Photo of Thornton Creek (Seattle, WA) demonstrating the challenges facing rehabilitating urban streams.
Photo of a Seattle Public Utility natural drainage system project in the Piper’s Creek Watershed
Effectiveness of innovative techniques for restoring urban watersheds
Urbanization has had many detrimental effects on City of Seattle creeks, including (but not limited to) dramatic changes in storm flows and sediment transport, degraded water quality, decreased habitat complexity and floodplain connectivity, loss of riparian vegetation, and the presence of anthropomorphic fish barriers. Despite these rapid changes, many of Seattle’s urban streams still support fish and other aquatic biota. Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) has conducted millions of dollars worth of stormwater drainage control, water quality improvement, and habitat restoration projects for the purpose of urban creek restoration over the last decade. Yet relatively little scientific research and monitoring have been conducted in the Northwest or elsewhere in the U.S. on the effectiveness (especially biological) of such restoration efforts in heavily urbanized creeks. Because these streams are so highly altered, innovative approaches to stormwater management are being implemented by SPU to improve water quality, reduce peak flows and improve natural stream functions. In 2005 we initiated a cooperative study with SPU to help evaluate the physical and biological effectiveness of several rehabilitation projects. Our initial efforts focus on evaluating the in-stream effects of natural drainage systems in the Piper’s Creek watershed, with long-term efforts designed to assist SPU with designing monitoring and research for other stream rehabilitation projects in the Seattle and nearby rapidly urbanizing areas.
Phil Roni, Sarah Morley, and Tim Beechie
Keith Kurko, Julie Hall, and Kathrine Lynch (Seattle Public Utilities); and Roger Peters and Roger Tabor (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
Seattle Public Utilities, and NOAA Fisheries
New project (Initiated in 2005)
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