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What is Stream Restoration?
Stream restoration is the process of repairing creeks damaged by erosion. The primary goals are cleaner water, stable banks, and improved habitat for aquatic life and wildlife. Where possible, the floodplain along the stream is also restored.  

Three Levels of Stream Protection

  1. To restore a stream means to re-create meanders, stabilize soil and install gently sloping stream banks. Stream restoration is not always possible due to constraints such as utility crossings, structures or roadways.
This is a stream suffering from extreme erosion
This is a stream suffering from extreme erosion.
Meanders installed during a stream enhancement project
Meanders installed during a stream enhancement project

2.  To enhance a stream is to attempt meanders and gentle slopes where possible and to stabilize the soil.

3.  To stabilize a stream is simply to secure the stream banks from further erosion because constraints limit other degrees of stream protection.

See a list of Stream Restoration/Enhancement projects in Charlotte-Mecklenburg

Soil Bioengineering
Bioengineering is a critical component of stream restoration. Soil bioengineering is the specialized use of plant materials to stabilize soil by combining engineering principles with plant science. The roots of plants grow into the soil and bind the soil particles together thereby reducing erosion.

Bioengineering is works better than any type of “hard” stabilization like rip-rap or concrete for many reasons:



  1. Plants are self-correcting. They will grow into open pockets. Rip-rap will not move back onto a bare area of stream bank.
  2. Plants are natural materials that provide habitat for aquatic life.
  3. Plants are often cheaper to install.
Soil bioengineering utilizes live stakes for plant materials
Soil bioengineering utilizes live stakes for plant materials

This stream buffers video shows the important role of plants and other vegetation in repairing creeks.


If a stream has been badly damaged by years of erosion and neglect, full restoration may a long time. Even after Storm Water Services has completed its restoration work, it may take years for newly-planted grasses, shrubs and trees to mature and help return the stream to full health.

Stream restoration brochure


If stream protection is not possible, Storm Water Services may take other steps to help the stream adjust to the urban environment.