Tag Archives: biostabilization

A Return to the Stone Age – Montana’s Latest Floodplain Ordinance

If you care about the protection and restoration of Montana’s streams and rivers, it’s time to let your voice be heard.

 The Montana Department of Natural Resources (DNRC) has formally implemented a plan to require the use of large, non-native rip rap and/or concrete structures for all stream restoration and bank stabilization projects in the state.  The recently released Draft 2012 Model Floodplain Ordinance clearly intends to deny the use of all “soft” approaches, like revegetation or the use of nominally-reinforced vegetation, through new requirements outlined on page 29, section 9 -12, of the draft ordinance. 

The one-line requirement listed for stream restoration and bank stablilzation projects to withstand a 100-year flood event translates to an engineering requirement for hard rip-rap or hard structure.  Although DNRC was requested to provide the state or federal law requiring stream restoration and bank stabilization projects to withstand the 100-year flood event, the agency failed to do so. 

As is the case around the nation, Montana’s freshwater resources have been significantly damaged for decades as truckload after truckload of stone and concrete rip-rap have been dumped onto the banks of some of the states most precious headwaters.  Armored floodplains cannot perform the same ecological services as healthy, well-vegetated floodplains. Healthy, well-vegetated floodplains naturally provide flood control, erosion control, and fish and wildlife habitat. 

While agencies in Montana, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Montana Department of Environmental Quality, recognize the significant damage that has been wrought historically on Montana’s resources and are working to promote sound, and soft approaches to restoration here, some at the DNRC have belligerently stood firm in blind disregard of both best science and best practice.

The draft is open for public comment until June 10, 2012 on the DNRC website http://dnrc.mt.gov/wrd/water_op/floodplain/news/draft_model_ordinance.pdf

Anyone who has an interest in the health and productivity of Montana’s waterways should provide public comment to DNRC as well as take a moment to tell Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer that his agency is condemning the future of the state’s most valuable resources.  Send a note to the Governor http://governor.mt.gov/cabinet/contactus.asp , and to Montana Department of Environmental Quality Director Richard Opper http://svc.mt.gov/deq/mail/recoverycontactusform.asp , asking them to help protect Montana’s streams and rivers from hard armor.

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Green and Soft: New Materials for River Restoration

Many terms have been used to describe the engineering use of plant materials for slope stabilization – soil bioengineering, biotechnical stabilization, biostabilization, green engineering, biotechnical erosion control – but the underlying concept for all terms is the use of plants (sometimes in combination with other reinforcement materials) to reduce the erosive forces of water and increase soil’s resistance to those erosive forces.

Biotechnical stabilization is not a new concept. There are numerous references from the 1930s that advocated biotechnical designs. After World War II these techniques seemed to have lost favor to the hard engineering approaches that rely heavily on rock, concrete, and steel. However, the growing concern for more ecologically-beneficial solutions has renewed interest in biotechnical approaches.

Biotechnical methods provide an ecologically-superior alternative to conventional erosion control methods, such as rock and concrete riprap. These low-impact, and generally lower-cost methods can provide effective streambank stabilization while minimizing damage and disruption to instream and upland habitats. All streambank erosion control practices will be subject to maintenance requirements. However, biotechnical techniques have the potential to self-repair since they are living systems. Because these treatments generally strengthen and improve over time, maintenance costs are generally minimal as well. Biotechnical methods are considered especially appropriate for environmentally sensitive areas where improved recreation, aesthetics, fish & wildlife habitat, or native plants are highly desirable. Receive an electronic copy of the Club EcoBlu white paper info@troutheadwaters.com

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Yellowstone Levees, Rip-Rap to Face More Scrutiny Under New Plan

As practitioners and advocates for soft, green approaches to stream and river restoration, THI applauds a recent plan released by the Army Corps of Engineers which will further restrict levees and rip-rap along the upper Yellowstone River. Covering a 48-mile stretch of the Yellowstone between Emigrant and the river’s confluence with Mission Creek east of Livingston, the plan is being heralded by conservationists as a first-of-its-kind effort by the Corps to help protect the river.  Read more in the Bozeman Chronicle

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“Engineering With Nature” Fema Case Studies Show Greener Alternatives To Riprap

 There are numerous options for approach when it comes to the complex issues of riverbank stabilization.  FEMA’s “Engineering with Nature- Alternative Techniques to Riprap Bank Stabilization”  highlights several basic alternative measures that have successfully been used.   The case studies demonstrate the use of erosion control blankets, woody plantings, LWD and more, highlighting the improved ecological values and reduced maintenance requirements over riprap.

The release notes” As technology advances, and our knowledge of the effects we have on our environment increases, it is inevitable that even more of these techniques will be discovered and improved upon and that the traditional approach of riprap or hard armoring a bank will no longer be the norm.”

The authors’ conclude: “We tend to leave a large footprint in our interactions with our surroundings. As we manipulate and attempt to control the water we so love and depend upon, we need to look at the long-term effects we have on our immediate surroundings.”  For an electronic copy of the report request info@troutheadwaters.com

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