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Stabilizing the Streams in Columbia

Stream restoration projects are an important part of keeping this community a sustainable place to live and grow. You may have noticed some trees coming down or construction equipment making its way toward water in your area.

Columbia Association’s (CA) Open Space team is overseeing a new stream restoration project in Columbia, specifically the Harper’s Choice and Wilde Lake areas. There’s one big issue this process is working to address: erosion.

The Problem with Erosion

It is not difficult to point out the erosion problems such as large trees being uprooted and falling across the stream, like the one below between Eliot’s Oak Road and Hesperus Drive.

The water carries sand and sediment coming from the banks downstream and that material ends up in Wilde Lake and Lake Kittamaqundi, which creates the need for large-scale dredging projects. Stream restoration projects help prevent that from happening, saving the community time and money in years to come. 

The work that is currently underway and will restore and enlarge the active flood plain along these streams. Any steep banks will be graded out so runoff moves more slowly into the stream, preventing more serious erosion from occurring. Crews will also use natural materials – like logs and large rocks – to enhance that grade control and keep rainfall moving at a slower pace into the waterways. 

What neighbors can expect

First, it’s important to note that this $2.2 million project is being paid for by the state, not by Columbia residents.

Second, this stream restoration project will reduce the amount of sediments going into Columbia’s lakes by 30%. That means we won’t be dredging as much materials out of the lakes, and we’re not dredging as frequently,” says CA’s Watershed Manager John McCoy.

Here’s what you can expect during the project:

  1. Construction equipment – EcoTone, Inc. is already working to develop ramps and entry ways so construction equipment can get to and from the streams that are being worked on.

  2. Tree removal – Crews won’t be able to save some of the larger trees along the stream. Some ash trees that have already been killed by the Emerald Ash Borer will also come down during this process. The good news: All of what McCoy calls the “big trunk material” will be put in the banks or bottom of the stream to help with grade control.

  3. Pathway closures – Follow signs for detours during this important work. 

Here’s what residents can expect after the project:

This photo shows a stream area in Ellicott City that was restored about a year ago. “Techniques are a little different, but this is a rock ripple, a grade control. We may use more log on that, but you can see how the banks have been laid back,” McCoy said.

EcoTone will replant trees and spread a seeding mix, similar to what was done in Ellicott City.

The benefits of stream restoration

McCoy says the end result of this stream restoration project in Columbia will help:

  1. Improve natural habitats ✔

  2. Reduce flooding in the area ✔

  3. Replenish native species ✔

  4. Protect the infrastructure around the stream (like Pathways) ✔

  5. Reduce sediment in our ponds and lakes ✔

McCoy explains some of the progress and shows the stream restoration project firsthand in this video: CA Stream Restoration Project Overview from Columbia Association on Vimeo.

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