Stream Maintenance

How Do I Care For a Stream on My Property?

Though any stream flowing through your property and the larger creek or watershed is regulated by federal, state and local governments, the care of the creek channel and its buffer is your responsibility as the property owner. 

A common concern for property owners is woody debris, the trunks, limbs and branches in a waterway. Larger accumulations are referred to as large woody debris (LWD). 

Under normal conditions, LWD is a natural and important part of aquatic ecosystems and is not a problem. It provides food and cover for fish and insects that become food for larger animals, and it creates pools that are desirable habitats. LWD also offers erosion control and adds physical structure to banks and channel bottoms. In many cases, LWD can and should be left alone.

However, when too much woody debris accumulates, it can collect trash, alter how water flows, and present an obstacle for recreational enjoyment. When LWD disrupts flow patterns, increases erosion, poses a hazard or blocks structures such as culverts or bridges, property owners should: 

  • Determine if you need a permit to do the work. You don’t need a permit to manage floating debris and logs that aren’t embedded in the stream bottom or banks. Felling trees along a creek bank or removing embedded debris may require a permit from the NC Department of Environmental Quality and the Army Corps of Engineers. The Town’s Stormwater Team can help you determine what approvals you need.
  • Minimize disturbance of the surrounding habitat areas.

  • Remove just enough debris to address the issue or concern and maintain the benefits provided.

  • Utilize the debris when appropriate to benefit the stream, including re-orienting the wood or anchoring it to the bank or within the channel.

  • If debris needs to be relocated, move it high enough and far enough away from the channel so it won’t re-enter with high flows.

  • Be mindful of surrounding habitat and minimize disturbance of these areas while conducting needed maintenance.

For More information Consult the Homeowner's Watershed and Stormwater Handbook.

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