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Use and performance of in-stream structures for river restoration: a case study from North Carolina

Abstract

In-stream structures including cross-vanes, J-hooks, rock vanes, and W-weirs are widely used in river restoration to limit bank erosion, prevent changes in channel gradient, and improve aquatic habitat. During this investigation, a rapid assessment protocol was combined with post-project monitoring data to assess factors influencing the performance of more than 558 in-stream structures and rootwads in North Carolina. Cross-sectional survey data examined for 221 cross sections from 26 sites showed that channel adjustments were highly variable from site to site, but approximately 60 % of the sites underwent at least a 20 % net change in channel capacity. Evaluation of in-stream structures ranging from 1 to 8 years in age showed that about half of the structures were impaired at 10 of the 26 sites. Major structural damage was often associated with floods of low to moderate frequency and magnitude. Failure mechanisms varied between sites and structure types, but included: (1) erosion of the channel bed and banks (outflanking); (2) movement of rock materials during floods; and (3) burial of the structures in the channel bed. Sites with reconstructed channels that exhibited large changes in channel capacity possessed the highest rates of structural impairment, suggesting that channel adjustments between structures led to their degradation of function. The data question whether currently used in-stream structures are capable of stabilizing reconfigured channels for even short periods when applied to dynamic rivers.

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Acknowledgments

This project was funded by a grant from the North Carolina Clean Water Management Trust Fund under Project Number 2002B-805. Without their support this project would not have been possible. A large number of students aided in the collection and manipulation of data for this project, and their efforts are greatly appreciated. They include Heather Gregory, Adam Hunter, Benjamin Jackson, Patrick Jarrett, David Huffstetler, Nate Irwin, and Michelle Pederson. We are also indebted to Jessica Jaynes, who possessed the organizing skills and work ethic to convert a pile of documents into a functioning database. Thanks also go to Chris Tennant for countless hours of manipulating monitoring records, Eric Neff for host of activities, including the analysis of database and hydrologic records, and Gary Nottis for his work with GIS and basin morphometry. We also thank four anonymous reviewers who greatly improved the presentation of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Jerry R. Miller.

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Miller, J.R., Craig Kochel, R. Use and performance of in-stream structures for river restoration: a case study from North Carolina. Environ Earth Sci 68, 1563–1574 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12665-012-1850-5

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Keywords

  • River restoration
  • In-stream structures
  • Fluvial geomorphology
  • Cross-vanes
  • Habitat improvement