Stream Enhancement Projects

June 16, 2009 by Will W Leave a reply »


As with most things in life, there is always room for improvement and trout streams are not an exception. Whether it is to correct things that are affecting stream quality or enrich what is currently there, there are companies that specialize in improving your trout waters.

The way to better improve your fishery is through a process known as stream restoration. Stream restoration is returning an ecosystem to a close approximation of its condition prior to disturbance or neglect. The restoration process reestablishes the general structure, function, and dynamic behavior of the ecosystem. Structural enhancement can involve recreating the shape of the stream bank, size of the stream or increase water flow and often includes adding materials such as rock to harden the bank while an example of nonstructural enhancement is planting the riparian zone with vegetation. Stream repair can occur naturally if disturbances are removed, but this process could take many years to come to fruition.

Reasons for prompting a stream restoration or enhancement project can be from personal, financial or ecological motivation. For the angler, the obvious reason would be to improve the numbers and size of the fish. For the landowner thinking of selling a property, stream work will increase the monetary value of the property. But for us all, healthier trout streams positively affect their surroundings, fish populations and spawning practices, and longevity of the stream. It becomes a choice of ecological integrity – improve the land and waters so we, as well as future generations, can enjoy them. Return things to their original state or even leave them better than they were found.

There are many reasons that can lead to the need for stream enhancement or restoration. Just as every stream is different, so are the factors that affect each one. Some of the causes are natural, such as channels meandering over time, flooding, streams being too wide or narrow to support healthy fish populations or blockage caused by rocks or trees that hinder water flow. Others, like misplaced dams and chemicals in the water creating poor water quality and an unhealthy environment, can be caused by man. Erosion is often the result of cattle breaking down the banks of the streams as they graze.

In order to begin a stream improvement project, the body of water and surrounding area must be analyzed to identify what factors are causing the problems. An array of tests are performed, with everything from determining the amount of water flow and water temperature to identifying invertebrates (bugs) in the area and what man-made or natural hindrances are occurring. After the stream is evaluated, a project design and improvement plan can be created. This is a collaborative effort and can include geologists, entomologists and biologists among others. A combination of experience and creativity is used to achieve the project design goal, sometimes using a little imagination along the way.

Joe Urbani, a pioneer and authority in the stream enhancement field, has completed projects across the country. Examples of his accomplishments are in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, at 3 Creek Ranch and Cody Creek Ranch. All three of the trout waters that run through these properties had different issues that were affecting them and their aquatic life and could be improved on. Man-made dams were constricting the water flow on Crane Creek and had to be removed. Spring Creek had naturally meandered and had to be placed back to the proper channel width while a fish ladder was built in Cody Creek to assist the trout populations in reaching new waters, increasing spawning there by providing more recruitment of fish. The most amazing part of these enhancements is that they look like these aquatic systems have always been trophy trout waters with no outside assistance. Sod is in place, willows line the stream banks, trout cruise the premises. This is truly a testament to Urbani’s incredible skill to leave things like you found them, just better.

Determining the success of the enhancement or restoration project lies in the result of the goals that were set to be achieved initially. Whether it is in producing larger fish, better flows, new vegetation, more spawning – results vary from stream to stream and goals from person to person. In the case of Spring Creek, the results can be seen from the “tightness on the line” – Urbani claims it is fishing better than ever.

*In the business of stream restoration and enhancement, experience and quality work are major factors. Joe Urbani is a trailblazer in the field with over 25 years of involvement in fisheries enhancement. His incredible work can be seen in finished projects across the United States. Joseph Urbani & Associates, Inc. is a recognized provider of habitat enhancement and reconstruction of stream, wetland and lake ecosystems that have been degraded by past land management practices, human development and/or erosion. Visit their website at to learn more about Joe, the company, and how they can assist in your stream enhancement.

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