On the Design of Instream Structures in the Mid-Atlantic United States:  An Investigation of the Design, Project, and Watershed Factors that Affect Structure Success

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Virginia Tech


Instream structures are used to reinforce channel margins, redirect flows, and create habitat, but there is little consensus about their design or whether they function as intended. In this study, 536 instream structures in the state of Maryland were assessed to determine the effect of structure-, project-, and watershed-scale factors on performance. Structures were assessed using a 19 point scoring system based on structural stability, sediment transport, and overall function. Structure-scale variables related to the construction, geometry, and placement, and differed for six structure families: bank protection (BP), full and partial span vanes (FSV), constructed riffles (RF), regenerative stream conveyances, and step pools. Project- and watershed-scale variables related to flow, erosion resistance, and design approach. Relationships between structure scores and explanatory variables were evaluated using regression analysis. Structure performance was strongly influenced by the individual project, suggesting that design quality, construction, and maintenance are as important as specific design features. Structure durability decreased if there was additional urban development following construction. Results also indicated that restoration activities have a "protective effect" on nearby structures. For rock BP, imbricated rock walls performed better than stone toe, due to increased structure height and boulder size. Rock FSVs that were keyed into the bank at angles between 35° and 90° were more durable, while RFs performed best when constructed using downstream grade control and increased substrate depth. The results of this study provide insight into design and project features that contribute to structure success.



Stream restoration, Instream structures, Cross vane, Single arm vane, Constructed riffle, Rock toe, Imbricated rock wall