The Practice of Stream Restoration: Panel Discussion at the 2010 Sustaining Colorado Watersheds Conference

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by Julie Ash, Walsh Environmental

The 2010 Sustaining Colorado Watersheds Conference included an interactive panel discussion on the current state of stream restoration in Colorado. The panel launched a much needed, open dialogue among the people who care for our river systems and riparian areas, from watershed groups and funders, to practitioners and researchers, to regulators and independent stewards.

The panel was comprised of the experts listed below, who represent a diverse mix of experience from the field, academia, and regulatory worlds, as well as a range of experience and project setting, such as urbanized vs natural systems.

  • Dr. Brian Bledsoe, Colorado State University
  • Dr. Sue Niezgoda, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology
  • Sue Nall, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
  • Dave Bennetts, Urban Drainage & Flood Control District
  • Mark Beardsley, EcoMetrics, LLC
  • Corey Engen, FlyWater, Inc.
  • Grant Gurnée, Walsh Environmental

The restoration panel was opened by Curtis Hartenstine who presented information on the new Measurable Results Program (MRP) in Colorado. Curtis helped conference attendees transition from the preceding broad level discussion of Measurable Results initiated during the plenary session, over to Colorado-specific issues. Dr. Sue Niezgoda reported on Phase 1 results of a nationwide Practitioner Survey, as well as next steps in a program working towards better understanding of stream restoration.

The interactive discussion that ensued for the duration of the panel was encouraging in its display of devotion and stewardship throughout our Colorado riparian community. A long potential list of discussion topics was at the ready, including how to meet project goals, funding challenges, and many more posed by the fully engaged audience. The reality, however, and the lesson learned by this first panel, was that smaller steps are needed before meaningful forward progress can be made. Specifically, the issue of design team qualifications was broached with the intent of debating ways that project proponents might ensure hiring of the most appropriate team. The remaining time was expended instead on what surfaced as a clear need for consensus on a working terminology for the restoration world (e.g., restoration vs. rehabilitation vs. enhancement, etc.) and on the hotly debated topic of whether or not any formalized registration of practitioners might be needed.

Resolution of specific issues was not reached by this panel discussion – but remember that this was not the goal. The restoration community in Colorado has long been missing a dedicated and comprehensive forum for open discussion. The 2010 conference and the restoration panel helped get the ball rolling. CRA is now working collaboratively with the Colorado Watershed Assembly (CWA) to nurture the momentum gained at the conference, such that meaningful forward progress can be made in follow-up, prior to and during the next conference. CRA and CWA will be reaching out to its members, as well as regulators and other like-minded organizations, for thoughts and input as we go. So keep an eye on CRA’s website, http://www.coloradoriparian.org for updates and notifications and mark your calendars now because the 6th Annual Sustaining Colorado Watersheds Conference is in the works (October 4 through 6, 2011 at the Westin Riverfront in Avon) and will include round 2 of the Practice of Stream Restoration Panel.