How to Reduce Flood Risk to Your Property

Routine Creek Maintenance by Property Owners

Generally speaking, routine creek maintenance should occur during the summer months and with a minimum disturbance of the soil.  During the winter the creek bank soils are often saturated and subject to problems when work is attempted.

One of the easiest things property owners can do is to keep the creek bank open and free of structures or stored materials.  Decks and structures placed too close to the creek bank tend to destabilize the bank and often create problems and/or are destroyed during flood events. Associated debris often washes downstream creating problems for others.

Property owners should seek advice before they attempt intensive creek bank maintenance activities.  Some activities can be more harmful than helpful.  For example, many property owners believe the creek should be devoid of any debris, including woody materials, and that vegetation needs to be trimmed back to prevent flooding. However, streambank vegetation is vital to prevent erosion, and both vegetation and woody materials are essential to a healthy creek environment.  Taking a heavy-handed approach to remove these elements causes problems for both the property owner and in many cases their neighbors.

Streambeds & Streambanks

Preserve existing riparian vegetation. This includes both trees and understory shrubbery.

Keep structures out of the stream zone. Stairs and retaining walls can degrade creek banks and impact your neighbor’s stream bank.

Drain roof gutters to landscaped areas. Pipes draining onto or overhanging the stream bank can cause erosion.

Do not use tires or broken concrete for erosion repair or slope protection. Native vegetation is the best protection in many cases.

Seek professional advice if you believe your streambank requires reinforcement to prevent erosion. A professional will be able to recommend the most offective method with the least negative environmental impact, and will also be able to advise you on permits that may be required by environmental agencies. Having the right permits is essential to avoid fines and citations.

If possible, coordinate with upstream or downstream property owners to design and implement stream bed or stream bank improvements for an entire reach of stream.

Reference: Santa Clara and Napa Valley Water District websites