Surface Water Quality

Stream and Wetland Restoration​​

​Stream and wetland restoration projects are designed to improve surface water quality and aquatic life by reducing erosion and restoring habitat in streams, floodplains and wetlands.

Between 2003 and 2016 Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water Services​ improved approximately 30 miles of streams and 18 acres of wetlands were either improved or preserved throughout Charlotte and Mecklenburg County.

Stream bank erosion is the largest contributor of sediment in our streams. As streams erode, sediment is deposited downstream, burying aquatic habitat and altering the stability and quality of the stream.

Most stream bank erosion occurs today because of historical stormwater management. Agriculture practices once dredged streams straight, deep and wide. As land was developed, stormwater was piped directly to the nearest stream. Shallow, sinuous (meandering) streams with floodplains containing natural vegetation were converted into deep, straight, eroding channels with floodplains containing developments and few trees or bushes.

Today, it is well known that high quality streams need natural features to be healthy. These features include stable stream banks, wide buffers of woody vegetation (trees and bushes), sinuosity, and unobstructed access to floodplains.

Stream restoration projects reduce erosion and restore
natural features to reduce pollutants,
absorb and dissipate the energy of stormwater,
and keep water temperatures cool and oxygen levels high.

The degree to which each stream restoration project can restore natural features depends largely on the physical constraints of the envi​ronment where the stream is located. The more urban the environment, the more likely a project will be constrained by buildings, roads, and other necessary infrastructure and utilities.

Some projects remove structures (i.e. flood prone homes) in the floodplains, allowing for space to improve sinuosity to a stream, plant woody stream corridors, and give the stream access to the floodplain where erosive energy of flood waters can be reduced. Some projects incorporate green infrastructure practices, such as ponds or rain gardens, to reduce stormwater pollutants and manage stormwater flowing into streams. Some do both. Some only have room to stabilize stream bank erosion and restore a small width of native vegetation along stream banks.

Stream Restoration Questions?

Erin Shanaberger

City of Charlotte Watershed Planning & Project Implementation Supervisor

Timothy J. Trautman, PE, CFM

Program Manager, Engineering & Mitigation Program

Stream & Wetland Mitigation Bank

​The City of Charlotte's Stream and Wetland Mitigation Bank provides Charlotte with a source of funding for improving streams and wetlands, and ensures that some federally required mitigation projects are constructed within Mecklenburg County instead of hundreds of miles away.

Between 2001 and 2020, approximately 24 miles of streams were improved and 
34 acres of wetlands were either improved or preserved through the Mitigation Bank.

Municipal projects, such as new roads, schools and water lines, are necessary for a growing community. Occasionally, these projects must impact streams and wetlands. Section 404 of the Clean Water Act requires streams and wetlands impacted by construction to be compensated with the restoration, enhancement, and/or preservation of streams and wetlands in a different location; often at a higher ratio. This is called stream and wetland "mitigation" and must be implemented within the same regulatory watershed where impacts occurred. Unfortunately, regulatory watersheds are very large so mitigation can occur hundreds of miles away from its impact.

In 2004, the City of Charlotte established North Carolina's first municipally-owned Stream and Wetland Mitigation Bank where "mitigation credits" are generated when Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water Services restores, enhances or preserves streams or wetlands in Mecklenburg County. These credits can be bought by City or County agencies to offset impacts caused by their construction projects. Once credits are bought, the Mitigation Bank can then fund more local stream and wetland projects.

The Bank benefits local watersheds by ensuring that stream and wetland impacts from City and County infrastructure projects are mitigated within Mecklenburg County, not hundreds of miles away.

Stream and Wetland Bank Questions?

Erin Shanaberger

City of Charlotte Watershed Planning & Project Implementation Supervisor

Josh DeMaury

Mecklenburg County Environmental Coordinator