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A Riparian Restoration Handbook

By Irv Schiffman

As more and more communities and individuals come to understand the importance of riparian restoration and the multiple benefits that result from restoration activity – enhancing ecological, social and economic values – restoration activity has increased throughout the country. Moreover, the lessons of Katrina and the challenges posed by climate change have led to further appreciation of the significance of floodplains and the real and potential consequences of their decline.

While restoration activity has increased, it has not always been accomplished in the best manner. Properly carried out, riparian restoration is a science –some might call it an art – encompassing research, planning, implementation, maintenance and monitoring techniques. Careless or improper restoration can fail to achieve the objectives sought and may, in fact, contribute to further denigration of the riparian area or river channel.

For such reasons and more, the second edition of California Riparian Habitat Restoration Handbook should be welcomed by “anyone responsible for writing a proposal for a riparian restoration project, anyone beginning to implement the project, or those responsible for compliance and mitigation monitoring of such a project.” The Handbook gathers in one convenient publication “all of the elements of a site-specific riparian restoration project that must be addressed in order for a project to be successful.”

The author of the Handbook is River Partners Senior Ecologist, Tom Griggs. Tom has been involved in the planning and implementation of restoration projects in the Central Valley for more than 20 years. The Handbook reflects the collective experience of Tom, his River Partners colleagues, and the public and private agency members who reviewed both the first and second drafts of the publication. Tom was closely assisted in preparing the second edition of the Handbook by our Irvine Restoration Fellow, Meghan Gilbart.

The Handbook, of course, sets forth the essential planning, ecological and design aspects of the restoration process. Readers will also find most useful a five-page table summarizing the advantages and disadvantages of using particular implementation methods. A valuable series of case studies illustrate how the restoration process is used in different riparian locations while focusing on specific restoration objectives.

No restoration project can proceed without obtaining the necessary permits and this can be a complex and frustrating endeavor. The Handbook details the preproject approval permits and the implementation permits that are necessary for various projects and the agencies responsible for their administration.

The Riparian Habitat Joint Venture, a coalition of environmental organizations and government agencies, identified a need for guidelines for planning and implementing riparian restoration projects. River Partners took on the task of preparing such a publication. That Handbook is now available and its distribution and use will, I am certain, contribute to the improvement and success of restoration projects in California and beyond.

The above article originally appeared in the Fall 2009 issue of the River Partners Journal.