What’s Next for Stream Restoration in Columbia

December 8, 2021

We all love and cherish our streams, lakes and ponds. They’re part of what makes the Columbia community so special. Protecting, respecting and sustaining those waterways is essential, which sometimes means working to repair some of the damage already done. Stream restoration is one of the tools CA has at its disposal to do just that. We also understand you have questions and concerns about any work happening in your backyard.

The impact of development

Columbia was developed prior to the implementation of stormwater mitigation requirements. That development has had obvious consequences to stream channels throughout our community over decades. It is clear our streams have suffered and do not support healthy ecosystems. In fact, stream bank erosion now puts trees and adjacent properties in danger. These issues must be addressed, which is why organizations like CA pursue options like stream restoration efforts.

An example of severe stream bank erosion in the Swansfield neighborhood (2011).

Where is the restoration happening (and why)?

The banks of the stream that flows from headwaters at High Tor Hill to Lake Elkhorn are rapidly eroding. The sediment produced by these eroding banks is a major source of what has to be removed from both Jackson Pond and Lake Elkhorn. While it is a viable temporary solution, the dredging process is not sustainable or environmentally friendly in the long term.

The stream restoration process reconnects the stream channel to the original flood plain, preventing excessive erosion along the stream banks and protecting trees and property that could otherwise be threatened. With ongoing impacts from climate change, there is no real option of the status quo actually staying the same without intervention. Stream restoration work is an investment for protection and sustainability for generations to come. The stream restoration project will also lower the ongoing costs of maintaining Jackson Pond and Lake Elkhorn and provide better outcomes for the environment.

Where are we in the process?

This particular project is being led by Wetland Studies and Solutions Inc. (WSSI), under the regulatory oversight of the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) and the Army Corps of Engineers. Since the stream runs through CA open space, CA and its Board of Directors have granted easements to allow this important work to take place.

This project is still in the preliminary regulatory review stages, and design work has not begun. What is under consideration right now is what’s known as a mitigation bank. That is a financing mechanism that allows those involved in executing the work to recoup the cost of the project. That means this vital work will not come out of CA’s budget or your annual charge payments, taking advantage of an opportunity to enjoy the multi-generational ecological benefits of this project at no cost.

Again, no design work has started for this project. When design work does begin, there will be a series of public meetings to accommodate public review and comment on the design. That series of public meetings is where feedback, guidance, and ultimately, decisions will be shaped around important project components, including the impact on trees, materials that will be used, construction zone delineations, timelines and more.

CA recently held an education session on the topic of stream restoration, and a recording of that presentation and Q&A can be found on CA’s YouTube page (click here to watch). You can also click here to visit ColumbiaAssociation.org/streamrestoration for additional information. 

Thank you to our neighbors

CA open space is an incredible asset, especially to residents whose backyards back right up to that natural area. While it can be difficult to see that environment change, stream restoration projects will restore the natural stream channel and benefit Columbia for many generations to come. 

We all have a role in protecting this land, and your support of these important environmental efforts truly has a long term impact. Columbia’s streams, ponds and lakes are healthier because of you. 

If you have additional questions about stream restoration efforts, please contact CA Watershed Manager John McCoy at John.McCoy@columbiaassociation.org


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