Sediment — Our False Fears of Fines
Fine sediment is a critical component of the river ecosystem; important for sustaining key riparian regeneration processes, maintaining soil moisture and water table; holding, processing and delivering nutrients; and many other processes vital to a functioning ecosystem. In dam-impaired systems its role is highly overlooked and even misunderstood. On restoration projects, the fear of “muddying the waters” has often led to increased regulatory requirements for in-water work and monitoring, leading to sometimes exorbitant added costs without a clear linkage to benefits. Thus the regulation of sediment hinders the restoration of better ecosystem function. This session explores the role of fine sediment in foundation ecosystem processes and examines the regulation of turbidity (a proxy for fine sediment entrainment into the water column) on restoration projects. The tradeoffs and costs-benefits of omitting fine sediment in restoration projects and similar requirements for in-water work and monitoring will be explored through case study scenarios and a panel discussion.