Schenks Branch Tributary Restoration
Project Status Updates
|Week of 9/25/23|
- Begin survey and stakeout of restoration work
|Week of 9/18/23|
- Completed installation of erosion and sediment control measures
|Week of 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
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.
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.
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.
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. All 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:
- Botanical Garden of the Piedmont – stream restoration page
- Presentation to the Charlottesville Tree Commission on 6/7/2022
For questions about the Schenks Branch Tributary restoration project please contact the City's Project Manager:
Water Resources Specialist