SPOKANE, Wash. – Sue Niezgoda, Gonzaga University associate professor of civil engineering, is the lead author of a new study that defines a core body of knowledge for stream restoration – an industry now valued at more than $1 billion each year in the United States. The article is published in the February issue of the ASCE Journal of Hydraulic Engineering.
The recommendations in the article, titled “Defining a Stream Restoration Body of Knowledge as a Basis for National Certification,” will result in more consistent and successful projects by reducing uncertainty and raising the standard of care in design, Niezgoda said.
According to data from the National River Restoration Science Synthesis (NRRSS), more than 37,000 stream restoration projects occurred in the United States between 1990 and 2003 with an average cost of more than $380,000. As the number of river restoration projects in North America continues to grow, the Pacific Coast has the largest number of projects and greatest investment overall, the NRRSS notes. While engineers are expected to meet professional standards in designing stream restoration projects, no guidelines currently exist to provide a reasonable set of expectations.
“The widespread practice of restoration, now a billion dollar a year industry in the United States, coupled with highly inconsistent results, demands its conversion into a profession with broadly accepted principles and methods of tested reliability,” Niezgoda’s article notes. Eight other engineering scholars nationwide contributed to the study – including faculty at Johns Hopkins University, Colorado State University, University of Virginia, Virginia Tech University, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, and University of Tennessee.
The study incorporates existing research with a survey assessing professional development and training needs in developing a Stream Restoration Body of Knowledge, which defines the knowledge and skills a general practitioner of stream restoration must acquire through education, training, and experience. The study also will aid in development of stream restoration courses and curricula, facilitate stream restoration certification, and provide regulatory agencies and employers with a baseline to assess the skills and capabilities of stream restoration professionals.
“The results show a general practitioner where they stand with respect to the required skills and abilities to effectively practice in such a multidisciplinary and complex field. The realization that a practitioner has a lot yet to learn, particularly outside their area of expertise, is often quite humbling. When you truly realize what you don’t know, you are more willing to seek out expertise to help in those areas or advance your knowledge in those areas,” Niezgoda said.
The study is also important to educators in all stream restoration disciplines (engineering, fisheries, ecology, geomorphology, landscape architecture, etc.) as it will help develop curricula and create a shared foundation of knowledge in the classroom.
In recent years, recovery of streams damaged by development, neglect or environmental factors has expanded greatly due to the availability of processes to improve ecosystem functions and enhance biodiversity. As a result, these definitive training requirements, design procedures and monitoring protocols are required, notes Niezgoda and the other researchers.
For more information, please contact Sue Niezgoda at (509) 313- 3642 or via e-mail.