Category Archives: planning

Widespread Flood Threats to Continue Through Summer

 NOAA’s National Weather Service has warned (7.6.2011) that many rivers in the upper Midwest and northern Plains remain above flood stage and flooding will likely continue throughout the summer for these regions.  With many forecasters predicting that severe weather events could become the new normal, the health of our nation’s floodplains is fast becoming our top environmental challenge. Healthy, functioning floodplains perform ecological services that are virtually impossible to artificially duplicate. Water absorption, storage and filtration, flood energy dissipation, and important habitat for fish and wildlife are the kinds of services provided by broad, undeveloped floodplains.  More via

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10 Questions to Ask Before Restoring Your Stream or Wetland

Before you start that fisheries enhancement project or erosion control project, you need to ask the right questions.  Our free consumer report “Buyer Beware: A Warning to Consumers about the Industry” will give you the Top 10 Questions to Ask Your Aquatic Resource Consultant.  In the report, we also identify the five most common problems in today’s aquatic resource consulting industry are:

  • Lack of industry standards or professional certification for practitioners
  • Assessments that are no more than opinion disguised as science
  • No consideration for multiple project alternatives
  • Use of “cookbook” design strategy without consideration of site specific conditions and factors
  • Poor understanding of liability issues
  • High degree of uncertainty about how to measure project success or failure

The last four of these can be solved by insisting upon a repeatable, scientifically-valid, resource assessment including a written report derived from solid data. Never hire a company that shows up, looks at the site, kicks the dirt, and starts offering solutions. Make sure the company intends to perform a thorough assessment before providing “answers,” or quoting a price.   Ask what the assessment report will include.  Assessment parameters will vary depending upon the type of resource (stream, lake, wetland), but a scientifically-based, repeatable assessment is simply mandatory.  To receive a free copy of the consumer report or to learn more

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Saving Natural Services: The Economic Value Of Healthy Ecosystems

Fishery Enhancement - Sporting Lodge (MO)What is the value of clean, clear water flowing down a mountain stream? Many would say “priceless,” as irreplaceable as air or sunshine. But the truth is that healthy, intact ecosystems and the ecological services they provide have tangible values which can be measured.

Trout Headwaters we’re in the business of helping our clients identify and enhance natural capital in the form of freshwater resources. Natural capital has value, and revealing the full potential of that value through careful site planning, enhancement, and/or restoration can bring a great return on investment.

What is natural capital?

Natural capital is defined as “the extension of the economic notion of capital (manufactured means of production) to environmental goods and services.” Natural capital is the stock of natural ecosystems that yields a flow of valuable ecosystem goods or services into the future. For example, a stock of trout provides a flow of new trout, a flow which can be sustained indefinitely.

What are the Values and Benefits?

Properties with water-resource amenities like lakes, wetlands, and streams sell for considerably more than their high-and-dry counterparts. When it comes to wetlands, this natural capital provides services like stormwater filtration, vegetation regeneration, flood prevention, and erosion control. Since the flow of services from ecosystems requires that they function as whole systems, the structure and diversity of the system are important components of natural capital. And, for increasingly savvy buyers, the type, location and condition of those resources is of fiscal importance.

Throughout the U.S., real estate brokers conservatively estimate that land with desirable water resources can be valued as much as five times higher than a comparable property without any streams, lakes, wetlands or river frontage. Money invested in raw land with water resources can appreciate relatively aggressively depending on area – superior to many other investment markets. Water resource restoration and enhancement can further accelerate the appreciation.

Like never before, sustainability is transforming both business practice and performance. Sustainable approaches to site development and water resource enhancement mean greater efficiency, better risk mitigation, and fewer government permitting concerns.

Properties with pristine, highly-functioning water resources realize a competitive advantage among increasingly values-driven consumers.

Because we have always aligned promise with practice, Trout Headwaters is thrilled to see a rise in the level of awareness about the value of natural capital. As consumers become more discerning, they typically strive to align their purchases with their values. Our clients, including developers and private property owners, are reaping the practical and social benefits of green site development and sustainable resource restoration.

We believe that we live in one of the most potentially promising moments in human history, where sustainability meets innovation. Done right, resource restoration will lead a revolution in which developing and conserving our resources can both grow the bottom line, and change the world.  Learn more….

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A Future National Park for Chile – Conservacion Patagonica

Creating the future Patagonia National Park in Chile Conservacion Patagonica is a dynamic community of people who share one thing: a commitment to the wild future of Patagonia. About fifty people work full-time on the creation of Patagonia National Park, but many thousands more throughout the world have joined in this project in one form or another, be it volunteering with ecosystem restoration, donating, spreading the word, serving as supportive neighbors, or lending expertise.

Why Patagonia? …because it’s one of the last wild places left on Earth. …because the region is threatened, and …because building new national parks can inspire viable alternatives to ecological problems like overgrazing, mining and mega-dams. The story of the future Patagonia National Park offers a modern-day example of how to create a great park. >Learn More

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Hydrologic Assessment of Spring Flooding Risks for the U.S.

NOAA – National Weather Service – USGS:  National Hydrologic Assessment of Spring Flooding Risk as of 3/3/2011 now available.  Current forecasts predict major flooding along the Upper Mississippi River.  Mapping of Streamflow Analysis, Current Soil Moisture and more for the United States. >Read More

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A Crumbling Water Infrastructure in U.S. – via the INFRASTRUCTURIST

Writing in the INFRASTRUCTURIST, Eric Jaffe recently noted that “Water infrastructure may not be a sexy topic, but it’s becoming an important one.” The American Society of Civil Engineers has given America’s drinking-water systems a grade of D-minus.  While the Obama administration has secured $6 billion for improvements, the Environmental Protection Agency puts the true cost of fixing water infrastructure at roughly $335 billion according to the post.  Jaffe says “That figure seems staggering until we consider that parts of the country’s water system were built circa the Civil War.”  >Read Full Article

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Builders, Architects, Engineers – Why Buy Credits in a Mitigation Bank?

Why buy credits in a mitigation bank instead of creating a wetland or restoring a stream on- or off-site? Purchasing credits gives the developer these major benefits:

Save time and money: The developer, after following the 404(B)(1) Guidelines to try to avoid or  minimize wetland or stream impacts, then does not have to go through the time-consuming permit approval process to create or restore a wetland, riparian buffer or stream reach.  One of the benefits described in the Federal Guidance for the Establishment, Use and Operation of Mitigation Banks is that “Use of mitigation banks may reduce permit processing times and provide more cost-effective compensatory mitigation opportunities for projects that qualify.”   Additionally, the developer may not be experienced in wetland or stream restoration, may not have the additional land required for mitigation, may not wish to encumber the mitigation property in perpetuity or other issues. For the long term, buying credits in a bank is usually less costly than “doing your own”, particularly when the cost of the additional permitting process is added to the construction task.  Mitigation requirements like easements and long-term monitoring can be time consuming activities.

Eliminates risk and responsibility: The credit transaction legally transfers all responsibility for wetland and stream mitigation to the mitigation banker.

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And purchasing credits in a mitigation bank brings one more highly significant benefit for the environment:

The mitigation bank assures that the mitigation works – and lasts.  Too often, wetlands built on-site eventually fail because the landowner does not have sufficient incentive or know how to maintain them.

Mitigation bankers assume total responsibility for the mitigation and guarantee perpetual maintenance of the bank’s environmental assets Mitigation is typically performed prior to the wetland impacts, therefore reducing or eliminating temporal loss of wetland functions.

Mitigation financial securities and conservation easements are in place prior to wetland impacts.

Information Courtesy the National Mitigation Banking Association (NMBA)

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Toward A Sustainable Chesapeake – Case Studies

A Sustainable Chesapeake: Better Models for Conservation provides conservation resources for individuals, organizations, governments and businesses across the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

This recently released volume profiles case studies of conservation practices and techniques and describes the protection of land and water resources. The thirty-one case studies feature the work of government and private organizations and conservation leaders throughout the Bay watershed. The book’s six chapters—Climate Change Solutions, Stream Restoration, Green Infrastructure, Incentive Driven Conservation, Watershed Protection, and Stewardship—are each introduced with a summary of the restoration principles learned from the projects.

The book was developed by David Burke, conservation planner, and Joel Dunn, Program Coordinator of The Conservation Fund’s Sustainable Chesapeake initiative.  The free downloadable volume reminds us that we should continue to seek attractive, cost-effective, incentive-driven and voluntary conservation measures.

Case studies show the many dimensions of land and water conservation through a standardized, user-friendly format that includes photos, diagrams, tables, facts and concepts that people and organizations can draw from to solve local conservation challenges. Download your copy of “A Sustainable Chesapeake”. Visit to select individual case studies, chapters or the entire publication as PDF files.

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Trying to Put the “Rio” back in the Rio Nuevo

“Back when the Rio Nuevo project to revitalize downtown Tucson (AZ) was first hatched,” writes Hugh Holub, “there were elements in the concept to restore the Santa Cruz River. There was a ‘rio’ – a river – in Rio Nuevo.”

Holub notes that the restoration of the river “fell by the wayside as grand schemes of aquariums and rainbow bridges danced in front of the eyes of Tucson planners.” The river restoration project, “Paseo de las Iglesias” (Path of the Churches) was projected to cost $92 million.

Follow the river with the author as he asks “is the Rio Nuevo somehow cursed?” >Read the Full Story

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For Builders, Architects, and Homeowners – Building Near a River or Stream?

A stream or river is constantly adjusting itself. This is nature’s balancing act between the amount of water and gradient in the channel, and the amount and size of the sediment within the system. Any disturbance, either natural or human-caused, will change this balance. Activities such as building within the floodplain, constructing roads in riparian areas, or removing vegetation can limit a stream’s ability to maintain a healthy balance.

Residential or commercial construction within the floodplain does have an impact, as does protecting property by constructing dikes, levees, installing riprap, or eliminating overflows into side channels. The effects of these impacts within the floodplain can include increased peak flood levels, increased energy during a flood event downstream, increased bank and bed erosion on neighboring property, reduced habitat and reduced recreational values.

To limit or eliminate these impacts, avoid construction in the floodplain where possible; do not restrict floodwater access to side channels; and ensure construction within the floodplain minimizes disturbance of soils and vegetation.  Contact THI to Learn More or Request Free Report

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