Riparian Corridor Management Principles and Practices

Source: Friends of the Rouge and the Department of Environmental Quality Manual on Riparian Corridor Management Principles and Practices.

Riparian - relating to or living or located on the bank of a natural watercourse (as a river).

Principle #1

Riparian buffers are critical

Establish a vegetated buffer. Generally, the more the better in terms of amount of plants (trees, shrubs, tall grasses vs. turf grass) and the length and width of the vegetated buffer area. Buffer's help filter storm water runoff and reduces the ability of flood water to erode stream banks. When creating and expanding buffers, practice river friendly healthy lawn and garden care to grow healthy, build fertile soils and increase onsite infiltration. When creating and expanding buffers, select plants suited for the site and climate conditions. Plant for the diversity; maximize the use of native species.

Principle #2

What happens to the land determines the quality of the water: Knowledge, education and advocacy.

RCM techniques enhance the transition between the river and the urbanized environment through which it flows. This urbanized environment is the source of many of the river's problems, chief among them the constantly increasing growth of impervious surfaces due to development. Educate yourself and others about natural river processes, the impact of development and the benefits of utilizing RCM principles, practices and techniques. By understanding how water erodes a bank, how a well placed log and/or plantings can solve problems, you can apply those concepts to improve and enhance riparian corridors. Be active in your community regarding the impacts of the development. Encourage and support implementation of local community ordinances policies and initiatives to better manage storm water and to protect (possibly expand) water resources, riparian corridors, natural areas and greenways. Knowledge of these adverse impacts, education of the public regarding the impacts, how to prevent them and political advocacy to encourage governmental entities to adopt more river friendly policies are functions of RCM.

Principle #3

Logjams, bank erosion and flooding are natural processes.

These processes are how the river adapts to land changes. Changes to the land accelerate these processes to unnatural levels. Logjams, bank erosion and flooding are symptoms rather than the true cause of problems. The amount and velocity/energy in the water is the problem. Leave most logjams in place to slow river flow, reduce erosion, preserve and maintain existing habitat. Use logjams as a natural screen for collecting urban litter. Utilize woody material from logjams for stream bank protection and habitat creation.

Principle #4

Understand your property is part of a larger system.

There are no easy of complete fixes. You are operating within a complex and dynamic system. For the benefits of RCM to be realized, the principles and practices must be employed throughout the watershed. Actions must be designed to minimize adverse impacts upstream, downstream and onsite. Implement actions using and least disruptive equipment and techniques possible. MDEQ permits may be required.

Principle #5

Ask for Advice!

Always evaluate site conditions and chose the appropriate method to solve the problem. Make sure the there is a real problem. Sometimes, RCM techniques will not solve the problem. It is appropriate to use traditional engineered techniques in certain situations. You don't need to use RCM for RCMs sake. You can always "green" up traditional methods with native vegetation.