Urbanization has led to a large increase in paved surface area. This has caused urban streams and rivers to swell to higher levels and to do so more frequently. With more water comes more erosion, making it increasingly important to properly maintain and protect urban stream and river banks.

There are several practices that can be implemented to restore streambanks and protect them from erosion. Meanders can be added to slow the flow of water, debris can be removed to avoid flow diversion towards streambanks, and most importantly, vegetation should be established along the banks. A deeply rooted and diverse combination of vegetation will be most effective at withstanding erosive forces. Consider planting native prairie grasses which can grow roots over 10 feet deep, rather than the 2-6 inches of standard lawn grass. Along with this native vegetation, trees or other woody vegetation could be interspersed to further strengthen the bank.

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Native prairie grasses are much taller than standard lawn grass, and they develop the deepest root systems when allowed to flourish to their full potential. Therefore, mowing regimens should be reevaluated along urban waterways. Mowing should especially be avoided near streams and rivers in areas that have been restored with native vegetation. The native vegetation will armor stream and river banks with a natural erosion mat that will provide protection for the waterway swells, as well as slow any overland flow from the surrounding mowed or paved areas.

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Ruekert & Mielke, Inc. Staff

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