Stream restoration has typically focused on channel stability and using heavy machinery to put it back into shape. An emerging approach is to determine what has been removed from a stream (e.g. large wood, riparian vegetation, beaver dams, etc.), restoring that ingredient, then letting the stream heal itself over time. This is “process-based restoration.”

Because this approach requires less technical, engineering know-how, it can be successfully implemented by more people, across larger areas, at lower costs. With collaborators, I am working to help implement this approach in the Bitterroot River basin of western Montana – my home.

Building Local Capacity

Step 1 to address the scope of stream degradation? Build the capacity of local organizations to implement process-based restoration on their own.

Instructional BDA build day with Bitter Root Water Forum, Reimel Creek – Photos courtesy of Katie Vennie

Researching Unknowns

The most famous technique of process-based restoration is the beaver dam analogue (BDA) – basically a human built beaver dam that captures sediment and helps reconnect a stream to its historic floodplain. But, can threatened Bull Trout and other at-risk fishes successfully pass BDAs?

I partnered with Marshall Wolf (Utah State University) and the Bitter Root Water Forum to find out. You can see our results in the video below or in our upcoming publication (in review).

Project Partners