President of Midwest Streams, Inc. “That reduces the length and automatically increases the grade, which speeds up the water. That erodes the bottom. As the stream gets deeper, the banks start to cave in.”

Since rocks are plentiful in the Midwest, the Oakdale, Illinois, consultant turns to them and places grade control structures, or loose rocks, in stream beds that have been straightened, or channelized, as the procedure is often called. His go-to design is the Newberry Riffle, named after Bob Newberry, the Canadian who designed the structure. The riffles help stabilize the streambed and slow down water.

Next, he concentrates on the banks. “Streams don’t like to run straight. They like to meander. That is nature’s way of slowing down the water. We can control that with grade control structures or bank treatments.”

Once again, he usually turns to stone. “It is the most practical, cost effective and durable material.”

Third, he urges landowners to protect the riparian areas. “It can be a woody corridor or grassland. Don’t crop right up to the banks of the stream. That can help control erosion.”

When it comes to helping pay for stream improvements, Kinney recommends land owners check with their local Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) or Soil and Water Conservation office. He says they often have programs like the NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) that can provide cost-share money.

He also says Illinois has a stream management program funded by the state department of agriculture, but says the local NRCS office should know about available programs in other local jurisdictions.

For more information, see:
National Resource Conservation Service, USDA

National Association of Conservation Districts

Montana Department of Natural Resource Conservation
Stream bed stabilization

<< See the full story, “Protect the Water”