Live in Harmony with Streams

“…ten thousand river commissions, with the mines of the world at their back, cannot tame that lawless stream, cannot curb it or define it, cannot say to it “Go here,” or “Go there,” and make it obey; cannot save a shore which it has sentenced, cannot bar its path with an obstruction which it will not tear down, dance over, and laugh at.”

Mark Twain

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.

Stream Processes: A Guide to Living in Harmony with Streams

Illustrated booklet promotes improved understanding of natural stream processes and the impacts of human intervention.
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Dredging

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.

Dredging: Is it a Good Solution to Flooding Problems?

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Unstable Streams: What Are the Management Costs? Lessons Learned from Bradford County, PA

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Water Needs Room to Move: Why 'Stream Reaming' Isn't a Good Solution to Flooding

Presentation developed by the Flood Working Group of the Upper Susquehanna Conservation Alliance
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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.

Guidelines for Managing Debris in Streams and Rivers, Steuben County

Brochure with tips for managing debris in streams without impacting upstream and downstream neighbors. Includes information about permits and sources of technical assistance in Steuben County.
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Unstable Streams

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.

Upper Susquehanna Coalition Stream Team

This program provides a consistent approach to assessing stream problems and implementing appropriate Stream Corridor Rehabilitation projects.
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Emergency Stream Intervention

Presentation by the Upper Susquehanna Coalition to provide municipal leaders and highway superintendents with a basic understanding of stream processes, sources of stream instability, and post-flood stream management strategies.
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NYS Protection of Waters Program

A permit from the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation is required for activities that disturb "protected streams." Website provides information about this regulatory program, stream classifications (with a link to an interactive map), stream crossings, and ponds.
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Riparian Buffers

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.

Upper Susquehanna Coalition Buffer Team

Program provides technical support for restoration and long-term functionality of riparian areas for water and habitat quality.
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Riparian Buffers

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation webpage.
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Local stream protection laws

Local stream protection laws  can be powerful tools for protecting stream functions, while also directing development to safer areas.

Flood-prone Open Space Requirements in Town of Southport Zoning

The Town of Southport established a Conservation Zoning District that coincides with the floodway (on the Flood Insurance Rate Map) and prohibits most uses in this zone. They also enacted stream protection requirements for riparian buffer and setback areas along streams.
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Proposed Conservation District for the Town of Horseheads

STC recommendation for establishing a Conservation Zoning District for the floodway portions of the Town of Horseheads floodplain in order to restrict development in these high-risk areas.
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Town of Elmira Littering and Dumping Law

In order to address stream dumping problems, these regulations prohibit the placement of any refuse, yard waste (leaves, grass clippings, brush, etc.), tires, containers, appliances, fill, or other obstructions in any storm sewer, ditch, stream, river, drainage swale, or detention basin that regularly or periodically carries surface water runoff. It also prohibits the placement of any refuse, yard waste, tires, containers, lumber, firewood, or other loose materials within 25 feet of the top of any streambank or riverbank.
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Town of Horseheads Dumping Regulations

The Town of Horseheads prohibits dumping or disposal in any drainageway, basin, watercourse, stream or ditch.
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Tompkins County Model Stream Buffer Ordinance

Tompkins County template that municipalities can use to prevent new development adjacent to streams and protect the natural functions of stream buffers.
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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”

Additional Resources

Streams & Rivers: Section 4 of Susquehanna-Chemung Action Plan

(2012)
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Meandering Streams

(information sheet)
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Private Stream Crossings

(information sheet)
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U.S.Geological Survey (USGS) Water Data

Website with real-time streamflows, statistics, and other information associated with USGS stream and river gauges.
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US Geological Survey StreamStats

Online tool enables estimation of stream flow statistics and other watershed characteristics.
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