A Brief History of the Keystone Stream Team

Canaan Valley Institute (CVI) was contacted in September 1999 to discuss options dealing with concerns by several people who were implementing or had a stake in the Natural Stream Channel Design (NSCD) approach to stream restoration. They had recognized that there were some obstacles or concerns associated with using the NSCD approach to stream restoration. CVI offered to host a one-day workshop on the subject with the assistance of a planning committee made up of various agencies and organizations who could help in the planning and coordination of such a workshop. Over 20 different organizations and agencies were contacted to participate in the effort. A small planning committee formed made up of representatives from federal and state agencies, private consulting firms, and public organizations. Over a period of four months the agenda was set, brochures were mailed out and registrations were received.

The Natural Stream Design Summit was held on February 18, 2000. The summit drew over 130 participants despite some very wintery weather. The agenda included a brief overview of what NSCD was and several case studies of initiatives taking place in Maryland and North Carolina. A panel presentation made up of representatives of governmental agencies discussed their agency’s involvement in the natural stream channel design approach to stream restoration. The afternoon agenda consisted of a brainstorming session in which the audience listed and prioritized the major concerns. Each attendee was given the opportunity to voice his or her concerns and get them put up on the screen. A list of 72 concerns was generated.

The concerns list was polished up and the results were presented and discussed at the Natural Stream Design Summit Wrap-up Meeting held on May 8, 2000. The planning committee took the results of the summit as an indication that there were some areas of using this approach that needed attention. The only way to do this was to form a group that could take the issues and work together to develop a strategy in addressing them. It was also decided that CVI would continue to facilitate and coordinate the group until there was another person or organization that would like to take over that role.

The first stream team meeting was held on June 2, 2000. The agenda consisted of a categorization and prioritization process of the 72 concerns. Many of the concerns were similar, so they were combined into broader categories with all the concerns from the list being placed within a related category. The broad categories included: Education, Permitting, Implementation and Construction, Problem Identification and Success Criteria, and Evaluations and Monitoring. All of the concerns within each category were then re-prioritized. Three of the five categories were discussed and prioritized at this first meeting.

The second stream team meeting was held on July 10, 2000. The team continued the process of categorizing and prioritizing the list of concerns. The group decided that "Keystone Stream Team" would be their formal name. Other organizational items attended to at this meeting included identification of additional people or organizations that should be represented. The group decided that a letter requesting participation should be sent out to the list of agencies and/or individuals that were identified.

The next step was to take a look at each category of concern and come up with several doable projects and recommendations to start addressing solutions or strategies. Each category was addressed and discussed in detail to develop those strategies and potential projects. Each project had various members of the team assigned to them with specific tasks.

The first doable project the Keystone Stream Team had decided to take on was a set of guidelines targeting permitting personnel and designers of stream restoration projects. The Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay was funded by the Pennsylvania DEP/U.S. EPA 319 Program to coordinate the project and write the document. Members of the Keystone Stream Team formed three workgroups who met to discuss content and format of the guidelines. The three workgroups included: Assessment and Monitoring, Data Collection and Design, and Construction and Implementation. Pennsylvania DEP expressed interest in using the guidelines as a foundation for developing an improved way of permitting various types of stream restoration projects, particularly those using natural stream channel design, and the guidelines would serve as a medium for public notice of the new technology. The first draft of the guidelines was prepared and available for comments by June 1, 2001.

The second project the Team had adopted was to host a 2nd and 3rd Annual Natural Stream Channel Design Summit. These would follow up on the issues identified during the first summit and suggestions listed on Summit evaluation forms. The primary source of funding for this project was expected from a Growing Greener Technical Assistance Grant from Pennsylvania DEP to Canaan Valley Institute. The 2nd Annual Summit was held June 28-30, 2001. The presentations covered a variety of topics from watershed vision and a general overview of Fluvial Geomorphology (FGM), to discussions on sediment transport and permitting. The draft guidance document was presented and comments were solicited for the purpose of public input. The summit was formatted with both technical and non-technical tracks for registrants to choose from based upon experience. A major goal of the 2nd Summit was to make it available to everyone, so by offering two tracks of presentations, no registration fee, and scholarships for non-profit organizations access to the conference was wide open. The summit was attended by more than 290 people representing a variety of agencies and organizations.

The 3rd Annual NSCD Summit was held on April 25-27, 2002. Topics on the agenda included a FGM 101 course, a discussion on minimizing impacts during construction, and a regulatory panel discussion on the new phased watershed permit. Pennsylvania DEP developed the new permit process in response to the overwhelming need expressed at the previous summits. The overriding theme of this summit was an expression of lessons learned, plan early, and involve all partners up front in the process. Again the summit was a success with over 250 people in attendance. Representation from agencies, watershed organizations, consultants, and other non-profit organizations was well distributed. The funding for the 2nd and 3rd annual NSCD Summits was originally awarded to Canaan Valley Institute by the DEP TAG grant, but CVI returned in the TAG grant for their own financial reasons and to help DEP with budget cuts for Growing Greener, so ultimately CVI financially supported both summits with the assistance of several sponsors. Again there was no registration fee to attendees and scholarships were offered to members of non-profit organizations.

The summit also served as an opportunity to unveil the Guidelines for Natural Stream Channel Design for Pennsylvania Waterways. The comments from the last summit and several additional meetings of the committees resulted in the much revised document from the previous draft. The hope for the guidelines is that anyone involved in any phase of a natural stream channel design project will use the document as a guide for planning and implementation. The guidelines are meant to be an evolving document with pages or sections continuously being updated as the technology evolves. As with comments received from the guidelines, each summit had an evaluation form that served as the foundation for the format of the next one. The guidelines and the summits have very much been an inclusive process with input gathered from a very broad audience.

Since the guidelines and the 2nd and 3rd annual NSCD Summits had come to an end, so to speak, the Keystone Stream Team met on June 13, 2002, to discuss the need to continue their work and where the needs still remained. The team went through a second mini-strategic planning exercise by revisiting the original concerns list developed at the first summit. As a result of the strategic planning exercise, there were four projects identified for the team to begin developing. The four projects include: a 4th Annual Natural Stream Channel Design Summit targeted for the spring 2004 to be chaired by The Center for Dirt and Gravel Roads at Penn State University; development of costs relationships associated with each phase and sub-phases of a natural stream channel design project; development of an educational and informational database/website for the Keystone Stream Team; and development of a process for designers to easily get peer review on a project design. All of these initiatives are underway. Another ongoing project of the team is to continue to update sections of the guidelines as they are needed.

The second part of the strategic planning session was to identify any additional partners that have not been invited in the past, but obviously missing from the group, and how to continue to draw attention to the team from those agencies that haven’t been as participatory as desired. On-going initiatives in this area are being developed.

The focus of this team has been to try to develop solutions or strategies for addressing issues whether they are statewide, regional or local. The Team has recognized the need to update the Issues and Concerns list due to the changes in technology, getting more projects on the ground, and the demand for this technology that the availability of funding has created. Because of these and other influences on projects when using the NSCD approach issues have evolved to become more sophisticated in nature. Most of the earlier issues and concerns have been resolved or are in progress, but a new class has come forward. Now is the time to gather input from the masses on any new issues facing designers, contractors, project sponsors, funders, and permitters. Efforts are currently being considered to try to develop a complete list of "new" issues to be discussed at future Keystone Stream Team meetings.