The energy of flowing water is incredibly powerful. As rain falls on the landscape, the force of the raindrops breaks the ground surface into smaller pieces. Vegetation and soil structure help to resist the force of the water, but as the intensity or duration increases, additional pieces are separated from the ground. Water falling on the ground consolidates and finds areas of lower elevation where the weight of the water can force itself to flow downhill.
When enough water accumulates together, its force digs into the earth and creates a channel to convey the flow. The channel beds are formed by the coarsest material, which can resist erosion or be difficult to push. Channel banks are created by the equalization of the strength of the vegetation, stones, and soils to resist the energy of the water. The resulting form creates a space that transports water, nutrients, and pollutants downstream through a connected network to a downstream body of water and eventually to an ocean. The water picks up and moves sediment and obstacles along the way, intermittently transporting and depositing along its path. All the connected creeks, streams, rivers, and bays provide habitat for communities of organisms adapted to these transient and variable environments, including trout.
On the bottom of a streambed, sediment particles lodge together in different configurations. These sediment particles are different sizes and shapes, locking together in clastic accumulations to form riffles, runs, glides, step pools, and other bed features of a stream channel. Water flows over and through the sediments, exchanging minerals, organic material, and dissolved ions within the spaces and organisms living in the ecosystems.
These systems respond and react to the climate and weather where they are located. Over time, a rhythm develops among all the components, generating resilience and adaptation. The interference of human activity can upset the balance of those seasonal and episodic rhythms. Agriculture, construction, development, land use, and management actions change the stimulus-response rhythms and destabilize the boundaries of our river systems. Gigantic gullies form, tons of stream bank erosion occurs, fine material deposits, choking out the life which relies on the channel sediments, and riparian environments lose connection with the streams.
My career has focused on learning as much as I can about how streams work and how to prevent, protect, and restore streams from human-induced disturbance. Through applied science, engineering, and experimentation, I propose holistic solutions to redirect the trajectory of a perturbed stream system to a healthier, sustainable, and resilient course. Not all the projects I have worked on and designed have created exactly the conditions I imagined, but all of them have produced an improved system beyond its pre-existing vulnerable state. Many of the projects exceeded my expectations and created settings that appear as if they were never impacted. I am proud of the work I have been associated with and what I have learned.
Outrage is present and communicated in our world more than ever, often rightfully so. Which of the following three words seems out of place with outrage?
- Stream Restoration
Outrage has entered my professional world surrounding the industry that I work in. Misinformation and misunderstanding fuel outrage. I see in it other aspects of life where instead of seeking understanding or learning, people automatically assume the worst or a devious conspiracy. Ignoring your own opportunity to learn, to participate, to discuss, and to use their voice to make a better way brings everyone down. I have been guilty of letting emotions take over me and rushing to judgment, but those actions have never led me to growth, only anger and resentment. That shows ignorance, not activism. I believe there is always a better way, always room for improvement. I hope I can help find a better way through the outrage.