What We Do
What does the Stream Team do?
The Stream Team offer landowners free repairs to eroding and unstable streams and wetlands. That's right. Free.
The team consists of a group of stream restoration specialists in the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR). Their job is to identify and undertake stream restoration projects statewide.
How does this work?
The Stream Team works with private landowners and others to identify stream restoration projects. Projects are funded from the Mitigation Fund held in trust solely for repairing streams and wetlands. No state tax general funds or hunting/fishing license dollars are used.
How Do I Qualify?
Landowners must meet certain criteria:
- Stream Instability and Habitat: The number one stream problem we find in Kentucky waterways is sediment pollution that typically results from bank erosion and slumping. That's why the primary selection criteria are streams that are unstable, eroding, and have trees removed from stream banks. Projects whose primary purpose is sewer improvements or utility lines do not qualify.
- Stream size: A minimum of 1,000 feet of stream is needed to develop stream projects; the longer the project the better. Wide, deep streams or rivers are often too big and expensive to undertake restoration. Typical projects are on small streams ranging in size from the smallest that may go dry in late summer downstream to those that have permanent flow.
- Stream banks: In general, both sides of the stream must be available for work. In many cases, several landowners may be involved in the same project to provide access to both banks and appropriate protection.
- Private or Public Lands: Stream projects may be located on private or public lands. Projects on private land are developed only where landowners are willing and want the project.
- Project Area Protection: All projects must be permanently protected. Stream projects on private lands must be protected by a permanent easement typically at least 50 feet wide on each side of the restored stream. For easements, landowners retain the ownership of the property. In general, the easement restricts development within this corridor to protect the project area. Landowners can be paid for the easement or may donate the easement. Tax benefits from donating an easement for the corridor should be discussed with tax advisors.
Landowner considerations may be and often are included with the projects to meet the needs of property owners. These often include the construction of fords across the stream, fencing, and access to water for livestock.
In some situations, a property can be purchased, but only if landowners are willing sellers and that streams within the property meet program criteria.
- Mineral Ownership and Leases: The project area cannot be mined or developed for oil & gas or other mineral production. Projects are screened during the initial evaluation to determine coal, oil or gas ownership before a project can proceed. Sites where coal, oil, or gas rights cannot be restricted will not qualify. However, in some cases, projects can be developed where there are mineral leases if those leases are no longer active or do not interfere with the project area.
How are projects selected?
Project Selection and Approval: Potential projects are screened by professional Stream Team representatives. First, you should call us to discuss your particular situation and to determine whether you may qualify. Once that determination is made, we will work with you to schedule a site visit to further evaluate the stream. Once we agree that your project may qualify, we prepare and present a conceptual plan to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which has the final authority on project approval.
What are the Requirements?
- Landowner Interest: Basically, we do not act unless you want us to. Projects that meet criteria are developed only where there is landowner interest. We do not condemn land to develop stream projects. Landowners expressing interest are under no obligations. Projects are not started until you agree to it.
- Property Title: A property title review is conducted as soon as a project is selected for funding. The title review is required to verify ownership and to identify existing easements, liens, or other issues that may need to be addressed before a project is developed. Title review typically takes 60-90 days to complete.
- Easement: A permanent conservation easement is required of all projects. Projects are not developed where landowners do not want the easement. This is similar to rights-of-way except landowners retain ownership of the property. The easement does not grant public access to the project or property.
The primary purposes of the easement are to prevent development near the stream that would negatively affect the project and financial investment in that project, and also to permit access to the stream for construction, maintenance, and monitoring. All easements are surveyed, signed by the landowner and the Commonwealth of Kentucky, and recorded with the respective county clerk.
Currently, the process of creating the easement has two major steps:
First, the landowner must sign a contract with the Commonwealth of Kentucky that acknowledges agreement on the project and the easement. The contract allows the Stream Team to hire engineering and surveying consultants to begin restoration design and survey the easement boundary. Landowners have an opportunity to review and approve the easement area and description at this stage. Second, the surveyed easement area will be presented to landowners for consideration and approval. After signing, the easement will be recorded by the Stream Team in the local courthouse. This allows the program to finish the project design and begin construction.
How Does the Stream Get Restored?
- Engineering: Stream restoration projects are complex. The engineering phase of projects may take 6-18 months to complete. We conduct an intense analysis of the stream and watershed to develop detailed design plans for a project. Analysis may include hydraulic considerations, stream flow, channel dimensions, stress, construction specifications, and a construction budget estimate. This phase of the project includes obtaining all required permits from Kentucky Division of Water and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Typically, private engineering firms are hired to complete the project design plans, construction specifications, and project budget. Engineering firms also oversee construction of projects to ensure they are built to specifications. Again, this is at no cost to the landowner.
- Construction: Construction of stream mitigation projects may take 3-9 months, depending on scope and complexity. Typically, construction involves a combination of reshaping stream banks, constructing new channel, installing rock or wood structures to direct flow and reduce erosion, and planting trees along the stream within the easement. Trees are typically planted during winter or very early spring.
- Monitoring: Projects are monitored annually by Stream Team representatives for a minimum of five years to measure success and make any adjustments that might be needed after construction. After the initial year monitoring effort, easements will be permanently monitored for compliance.