The Ups and Downs of Using Wood in Stream Restoration

Presentation Overview:

Many stream restoration projects successfully provide a stable channel. However, the restoration of biological function can be slow.

Research has shown that a lack of carbon is responsible for the slow return of biological function. In response, designers have found ways to increase the amount of wood used in in-stream and bank protection structures.

Designers have figured out how to include wood in j-hooks, drop structures and constructed riffles. Bank protection structures that use wood tend to focus on protecting the toe with woody debris.

The benefits of using wood include a faster restoration of biological function, excellent fish habitat, and very effective energy dissipation and bank protection.

The drawbacks include getting the structures permitted by inexperienced regulators and getting the contractor to build them correctly. However, these drawbacks are diminishing with each completed project.

Depending on the project and its location, the use of wooden structures can increase or decrease costs. Overall, the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks and all practitioners should be incorporating wood whenever possible.

Learning Objectives:

  • Learn how designers can include wood in their designs.
  • Understand the value of wood in stream restoration projects and why regulators should encourage designers to include wood in more designs.
  • Learn how the use of wooden structures is becoming more common and what contractors will need to do differently as a result.


Brad Fairley, 5 Smooth Stones Restoration Inc.

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