Bringing Back Broad Branch
by Fred Suffian
As you drive around your community, have you noticed people cleaning up roadside litter, groups planting trees, or even working construction equipment near a stream? These folks may be your neighbors or township staff; working to reduce stormwater runoff or stabilize stream banks to restore water quality.
Why do they need to do this? Any activity that disturbs the natural land cover of trees and fields increases the amount of runoff that flows into a stream. This rapidly moving runoff causes stream banks to erode. Litter and chemicals get carried in runoff from the land, adding fertilizers, pesticides, heavy metals and sediment that can clog our streams, kill aquatic organisms, and increase the cost of treating drinking water.
There’s one project underway in the Broad Branch Watershed in the District of Columbia, which reminded me of another reason for stream restoration. In the past, buried pipes were used to disguise unwanted or inconvenient streams. Years ago, a stream of the Broad Branch was buried in a pipe and is now being daylighted (uncovered) by the District Department of the Environment in conjunction with the National Park Service. This article has a great description of the project and the benefits that this daylighted stream will bring to the community.
Researchers are finding that daylighting streams improves nutrient and sediment removal, and can even help with flooding and community revitalization, restoring a healthy and beautiful urban waterway to be enjoyed by all. Do you know of streams in your community that were buried in the past, or were recently daylighted and restored? Let us know in the comments.
About the author: Fred Suffian is the regional Nonpoint Source Program Manager of Section 319 of the Clean Water Act, which provides funding to states to develop and implement watershed based plans to restore local water quality. He is also involved in his community’s environmental advisory council.
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