Repairing Incised and Degraded (Urbanized) Streams – Natural Channel Design, Biotechnical Techniques and Case Studies

Coming soon!
Earth Rangers Centre, 9520 Pine Valley Dr, Woodbridge
Instructor: John McCullah

We have elected to reschedule in order to take advantage of construction timing windows which will ultimately allow for a more engaging and valuable learning experience during the field component of this event.  Stay tuned for new dates!

Conservation Authority staff are eligible to receive a $100 discount when registering for both days.  For more details please contact Amanda Slaght

Course Description

This two-day course will present the current state of the art with regards to environmentally-sensitive stream and river repair and bank protection. The training will combine classroom and hands on learning – combining theory with the practical applications and lots of case studies. The classroom sessions will cover topics like basic fluvio-geomorphology, stream forms and processes, Proper Functioning Condition, hydromodification and environmentally-sensitive techniques.

The second day in the field will include a stream walk intended to help learn “how to read the stream”, identify geomorphic and vegetative indicators for OHWM and bank full discharge elevation, how to choose appropriate plants and discuss construction methods. The attendees will also participate in the construction of a couple of demonstration bank protection methods. Be ready to harvest and handle willow materials and learn how the willow stake, live branch and pole cutting can be incorporated into a biotechnical method like Vegetated Mechanically Stabilized Earth (VMSE) using coir blocks and compost socks.

John will present information that will be exceptionally relevant to environmentally sensitive streams where fisheries and the associated life stage habitats are of concern. As a watershed restorationist and design/ build contractor John will show how special construction techniques, combined with these “self-mitigating habitat enhancing methods” can build projects; 1. Without requiring costly river diversions/isolation techniques, 2. Without excessive destruction of the stream banks and channel bottoms, 3. Using designs that include appropriate bioengineering methods to ensure maximum geotechnical and habitat enhancements, and 4. With little to no downstream increases in turbidity!

Attendees will learn about “thalweg management”, an approach to natural river design that looks at the vectors of high velocity during large flows, not just the average channel velocities or shear. And you will learn about the environmentally–sensitive redirective techniques, such as Rock Vanes and Bendway Weirs, which can be employed to “manage the thalweg”. Redirective methods, using well-graded stone and a wide array of bioengineering have been used successfully for decades throughout the US. Similarly, John has designed and built projects in ecologically sensitive streams throughout California, Canada and New Zealand. John will present relevant project case studies to show “the proof’s in the pudding”.

Materials Provided:

In 2005, the Transportation Research Board and National Cooperative Highway Research Board published NCHRP Report 544 – Environmentally Sensitive Channel and Bank Protection Methods. Often referred to a “Alternatives to Riprap”, this report, authored by J. McCullah, D. Gray, and D.F. Shields was published on CD and includes over 50 Techniques, from re-directive Rock Vanes and Bendway Weirs to Vegetated Rip Rap and Longitudinal Stone Toe with Live Siltation. It incorporates design considerations, construction specifications and detailed drawings (in AutoCad format). CD/DVD Version of ESenSS design guidance manual will be provided free to all class attendees. This is a USD$100 value


Who Should Attend?

This class is a must for Engineers, Hydrologists, Planners, and Ecologists who are challenged with Urban Stream “greening”, highway repair, and channel restoration. Designers, urban planners, contractors, material suppliers, inspectors and regulators will all benefit from this course that makes complex subjects simple and practical. The training will be fast and fluid, highlighting John’s construction experience, Dirt Time movie clips and using case studies. Guidance documents, including the NCHRP Report 544 – Environmentally Sensitive Channel and Bank Protection Methods on CD, will be provided for free.


Learning Objectives:

1. Basic Fluvio-geomorphology: Stream Form and process, Lane’s Equation, Channel Evolution Model, Cause and effects of Entrenchment and Proper Function – how a stream “naturally dissipates excess energy” is a design clue

2. Techniques for Channel and Bank Stabilization: The NCHRP Report 544 – Environmentally Sensitive Channel and Bank Protection Methods, Biotechnical – use of engineered materials with vegetation, Large wood debris, living walls, Engineered rock riffles as grade control and Redirective vs. Resistive bank protection

3. Other Solutions: Flood terraces, inset floodplains and VMSE building brushlayering, live siltation etc.


Additional Information:

Lunch and refreshments will be provided.

IECA members are eligible to receive a 10% discount on registration. To register at this discounted price please contact Amanda Slaght at and provide your IECA member ID for membership confirmation.

TRCA HST Registration number is 10808 8584 RT001