Live in Harmony with Streams
Stream corridors and floodplains
Stream corridors and floodplains provide naturally beneficial functions with regard to flooding, water quality, habitat, and channel stability. When water is able to overflow its banks and spread out onto the floodplain, the water is slowed down and its energy is dissipated.
Dredging of streams and rivers is sometimes proposed as a way to address flooding by increasing the size of the channel. Unfortunately, dredging can actually increase flood damage. And it’s an expensive way to try to manage dynamic stream systems.
Trees and Woody Debris
Trees and other woody debris are a natural part of stream systems. When a tree falls into a stream, it breaks up the flow, which can have the beneficial effect of dissipating energy and reducing erosion. However, debris accumulation in stream channels and other drainageways can also contribute to flooding and drainage problems, particularly in developed areas. It is recommended that streams, culverts, and other drainageways be inspected annually and after major storm events. Man-made debris and other material that is likely to contribute to problems can be selectively removed from the channel.
When a stream becomes unstable intervention may be needed to repair damage and restore the dynamic equilibrium. Because streams adapt to changing conditions, improper maintenance can lead to “unintended consequences.” In order to avoid actions that destabilize the stream system and make the problem worse, seek technical assistance from the county Soil and Water Conservation District or other stream professional.
The easiest, most effective way to protect a stream is to maintain a strip of plants along the bank.
This is known as a riparian buffer.
Local stream protection laws
Local stream protection laws can be powerful tools for protecting stream functions, while also directing development to safer areas.
Stream Stewardship Principles
Work toward the protection and/or restoration of
- the environmental services provided by streams and floodplains
- the health of stream and floodplain ecosystems
- the naturally effective channel form and function of streams
- floodplains as part of the natural stream system
- riparian buffers
In the process of managing streams to protect public safety and infrastructure, avoid threatening
- stream health upstream or downstream
- the upland ecosystem through which the stream runs
- the streambank stability of neighboring properties
— from “East Branch Delaware River Stream Corridor Management Plan”