Design-Build and Design Intent: An Ecological Restoration Paradigm for Successful Stewardship

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Eric Donaldson, David Shaw, Terah Donovan

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San Felipe Creek runs through a former agricultural valley, but so do trails and roads serving public hikers, bikers, and equestrians. Humans shaped the landscape and are part of the ecosystem. How do we restore the landscape for humans and restore the natural resources that draw them there? As land stewards we asked ourselves these questions as we designed and built a 50-acre landscape restoration project in Northern California, USA. What started with a stream and watershed restoration vision quickly shifted. The ensuing rapid feasibility study revealed a complex site history, and a road as one of five tributaries to our stream. A field meeting with regulators at 35% design allowed us to explain site functions and values and how design elements would translate into credits – What were the impairments? What could be done to restore function and thus where should we focus? Early regulator collaboration and inclusion of road drainage improvements yielded compensatory mitigation credits for 4 permitting programs. Design elements were localized and diverse, and included restored wetlands, backwater channels, inset floodplains, gully plugs, staked wood jams, and graded swales. Advancing from 65% design to build allowed field-fit as plans became reality. The design-build approach and primary focus on design intent allowed for reuse of large wood on site, changing of geometries to preserve natural resources, and re-scaling built features to limit impacts. Following the design intent paradigm, the design-build team, including project partners, embraced their roles as stewards. Monitoring and adaptive management are underway.

Resource Type:
Conference Presentation, SER2021

Pre-approved for CECs under SER's CERP program