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Stream restoration can be effective

A recent article on Baltimore County's stream restoration projects quotes a skeptic, Duke University Professor Martin W. Doyle, who asks to be shown that "the water quality is better after restoration than before" ("Counties' ambitious stream restoration projects stir debate," Nov. 16). "In the vast majority of cases," Mr. Doyle claims, "the data do not exist."

A list of scientific papers are compiled in Recommendations of the Expert Panel to Define Removal Rates for Individual Stream Restoration Projects, Center For Watershed Protection (2013), which provide case evidence that stream restoration does reduce nutrient loads, as does the paper by his Duke colleague, Curtis Richardson, titled Integrated stream and wetland restoration: A watershed approach to improved water quality on the landscape (2011). These are a few examples.

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I am a practitioner of stream restoration and stormwater best management practices working on the front lines of reducing stormwater pollution. We know we have no silver bullet. Our tools are limited and not effective at every site. I agree that we should scrutinize our methods for reducing pollution in our surface waters and point out shortcomings in the techniques. But over the years, improvements have been made in design and implementation. Should stream restoration be abandoned as a useless tool in water quality and wildlife habitat improvement? Experience and the preponderance of scientific literature do not support such a conclusion.

It may be that integrated solutions to stormwater pollution, ones that use both stormwater best management practices and stream restoration, are more effective and should be studied. To the extent the data show us coming up short, let's put our resources toward innovation and finding better techniques to maximize the bang for our tax-dollar bucks.

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Kevin Nunnery, Raleigh, N.C.

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