Review of the Stream Investigation & Design Workshop

“When looking at any functioning stream,” says potomologist Dave Derrick of River Research and Design, Inc., “there are three goals to consider. Those goals are to protect the stream and the watershed surrounding it, preserve its existing integrity, and to stabilize and restore any aspects of the stream that are lacking or degraded.” Over the course of a remarkable hands-on stream workshop that took place March 7-9th and presented by the North Jersey RC&D, these goals were examined, explained and realized in both indoor and in the field applications.


It’s no secret that across New Jersey, streams left to their own devices can often threaten infrastructure and valued property. As a result, there needs to be a formulated plan of action to stabilize these forces. During the stream investigation and design workshop, Dave’s 35+ years of experience in stream and river management served to educate attendees from a wide range of backgrounds, highlighting innovative, environmentally-sensitive, and cost effective approaches to restoration in detail.


The classrooms were equally as diverse. During the course of the workshop, both indoor and outdoor locales were utilized. On the first day, our theoretical base of knowledge in stream restoration was built at the Rutgers Snyder Research Farm in Pittstown, NJ. In a classroom setting, Dave gave several very informative lectures in relation to such topics as his general philosophy of restoration efforts, resistive and continuous bank stabilization methods, and bio-engineering of projects he has been a part of in the past.


The next day of the course, the day began at Mine Brook Park in Flemington, NJ, where we examined a past project along the Walnut Brook, a stream that had undergone major restoration back in 2009 in connection with the North Jersey RC&D. The project took place on property owned by the Hunterdon Land Trust. During the course of this project, in which instructor Dave Derrick was also a part, the riparian corridor of Walnut Brook was restored, and an additional wetland was constructed to control its flood waters. As a group, we analyzed the performance of the completed project and developed our own concept designs for two additional reaches that could later serve as plans for future action at the site. We also observed how the stream has changed over the time since the completion of the project and discussed how the plan could have been implemented differently. As Dave had told the group, the first question he always asks when re-visiting a completed project is, “What would you have done differently?”


On the final day of the course, we once again met at the rustic classroom at the Dvoor Farm of the Hunterdon Land Trust in Flemington. After brief morning presentations, we once again head out into the field of two local streams in Hunterdon and Warren counties to examine the watersheds and analyze them for possible improvement. We began at the Capoolong Creek in Clinton, NJ, where we split into smaller groups to get a better understanding how to design our own plans of action. After some time to examine the stream with our group, we convened at the Neu Farm to share our design plans with the whole group. Hearing the full scape of plans from each group really helped cement what we had learned from Dave and our own understanding of reading a stream.


After finishing up at the Capoolong Creek, we then traveled to our last location at the Lopatcong Creek, near Phillipsburg, NJ. The section of stream we examined was located parallel to the historic Morris Canal, and showed clear signs of past human interference, with much variance in the original path of the stream. As we walked the tow path next to the stream bank as a group, it was easy to determine a plethora of ways to better the stream and address some of the many issues it showed.


The stream workshop was certainly one of the most informative events I have ever attended in regards to how to read and develop concept designs for stream restoration, and I was not alone in my review of the course.


“The course was very well thought out considering the amount of time we had.” Said Kelly McKean of the New York DEC, “The field components were very important to supplement the classroom lectures, and fantastic examples were given by Dave Derrick.”


“This was the most I have learned in two days in regards to stream design and management. Ample information was given, and I am eager to attend another workshop in the future.” – Kristi MacDonald, Raritan Headwaters Association


Brian Sayre of Dewberry: “The different scales of application really showed how the information can be applied to a range of landscapes and any given stream. Fantastic workshop.”


This course highlighted how there are many forces to consider when considering how to begin a stream restoration project. Techniques on understanding how to analyze these forces, how to read a given stream, and developing a stabilization and restoration plan that can stand the test of time cannot be made overnight or even by a single person. Rather, a solid collective group must work together to determine the best course of action for those involved, the watershed, and consider cost-effective, environmental solutions that will form a cohesive and effective plan of action. This workshop was a crash-course for many, myself included, in considering these criteria when examining a stream. If I am able to apply even part of what I have learned personally as an attendee of this event, I have gained a true appreciation for stream and watershed management.



stream workshop


Nick Zemlachenko

Conservation Coordinator

North Jersey RC&D