Schenks Branch Tributary Restoration

Project Status Updates

As of 2/2/24
- All stream channel work has been completed
- Installation of 1 cascade, 4 cross vanes, 6 soils lifts, 4 log vanes, 1 j-hook vane, 5 toe wood, and 8 riffle structures
- Site cleanup underway
- Revegetation/planting scheduled for early March
As of 1/10/24
- Stream channel work has progressed downstream ~600 feet
- Installation of 1 cascade, 3 cross vanes, 4 soil lifts, 4 log vanes, 4 toe wood, and 7 riffle structures
As of 12/8/23
- Stream channel work has progressed downstream  ~325 feet
- Installation of 1 cross vane, 1 soil lift, 3 log vanes,  3 toe wood, and 4 riffle structures
11/6/23
- Begin clearing and grubbing, grading, and stream channel work
10/23/23
- Begin survey and stakeout of restoration work
9/18/23
- Completed installation of erosion and sediment control measures

9/11/23

- Completed installation of tree protection fence
- Continued installation of erosion and sediment control measures 
 8/28/23
- Mobilization of construction contractor, KBS Earthworks, to the site
- Began installation of tree protection fence
- Began installation of erosion and sediment control measures

Completed cascade

Project Background and Goals

The Schenks Branch Tributary (SBT) restoration project involves the restoration of Schenks Branch Tributary, a stream in McIntire Park, from the railroad right-of-way to the John Warner Parkway bridge overpass. The 820 linear feet of stream, which runs through the Botanical Garden of the Piedmont (BGP), is experiencing active severe erosion of its banks and bed, sending excessive amounts of sediment and nutrients downstream to waterways listed as impaired by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). Some of the unstable, eroding stream banks are as high as 12 feet tall and data collected indicate that 436,000 pounds of sediment erode away from the stream every year. As a result, the stream offers extremely poor habitat for aquatic organisms and is largely inaccessible to the public for recreational or educational purposes. The goals of the restoration project are to reduce pollution, increase ecological function, improve habitat for aquatic and riparian plant and animal species, promote educational opportunities, and provide better public access all while integrating seamlessly into the BGP. The BGP envisions the restored stream as a central, key feature around which other facets of the gardens will be programmed. They plan to use the stream as an outdoor classroom, where the community can learn about stream ecology, water quality, and stream restoration. 

Project Design

The City hired Hazen and Sawyer, an environmental engineering firm, to assess the current condition of the stream and design a restoration approach that will bring the stream back to a stable and healthy state. The Schenks Branch Tributary design utilizes an approach that aims to emulate natural, stable river systems. Extensive data collection, surveying, engineering, and modeling informed the design process. The design also utilized a “reference reach”, or a healthy local stream that has similar characteristics, to help inform design parameters. 

Current Conditions

Schenks Branch Tributary erosion
Schenks Brach Tributary erosion

Project Vicinity Map (dashed yellow line is stream to be restored)

Vicinity Map of Schenks Branch Tributary restoration

The design includes features such as riffles, pools, cross vanes, j-hook vanes, toe wood, soil lifts, and a rock cascade. These features serve to dissipate stream energy by slowing down and directing stream flow, reducing erosion and sedimentation. They also provide habitat for aquatic organisms like insects and fish.

Restoration Plan (click for larger version)

Plan view of Schenks Branch Tributary restoration design

J-Hook Vane

J-Hook

Cascade

Cascade

Cross Vane

Cross vane

Project Construction

The City has hired KBS Earthworks to complete the construction of the restoration, which will last for approximately six months. Construction  will involve grading back the steep banks of the stream, raising the stream bed and connecting it to a new floodplain, while realigning the stream into a more stable pattern. This work will necessarily entail the removal of the existing vegetation and trees along the stream. Many of the trees are damaged from being undermined by the eroding stream, while many of the shrubs are invasive species. Existing trees that are removed will be incorporated into the project, including for use in j-hook vanes and toe wood structures. The City and Hazen and Sawyer worked closely with BGP and their team of landscape architects  at Waterstreet Studio to develop a revegetation plan consisting of native grasses, shrubs, and trees. A total of nearly 1,000 new trees and shrubs will be planted, all of which are native to the region. The plan will meet ecological and stream stability requirements while fitting into the overall fabric of the future Botanical Garden site. 

This exciting project will help the City meet regulatory requirements, improve the health of our local waterways, provide residents better access to green infrastructure, enable educational opportunities, and help the City meet its vision of being a Green City

To learn more about the Schenks Branch Tributary restoration please visit the following links:

Project Partners

City of Charlottesville Seal
Department of Environmental Quality Logo
Botanical Garden of the Piedmont logo
Hazen and Sawyer logo
Waterstreet Studio logo

Contact Information

For questions about the Schenks Branch Tributary restoration project please contact the City's Project Manager:
Dan Frisbee
Water Resources Specialist
frisbee@charlottesville.gov
434-970-3997