Repairing Incised and Degraded (Urbanized) Streams – Natural Channel Design, Biotechnical Techniques and Case Studies

October 15-16, 2018
Day 1:  Earth Rangers Theatre, 9550 Pine Valley Drive (Kortright Centre for Conservation)
Day 2:  Onsite at Maitland Park , Brampton ON (Directions will provided)
Instructor: John McCullah

Note: Participants will be required to wear Personal Protective Equipment on Day 2 of this event. Details will be provided.

Course Description

This two-day course will present the current state of the art with regards to environmentally-sensitive stream and river repair and bank protection.  The training will combine classroom with a hands-on, field-centered implementation showcase – combining theory with the practical applications and lots of case studies.

Item 1: Stream Restoration Educational Workshop (Day 1)

The classroom sessions will cover topics like basic fluvio-geomorphology, stream forms and processes, Proper Functioning Condition, hydromodification and environmentally-sensitive techniques.  The Maitland Park Stream Restoration Project will be introduced during the workshop so participants are familiar with the project’s background, scope of work, principles and techniques of the design, and the following day’s hands-on activities.

ITEM 2: Implementation Showcase (Day 2) 

The second day in the field will include a stream walk intended to help learn “how to read the stream”, identify geomorphic and vegetative indicators for OHWM and bank full discharge elevation, how to chose appropriate plants and discuss construction methods.


Urban stream entrenchment, incision, and degradation are a high-priority, national issue leading to poor water quality, loss of riparian function, loss of aquatic habitat and costly threats to infrastructure. Roads, highways and bridges are especially subject to these impacts; the repairs and remediation are often costly and commonly rely on riprap, concrete or other “hard engineering” techniques that do not address the underlying problems – excess stream energy. Acquiring environmental permits for riverine projects in areas of sensitive species is also problematic – Resource Agencies often want designs with less rock- designs that include bioengineering and utilize natural design methods.

This course will deal with some of the tools needed to design and build naturally functioning stream, river, and creek reaches.   The material will be presented with the extensive use of Case Studies.  John will present projects utilizing Bioengineering and Environmentally-Sensitive techniques from US, and Canada, to New Zealand, some spanning over 15 years.  Case studies will be enhanced with the use of Dirt Time video clips.

John will present information that will be exceptionally relevant to environmentally sensitive streams where fisheries and the associated life stage habitats are of concern.   As a watershed restorationist and design/ build contractor John will show how special construction techniques, combined with these “self-mitigating habitat enhancing methods” can build projects; 1. Without requiring costly river diversions/isolation techniques, 2. Without excessive destruction of the stream banks and channel bottoms, 3. Using designs that include appropriate bioengineering methods to ensure maximum geotechnical and habitat enhancements, and 4. With little to no downstream increases in turbidity!

Attendees will learn about “thalweg management”, an approach to natural river design that looks at the vectors of high velocity during large flows, not just the average channel velocities or shear.  Participants will also learn about the environmentally–sensitive redirective techniques, such as Rock Vanes and Bendway Weirs, which can be employed to “manage the thalweg”.  Redirective methods, using well-graded stone and a wide array of bioengineering have been used successfully for decades throughout the US.  Similarly, John has designed and built projects in ecologically sensitive streams throughout California, Canada and New Zealand.  John will present relevant project case studies to show “the proof’s in the pudding”.

Materials Provided:

In 2005, the Transportation Research Board and National Cooperative Highway Research Board published NCHRP Report 544 – Environmentally Sensitive Channel and Bank Protection Methods. Often referred to a “Alternatives to Riprap”, this report, authored by J. McCullah, D. Gray, and D.F. Shields was published on CD and includes over 50 Techniques, from re-directive Rock Vanes and Bendway Weirs to Vegetated Rip Rap and Longitudinal Stone Toe with Live Siltation. It incorporates design considerations, construction specifications and detailed drawings (in AutoCad format).  CD/DVD Version of ESenSS design guidance manual will be provided free to all class attendees.  This is a USD $100 value.

Who Should Attend?

This class is a must for Engineers, Hydrologists, Planners, and Ecologists who are challenged with Urban Stream “greening”, highway repair, and channel restoration. Designers, urban planners, contractors, material suppliers, inspectors and regulators will all benefit from this course that makes complex subjects simple and practical. The training will be fast and fluid, highlighting John’s construction experience, Dirt Time movie clips and using case studies. Guidance documents, including the NCHRP Report 544 – Environmentally Sensitive Channel and Bank Protection Methods on CD, will be provided for free.

Learning Objectives:

1. Basic Fluvio-geomorphology: Stream Form and process, Lane’s Equation, Channel Evolution Model, Cause and effects of Entrenchment and Proper Function – how a stream “naturally dissipates excess energy” is a design clue

2. Techniques for Channel and Bank Stabilization: The NCHRP Report 544 – Environmentally Sensitive Channel and Bank Protection Methods, Biotechnical – use of engineered materials with vegetation, Large wood debris, living walls, Engineered rock riffles as grade control and Redirective vs. Resistive bank protection

3. Other Solutions: Flood terraces, inset floodplains and VMSE building brushlayering, live siltation etc.


Additional Information:

Lunch and refreshments will be provided.

IECA members are eligible to receive a 10% discount on registration. To register at this discounted price please contact Victoria Kring at and provide your IECA member ID for membership confirmation.

TRCA HST Registration number is 10808 8584 RT001