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Virginia Aquatic Resources Trust Fund: Meadow Creek

Work began May 15, 2012, to restore nearly 9,000 linear feet of Meadow Creek between Hydraulic Road and Greenbrier Park in Charlottesville, preserving 12 acres of wetlands, over 1.5 miles of the Rivanna Trail, and a total of 72 acres of land. Meadow Creek is one of the largest urban stream restoration projects completed in Virginia to date.

Passport to Nature: Take a "trial run" along newly restored sections of Meadow Creek and the Rivanna Trail.

Realigning this section of the creek helped to stabilize the stream and prevent soil erosion, while improving habitat, recreational opportunities, and water quality.  Meadow Creek is a tributary of the Rivanna River and part of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The Meadow Creek restoration was completed in March 2013.

View a slideshow of this restoration success.

The project used an approach called “natural channel design” to establish a stable meandering pattern, reduce streambank erosion and sedimentation, reconnect the stream to its floodplain, and protect and enhance streamside forest. The following restoration activities were completed:

  • The old unstable channel was modified to create appropriate and stable meanders and reduce the height of stream banks.
  • Rock and log structures were installed in the stream channel to provide bank stability and prevent scour.
  • Riffles and pools were created to provide healthy habitat.
  • The floodplain, a key component of the stream system, was enhanced. Depressional features were created along the stream to help naturally dissipate flow energy and provide wetland habitats typical of natural floodplains, enhancing 12 acres of existing wetlands along Meadow Creek in the project area.
  • 19,000 trees and shrubs and 50,000 herbaceous plugs, were planted to restore native forest habitat and enhance stream stability. The stream corridor was further enhanced by removal and treatment of invasive vegetation, which threatened the health and diversity of the streamside forest.

The end result of the restoration process is a functional, self-sustaining stream system and stable stream channel that can move water and sediment so that over time, the channel does not fill with sediment or continually erode.  The project also provides benefits for people, through increased property values to the nearby residential communities.  Relocating the stream channel placed it a safe distance from a major sanitary sewer line.  Due to streambank erosion and migration, the sewer line was located within the stream in some locations.  The project helps prevent the need for costly emergency repairs in the future.

In addition to restoration activities, a total of 72 acres of land, including 12 acres of wetlands, were protected via conservation easements donated by the City of Charlottesville and a private landowner to ensure that the land along the restored stream will never be developed.  The corridor along 1.5 miles of the Rivanna Trail (a National Recreational Trail and a Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail) was also protected, and more than 40 acres of new parkland was added to the public park system.

Collaboration with partners and stakeholders was a key component to successful completion of the Meadow Creek project. The project team included staff from The Nature Conservancy, the City of Charlottesville, the design engineer, the construction firm, the planting and invasive species contractor, numerous utility owners, local environmental and recreational groups, private landowners, and citizens. The project specifically included collaboration with the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority (RWSA), who owns and operates a major sanitary sewer line in the Meadow Creek stream valley.

The project will be monitored for a period of 10 years (2013 - 2023) to ensure success of the restoration. Monitoring will include assessment of native vegetation, invasive species, stream stability, aquatic habitat features, and wetland function. Maintenance activities, such as invasive species control or supplemental planting, will be conducted if needed to ensure ecological success.

In 2014, the Meadow Creek project won a Merit Award from the American Council of Engineering Companies of Virginia.  The Engineering Excellence Awards recognize outstanding engineering projects. Submissions are judged based on innovation, complexity, and social, economic, and sustainable design considerations.

The project was also awarded a grant by the Landscape Architecture Foundation through their Case Study Investigation program.  Through this unique program, we will collaborate with UVA professor Leena Cho to conduct research on a suite of benefits of the project, including environmental, economic, and social.

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