Environmental processes and human-induced practices often alter the natural morphology of a stream, resulting in bank erosion and sediment transport. Natural Channel Design (NCD) is a fairly new concept to stream restoration that utilizes the natural fluvial geomorphology of a stream to promote stabilization and to reconstruct aquatic and flood plain habitat.
Elbow Creek is a major tributary that enters Lake Algonquin, Wells, NY. In 1996, a severe storm event washed out a section of Glimantown Road. Beadload was carried to flat sections of the stream, velocity decreased, and cobble and pavement were deposited in the streambed and in Lake Algonquin. Since then, other storm events have further increased bank erosion as water is deflected off the deposited material in the channel to stream banks. Local landowners suffer from soil erosion, tourism is impacted with decreased fish populations, and the Elbow Creek ecosystem has been adversely impacted.
NCD has been implemented on Elbow Creek, and the goal of restoration is to decrease erosion and sediment transport during a bank full event. J-hooks and cross vanes are rock structures that, when placed in a stream and along the bank, diffuse and redirect the energy of the stream to the middle of the channel, reducing bank erosion. This reestablishes the flow of the stream to a more stable, non-erosive state. Pools behind these structures create superb habitat for aquatic life. Structures were installed along a 1900-foot stretch of Elbow Creek.
This project was a success due to the joint efforts of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (operator of structure installation and project design), Hamilton County Soil and Water Conservation District (project coordinator, provided grant funds for restoration material and equipment), Town of Wells Highway Department (provided trucking for removal of spoil), and the Hamilton County Highway Department (trucking and hauling of rock).
If you would like more information on this project or Natural Channel Design, please contact the Hamilton County Soil and Water Conservation District office at 518-548-3991.