Environmental Protection and Sustainability
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Stream Restoration

Land use changes including urbanization have interrupted the natural, beneficial processes of stream systems. These changes impair the ecological function of Baltimore County’s waterways and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay.

Stream Problems Due to Urbanization

Increased Impervious AreaPavement, Roofs and Other Structures Resulting From DevelopmentIncreased Volume and/or Velocity During Storms; Decreased Base flow
Lack of Riparian BufferFloodplain Encroachment to Maximize DevelopmentDestabilization of Stream Banks and/or Bed Leading to Erosion, Increased Water Temps and Loss of Habitat
Piping, Channelization, and Armoring of StreamsRerouting or Removal of Open Streams to Maximize DevelopmentLoss of Groundwater Recharge, Habitat, Pollutant Removal, and Increase in Storm Flows
Infrastructure Encroachment within FloodplainsRoad Crossings, Storm Drain ConnectionsFlooding and Damage to Public and Private Property
Increased Pollutant and Sediment LoadsYard Chemical and Agricultural Treatments, Oil Spills, Trash, Sediment ErosionImpaired Water Quality and Aquatic Habitat

Baltimore County has a nationally recognized program for implementing stream restoration and stabilization projects. The goal is to improve water quality and ecological function by:

  • Stabilizing stream banks to reduce sediment input to receiving waters
  • Creating appropriate bed features (riffles, pools) to provide important biochemical exchanges, habitat, and energy dissipation
  • Creating or enhancing the vegetative buffer to reduce nutrient pollution and provide habitat
  • Sustaining long-term, natural function by replacing traditional engineered channels which negatively impact ecological function and require periodic maintenance/replacement

Adaptive Approach

Capital Projects and Operations (CPO) are selected based on a systematic assessment of the severity of degradation, the achievable goals for each site and the overall benefit to the watershed. CPO utilizes watershed plans, technical assessments, and a stream complaint database to identify and prioritize potential projects. CPO incorporates a Natural Channel Design approach when implementing projects which entails:

  • Calculating the appropriate channel dimensions to maintain base flow, manage storm flows, and have appropriate sediment movement
  • Creating appropriate bed features and plan form (shape of the channel within the stream valley) to maintain long term stability
  • Using natural, native materials such as rock, logs, and plants to recreate a stable, functional stream system


Baltimore County strives to ensure that the projects consists of restored, ecologically functional, self-maintaining and aesthetically pleasing stream systems. CPO conducts monitoring of restoration sites to ensure that the project is performing according to design intent.

Contact Information

Waterway Improvement Program
Phone: 410-887-2904
Fax: 410-887-4804
E-mail: watersheds@baltimorecountymd.gov

Revised December 22, 2011

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