A Review of Stream Assessment Methodologies and Restoration: The Case of Virginia, USA
A Review of Stream Assessment Methodologies and Restoration: The Case of Virginia, USA
Environmental Engineering Research. 2011. Jun, 16(2): 69-79
Copyright ©2011, Korean Society of Environmental Engineering
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License( permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
  • Received : September 09, 2010
  • Accepted : March 03, 2011
  • Published : June 30, 2011
Export by style
Cited by
About the Authors
Shera M. Bender
Changwoo Ahn
Rapid population growth and land use changes have severely degraded streams across the United States. In response, there has been a surge in the number of stream restoration projects, including stream restoration for mitigation purposes. Currently, most projects do not include evaluation and monitoring, which are critical in the success of stream restoration projects. The goal of this study is to review the current status of assessment methodologies and restoration approaches for streams in Virginia, with the aim of assisting the restoration community in making sound decisions. As part of the study, stream restoration projects data from a project in Fairfax County,Virginia was assessed. This review revealed that the stream assessment methodologies currently applied to restoration are visuallybased and do not include biological data collection and/or a method to incorporate watershed information. It was found from the case study that out of the twenty nine restoration projects that had occurred between 1995 and 2003 in Fairfax County, nineteen projects reported bank stabilization as a goal or the only goal, indicating an emphasis on a single physical component rather than on the overall ecological integrity of streams. It also turned out that only seven projects conducted any level of monitoring as part of the restoration,confirming the lack of evaluation and monitoring. However, Fairfax County has recently improved its stream restoration practices by developing and incorporating watershed management plans. This now provides one of the better cases that might be looked upon by stakeholders when planning future stream restoration projects.
1. Introduction
Streams provide economic, social, cultural and environmental values to society [1 , 2] . These values however, have been compromised due to rapid population growth and land use changes that have led to a decrease in forests and wetlands and an increase in impervious surfaces such as roads and buildings. Land use changes impact streams’ physical, chemical, and biological processes by altering stream flows and increasing the streams’sediment loads [3 - 6] . These factors can lead to a decline in the stream quality [7 , 8] .
Stream restoration as a discipline has developed primarily as a result of wetland permitting processes requiring in-kind replacement of degraded or “impacted” streams [9] . In 1996, the Army Corps of Engineers (COE) issued Nationwide Permit 26(now expired) which was at the time the only permit that addressed the improvement of impacted streams [10] . In 2002, all Nationwide Permits were reissued, and Nationwide Permit 27 was modified to address not only permits for wetland and riparian restoration but also stream restoration activities [10] . Under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act and Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899, the COE is authorized to approve activities in the waters of the United States and directed to protect the nation’s aquatic resources. Perhaps due to the link between COE permitting and stream restoration, physical stream restoration practices often focus on meeting the permit requirements and not on the long-term ecological viability of the streams [9] .In addition, as part of the permitting process for stream restoration projects, the COE, Norfolk District and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) have developed stream assessment methodologies to determine the required level of mitigation.
A stream restoration project which is designed to improve a reach of stream independent from a development project is known as a ‘voluntary restoration.’ A stream restoration project which is designed to offset the impacts to a stream from a development project is known as ‘stream mitigation’ [11] . Successful voluntary restoration projects should result in ecological net gains, whereas stream mitigation projects should result in no net loss of ecological conditions [11] . While stream restoration holds the promise of improving the stream quality, restoring a stream to its pre-disturbed state may not be possible as a result of widespread watershed changes [7 , 12] . Moreover, the limited knowledge of the complexity and dynamics of streams has led to a lack of sound benchmarks for measuring the outcomes of stream restoration [13] . The restoration community still lacks a set of agreed success criteria of the kind which are needed for stream evaluation and monitoring. To ensure that the manipulation of streams leads to improved stream conditions in the future,lessons learned from current and future projects should be gathered and shared with the community.
This paper reviews several important components of stream restoration through a literary review and a case study. The goal of this study is to provide the stream restoration community and the public policy sector with an informational foundation for understanding and making sound decisions about stream restoration.
2. Materials and Methods
This paper reviews the available literature on stream restoration assessment methodologies, classification systems, biological integrity, success criteria, monitoring, evaluation and adaptive management. This information is primarily from Virginia,but also from across the United States. Northern Virginia ( Fig.1 ) was selected as the case study area due to the recent efforts of the city of Reston, in Fairfax County and of Fairfax and Arlington Counties in the development and use of watershed management plans to address stream improvements. Data on 25 stream restoration projects in the study area of Fairfax County was collected from the National River Restoration Science Synthesis (NRRSS)database [14] . Data was obtained on a further four stream restoration projects through interviews with project managers. The authors participated in a stream assessment training session to learn to the best way to apply the assessment methodologies discussed in this paper. Personal and phone interviews were held with 24 individuals employed by federal, state and local governments, community associations, environmental consultants,non-governmental organizations and academics.
PPT Slide
Lager Image
Map of Northern Virginia that shows several counties where active stream restoration and mitigation occur.
3. Reviews
- 3.1. Stream Assessment Methodologies
Stream assessment methodologies have been developed for use with the current permit system, watershed and land use planning, water quality and stream habitat reporting and stream restoration. A recent study [15] analyzed more than 50 final and draft regulatory and non-regulatory stream assessment and mitigation methodologies applicable at a national or state level. The study included two methodologies developed for Virginia, the Stream Attributes Analysis: Impact and Mitigation Assessment(SAA) and the Fairfax County Stream Physical Assessment Protocols( Table 1 ). The COE in Norfolk District developed the SAA to rapidly review projects that impact upon perennial or intermittent streams and therefore require permits in accordance with Section 404 of the Clean Water Act. The SAA methodology scores six variables: riparian condition, watershed development, channel incision, bank erosion, channelization and in-stream habitat.Each variable is then assigned a numeric value ranging from 0 (poor) to 1.0 (excellent) [15] .
In Virginia, the interaction between the COE, Norfolk District and the DEQ produced several methodologies for evaluating stream conditions. In late 2003, the COE and Norfolk District,in collaboration with the DEQ, released a revised version of the SAA called the Stream Attributes and Crediting Methodology:Impact and Compensation Reaches (SACM). This document was revised and released as the Stream Attributes Assessment Methodology(SAAM) in 2005 ( Table 1 ). The SACM, which excluded watershed development as a variable, was modeled on the EPA Rapid Bioassessment Protocols [16] and was designed to determine overall stream condition and the necessary mitigation in the Piedmont physiographic region [17] . The DEQ has also developed a methodology, the Stream Impact Compensation Assessment Methodology (SICAM). This is used to determine the overall stream condition and the need for stream restoration
History of the development of a stream assessment protocol in Virginia
PPT Slide
Lager Image
History of the development of a stream assessment protocol in Virginia
rangprojects across the State [18] . In 2006, the DEQ, the COE and Norfolk District encouraged the use of both methodologies and informed the public of the conditions under which these methodologies should be used. Then, in mid 2006, the DEQ, the COE and Norfolk District reversed their course and entered into discussions to work towards the development of the Unified Stream Methodology (USM). A final draft of the USM was released for public comment on January 18, 2007 ( Table 1 ).
- 3.1.1. SAAM and SICAM field application
In the spring of 2006, the authors participated in a stream assessment training session to learn how best to apply the SAAM and SICAM methodologies in the field. The team assessed a site located in Loudoun County, Virginia, consisting of eight streams and 17 stream reaches totaling 2,183.4 linear meters before any environmental impact had occurred. The stream reaches were classified by stream type, with ten intermittent streams, six perennial streams and one stream for which the upstream section was classified as intermittent and the downstream section as perennial. In addition, the stream reaches were classified by the stream order, with thirteen 1st order and four 2nd order streams [19] . Observations for each variable were logged in the field and later entered into forms. For the SAAM, each variable is evaluated and rated on a numerical scale, ranging from zero to ten for two variables and from zero to eleven for three variables. In both cases the highest value is the most favorable condition for each stream reach [16] . For the SICAM, each variable is evaluated and rated on a qualitative scale from severe to optimal ( Table 2 ).
The application of the SAAM and SICAM methodologies varies.Firstly, the SAAM field form is an electronic spreadsheet based on Microsoft Excel and includes the calculations necessary to determine the Reach Condition Index (RCI), which is an
Comparison of the Stream Attribute Assessment Methodology (SAAM) Stream Impact Compensation Assessment Manual (SICAM)and Unified Stream Methodology (USM) Variables and Scoring
PPT Slide
Lager Image
Comparison of the Stream Attribute Assessment Methodology (SAAM) Stream Impact Compensation Assessment Manual (SICAM)and Unified Stream Methodology (USM) Variables and Scoring
overall numeric indicator for the stream [17] . The evaluator only needs to enter the data collected into the spreadsheet, with each stream reach requiring its own form and being scored separately.For example, one stream reach (86.1 linear meters) observed during the field study scored a pre-impact RCI of 5.02. Because this stream will be impacted, a restoration project in the same watershed must be identified as a proposed stream for the mitigation.The mitigation stream must also be assessed to determine its RCI and then the proposed mitigation plan is applied to the SAAM to determine the new RCI for the stream post-restoration.The difference between these two RCI values is known as the mitigation lift RCI. To determine the linear meters of restoration required, the RCI of the impacted stream, in this case 5.02, is divided by the mitigation lift RCI and then multiplied by the linear meters of impact, in this case 86.1 linear meters. The number of linear meters calculated represents the number of linear meters of restoration required for the 86.1 linear meters of impact.
U.S. Federal Interagency Stream Restoration Working Group 1998 Stream corridor restoration: principles processes and practices. GPO Item No. 0120-A SuDocs No. A 57.6/2:EN3/PT.653 Federal Interagency Stream Restoration Working Group Washington DC
U.S. National Research Council 1992 Restoration of aquatic ecosystems:science technology and public policy National Academy Press WashingtonDC
Sisk TD 1998 Perspectives on the land-use history of North America:a context for understanding our changing environment.Biological Science Report USGS/BRD/BSR 1998-0003 Geological Survey Biological Resources Division RestonVA: U.S
1999 Conservation corridors in the United States: benefits and planning guidelines J. Soil Water Conservat 54 645 - 650
Niezgoda SL , Johnson PA 2005 Improving the urban stream restoration effort: identifying critical form and processes relationships Environ. Manage 35 579 - 592
2006 Evaluation of single- and multimetric benthic macroinvertebrate indicators of catchment disturbance over time at the Fort Benning Military Installation Ecol. Indicators Georgia USA 6 469 - 484
Kauffman JB , Beschta RL , Otting N , Lytjen D 1997 An ecological perspective of riparian and stream restoration in the Western United States Fisheries 22 (22) 12 - 24
2000 Urban stream restoration practices: an initial assessment Center for Watershed Protection Ellicott City MD
Hassett B , Palmer M , Bernhardt E , Smith S , Carr J , Hart D 2005 Restoring watersheds project by project: trends in Chesapeake Bay tributary restoration Front. Ecol. Environ 3 259 - 267
Schwinn MA , Culpepper GD 2003 Stream assessment in Virginia:an evolving and dynamic process Aquat. Resourc. News
Hall W 2003 The role of mitigation in a restoration strategy. In:Georgia Basin/Puget Sound Research Conference Vancouver BC Canada Mar31-Apr 3
Palmer M , Bernhardt E , Chornesky E 2004 Ecology for a crowded planet Science 304 1251 - 1252
Ward JV , Tockner K , Uehlinger U , Malard F 2001 Understanding natural patterns and processes in river corridors as the basis for effective river restoration River Res. Appl 17 311 - 323
Bernhardt ES , Palmer MA , Allan JD 2005 Synthesizing U.S. river restoration efforts Science 308 636 - 637
Somerville DE , Pruitt BA 2004 Physical stream assessment: a review of selected protocols for use in the Clean Water Act Section 404 Program. Prepared for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Office of Wetlands Oceans and WatershedsWetlands Division (Order No. 3W-0503-NATX) Nutter & Associates Inc. Athens GA
Barbour MT , Gerritsen J , Snyder BD , Stribling JB 1999 Rapid bioassessment protocols for use in streams and wadeable rivers:periphyton benthic macroinvertebrates and fish second edition. Report No. EPA 841-B-99-002 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Washington DC
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USCOE) 2005 Stream attributes assessment methodology Army Corps of Engineers Washington DC
Virginia Department of Environmental Quality 2006 Stream impact and compensation assessment manual U.S. Army Corps of Engineers WashingtonDC
Strahler AN 1952 Dynamic basis of geomorphology. Bull Geol.Soc. Am 63 923 - 938
Roper BB , Scarnecchia DL 1995 Observer variability in classifying habitat types in stream surveys N. Am. J. Fish. Manage 15 49 - 53
Hannaford MJ , Barbour MT , Resh VH 1997 Training reduces observer variability in visual-based assessments of stream habitat J. N. Am. Benthol. Soc 16 853 - 860
2007 tream attributes assessment methodology U.S. Army Corps of EngineersVirginia Department of Environmental Quality Richmond VA
Rosgen DL 1994 A classification of natural rivers Catena 22 169 - 199
Rosgen DL 1996 Applied river morphology Wildland Hydrology Pagosa Springs CO
Schueler TR , Holland HK 2000 The importance of imperviousness.The practice of watershed protection Center for Watershed Protection Ellicot City MD
Center for Watershed Protection 2003 Impacts of impervious cover on aquatic systems Center for Watershed Protection Watershed protection research monograph No. 1. Ellicot City MD
Vannote RL , Minshall GW , Cummins KW , Sedell JR , Cushing CE 1980 Cushing CE. The river continuum concept Can. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci 37 130 - 137
Ryder DS , Miller W 2005 Setting goals and measuring success:linking patterns and processes in stream restoration Hydrobiologia 552 147 - 158
Cetron A 2006 When is a stream not a stream? County considers more stream protection Connection Newspapers
Paul JF , Scott KJ , Campbell DE 2001 Developing and applying a benthic index of estuarine condition for the Virginian Biogeographic Province Ecol. Indicators 1 83 - 99
Hill BH , Herlihy AT , Kaufmann PR , DeCelles SJ , Vander Borgh MA 2003 Assessment of streams of the eastern United States using a periphyton index of biotic integrity Ecol. Indicators 2 325 - 338
Batema BO , Walbeck ES 2004 The public policy aspects of biological monitoring: budget and land-use planning implications at the county level Environ. Monit. Assess 94 193 - 204
Karr JR , Dudley DR 1981 Ecological perspective on water quality goals Environ. Manage 5 55 - 68
Weisberg SB , Ranasinghe JA , Dauer DM , Schaffner LC , Diaz RJ , Frithsen JB 1997 An estuarine benthic index of biotic integrity(B-IBI) for Chesapeake Bay Estuaries 20 149 - 158
Karr JR , Chu EW 2000 Sustaining living rivers Hydrobiologia 422 1 - 14
Wilcox D , Meeker J , Hudson P , Armitage B , Black M , Uzarski D 2002 Hydrologic variability and the application of index of biotic Integrity metrics to wetlands: a great lakes evaluation Wetlands 22 588 - 615
Southerland MT , Rogers GM , Kline MJ 2007 Improving biological indicators to better assess the condition of streams Ecol. Indicat 7 751 - 767
Fairfax County 2001 Stream protection strategy baseline study Fairfax County Fairfax VA
Karr JR 1991 Biological integrity: a long-neglected aspect of water resource management Ecol. Appl 1 66 - 84
Ehrenfeld JG 2000 Defining the limits of restoration: the need for realistic goals Restor. Ecol 8 2 - 9
Roni P , Beechie TJ , Bilby RE , Leonetti FE , Pollock MM , Pess GR 2002 A review of stream restoration techniques and a hierarchical strategy for prioritizing restoration in Pacific Northwest watersheds N. Am. J. Fish. Manage 22 1 - 20
Palmer MA , Bernhardt ES , Allan JD 2005 Standards for ecologically successful river restoration J. Appl. Ecol 42 208 - 217
National Research Council 1992 Restoration of aquatic ecosystems:science technology and public policy National Academy Press WashingtonDC
Kondolf GM 1994 Learning from stream restoration projects. In:Proceedings of the Fifth Biennial Watershed Management Conference University of CaliforniaCenter for Water Resources Ashland OR Nov 16-18
Kondolf GM , Micheli ER 1995 Evaluating stream restoration projects Environ. Manage 19 1 - 15
Bash JS , Ryan CM 2002 Stream restoration and enhancement projects: is anyone monitoring Environ. Manage 29 877 - 885
Clarke SJ , Bruce-Burgess L , Wharton G 2003 Linking form and function: towards an eco-hydromorphic approach to sustainable river restoration. Aquat Conserv. Mar. Freshwat. Ecosyst 13 439 - 450
Poole GC , Frissell CA , Ralph SC 1997 In-stream habitat unit classification: inadequacies for monitoring and some consequences for management J. Am. Water Resour. Assoc 33 879 - 896
Laskowski SL , Kutz FW 1998 Environmental data in decision making in EPA regional offices Environ. Monit. Assess 51 15 - 21
Scholz JG , Booth DB 2001 Monitoring urban streams: strategies and protocols for humid-region lowland systems Environ.Monit. Assess 71 143 - 164
Volstad JH , Neerchal NK , Roth NE , Southerland MT 2003 Combining biological indicators of watershed condition from multiple sampling programs-a case study from MarylandUSA Ecol. Indicators 3 13 - 25
Astin LE 2006 Data synthesis and bioindicator development for nontidal streams in the interstate Potomac River basin USA Ecol. Indicators 6 664 - 685
Grumbine RE 1997 Reflections on “What is ecosystem management?” Conserv. Biol 11 41 - 47
Kondolf GM 1995 Five elements for effective evaluation of stream restoration Restor. Ecol 3 133 - 136
Caughlan L , Oakley KL 2001 Cost considerations for long-term ecological monitoring Ecol. Indicators 1 123 - 134
Commonwealth of Virginia Office of the Governor Executive Order 90: improving stream health and water quality by restoring streams throughout the Commonwealth Commonwealth of Virginia Office of the Governor RichmondVA
Poff NL , Allan JD , Bain MB 1997 The natural flow regime: a paradigm for river conservation and restoration Bioscience 769 - 784
Angermeier PL , Karr JR 1994 Biological integrity versus biological diversity as policy directives Protecting biotic resources.Bioscience 44 690 - 697
Pedroli B , De Blust G , Van Looy K , Van Rooij S 2002 Setting targets in strategies for river restoration Landscape Ecol 17 5 - 18
Palmer MA , Allan JD 2006 Restoring rivers: policy recommendations to enhance effectiveness of river restoration Sci. Technol 22 40 - 48
Booth DB , Karr JR , Schauman S 2004 Reviving urban streams: land use hydrology biology and human behavior J. Am. Water Resour. Assoc 40 1351 - 1364
Lamy F , Bolte J , Santelmann M , Smith C 2002 Development and evaluation of multiple-objective decision-making methods for watershed management planning J. Am. Water Resour.Assoc 38 517 - 529
Chesapeake 2000 Watershed Commitments Task Force Community watershed assessment handbook Chesapeake Bay Program AnnapolisMD
Gregory R , Ohlson D , Arvai J 2006 Deconstructing adaptive management:criteria for applications to environmental management Ecol. Appl 16 2411 - 2425
Gregory R , Failing L , Higgins P 2006 Adaptive management and environmental decision making: a case study application to water use planning Ecol. Econ 58 434 - 447
Holling CS Chichester:Wiley 1978 United Nations Environment Programme Adaptive environmental assessment and management. International series on applied systems analysis 3
Walters CJ A series of primers on the conservation and exploitation of natural and cultivated ecosystems 1986 Adaptive management of renewable resources Macmillan New York NY
Gunderson L 1999 Resilience flexibility and adaptive management--antidotes for spurious certitude? Conserv 3 (7)
Johnson BL 1999 The role of adaptive management as an operational approach for resource management agencies Conserv.Ecol 3 (8)
Berkes F , Colding J , Folke C 2000 Rediscovery of traditional ecological knowledge as adaptive management Ecol. Appl 10 1251 - 1262
Walters C 1997 Challenges in adaptive management of riparian and coastal ecosystems Conserv. Ecol 1 (1)
Walters CJ , Holling CS 1990 Large-scale management experiments and learning by doing. Ecology 71 2060 - 2068
airfax County 2005 Fairfax County streams mapping project:quality control/quality assurance methodology and results Fairfax County Fairfax VA
Mid-Atlantic Regional Earth Science Applications Center 2003 Forest change in Northern Virginia 1937-1998 Department of Geography University of Maryland College Park College ParkMD
GKY and Associates Inc. Coastal Resources Inc. 2002 Low Impact Development Center. Reston Virginia watershed plan GKY and Associates Inc. Springfield VA
Galli J 1996 Final technical memorandum: rapid stream assessment technique (RSAT) field methods Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments Washington DC
Environmental Systems Analysis Inc. 1999 Provision of a stream inventory report on watershed restoration opportunitiesand training services for county staff in stream surveying techniques Environmental Systems Analysis Inc. Annapolis MD
Arlington County Department of Environmental Services 2001 Watershed management plan Arlington County Arlington VA
Fairfax County 2006 Public facilities manual Fairfax County Fairfax VA
U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service 1998 NWCC Technical Note 99-1. Stream visual assessment protocol Army Corps of EngineersVirginia Department of Environmental Quality Richmond VA
Doll BA , Grabow GL , Hall KR Stream restoration: a natural channel design handbook North Carolina Stream Restoration Institute North Carolina State University Raleigh NC
Fairfax County 2005 Understanding the Chesapeake Bay preservation ordinance amendments: important information for Fairfax County homeowners Office of Public AffairsFairfax County Fairfax VA
Schueler T , Urban subwatershed restoration manual series An integrated framework to restore small urban watersheds version 2.0. Manual 1 Center for Watershed Protection Ellicott City MD Urban subwatershed restoration manual series
Jungwirth M , Muhar S , Schmutz S 2002 Re-establishing and assessing ecological integrity in riverine landscapes Freshwat.Biol 47 867 - 887