Tag Archives: ordinance

Engineering Cannot Save Our Rivers

We note the draft language in Montana DNRC’s 2012 Model Floodplain Ordinance requiring that “a licensed professional engineer” (P.E.) design all stream restoration and bank stabilization projects undertaken in Montana.  While engineering is an important professional discipline, the proposed rule as written would greatly diminish the vital roles played by hydrologists, fluvial geomorphologists, sedimentologists, ecologists, and the other skilled scientists in this important work.  Further, it’s very important to understand that there is no consistent requirement in a professional engineer’s academic training or in Montana’s P.E. certification criteria that would dictate the attainment of specific skills for stream bank stabilization and restoration.

Decades of misguided, hard-engineering attempts to force natural stream systems into unnatural configurations have resulted in unhealthy, armored floodplains along many of our nation’s streams, including in Montana.  History will likely describe our time as a period of human failure – the failure to understand and the failure to accommodate the most basic ecological needs and functions of our precious water resources. These waters and their floodplains serve a broad host of ecological services for humans and wildlife, providing biodiversity, aquifer recharge and carbon sequestration. Without the protection of these basic functions, we will pass to the next generation a tarnished legacy of damaged and destroyed resources.

Any successful stream restoration or bank stabilization project requires a multi-disciplinary or inter-disciplinary team of scientists and technicians to ensure success. THI would suggest that granting a design monopoly for stream bank stabilization and river restoration to engineers may simply expose many P.E.’s to increased liability due to a general lack of direct experience in these applications.

Anyone interested in the future of Montana’s Floodplains, Rivers and Wetlands should comment on Montana DNRC’s 2012 Model Floodplain Ordinance now:  Traci Sears phone: 406-444‐6654, or via email  at  tsears@mt.gov

>>Read the Montana DNRC’s 2012 Model Floodplain Ordinance http://dnrc.mt.gov/wrd/water_op/floodplain/news/draft_model_ordinance.pdf


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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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