Banking on Bioengineering

by Todd Hoitsma, Plant Ecologist; Inter-Fluve Inc., Bozeman, MT,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1999, Vol. 69, Issue 1, Pg. 60-62

Document Type: Feature article


Geoenvironmental engineers have traditionally used riprap to protect streambanks and river banks from erosion. In recent years, however, river regulators, permitting agencies, and county and state governments have become interested in softer approaches that result in a more natural appearance and integrate biology with engineering. Used in the U.S. since the 1940s and in Europe for hundreds of years, bioengineered stream banks offer several advantages over riprapped banks. Where rock is expensive, cost savings can be substantial. Municipalities have also saved money by building stream banks that generate wetland credit and eliminate expensive off-site mitigation. In addition, the use of native plants on mid- and upper-level stream banks improves aesthetics and habitat compared with banks held together with large rock, wire and rock gabions, concrete or gunnite.

Subject Headings: River bank stabilization | Rocks | Riprap | Erosion | State government | Local government | Wetlands (fresh water) | Aesthetics | Europe

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