Degraded streams typically lack diversity in aquatic habitat and fauna, and may have increased levels of stream bank erosion. Stream degradation may be the product of past channelization, “flashy” hydrology due to decreased levels of infiltration, lack of buffer, or upstream pollution.
When these conditions are present, stream restoration practices aim to restore and re-establish the general structure, function, and self-sustaining behavior of the stream through recreating floodplains, stabilizing stream banks through vegetation, and creating curves called “meanders” that return the stream to natural functions and flows.
The goal of stream restoration is to help reduce the nonpoint source contribution of sediment and pollutants to streams, and facilitate sediment transport in a manner that supports a healthy biological habitat. This goal is achieved through planning efforts and facilitating collaborative opportunities between local land owners and funding agencies. Stream bank stabilization opportunities may originate from citizen concerns, sanitary sewer in jeopardy, or local government cost-share funding.
There are few completed stream restoration and stream bank stabilization projects in the Little Alamance Creek watershed. The Burlington City Park Stream Restoration was completed in 2012 and consisted of the restoration and enhancement of 3,785 linear feet of stream. The project was successful in establishing a stream buffer, reducing nonpoint source pollution from eroding banks, weakening the impacts of floodwaters, stabilizing stream geomorphology, and enhancing aquatic habitat. The City Park Stream Restoration is a model for future implementation in the watershed as other opportunities arise. Stream restoration and bank stabilization can provide a direct reduction in nonpoint source pollution while improving aquatic habitat, but the impact can be limited by degraded upland watershed conditions. Willingness for implementation on private property, and the cost of watershed-wide application may limit the opportunities to implement this pollution control.