6B – Restoration, Rehabilitation and Mitigation of Wetlands and Riparian Areas

Management Measure

  • Promote the restoration of self-sustaining functions in damaged and destroyed wetlands and riparian systems in strategic areas where these systems can eventually maintain dynamic equilibrium without management actions.
  • Where hydrologic constraints and other external stressors persist in the watershed and restoration is impossible, rehabilitate wetland and riparian systems into hydrologically stable systems capable of supporting select beneficial uses.

The purpose of this management measure is to promote the restoration of degraded or destroyed wetlands in areas where they can reduce NPS pollution. Restoration of a wetland and a riparian area means reestablishing the existing vegetation, hydrology, and structure characteristics. This management measure should be used in conjunction with other measures addressing the adjacent land use activities, like agriculture, urban areas, marinas, and forestry.

Federally sponsored or funded projects need to comply with:

Permits from the US Army Corps of Engineers under Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act may be required.

Streambed Alteration Agreements from California Department of Fish and Game may be necessary.

Clean Water Act Section 401 permits from the Regional or State Water Quality Control Board may be required.

Management Practices

  • Use the River Continuum Concept to provide a watershed context for focusing and defining river restoration goals for perennial streams.
  • Use historical ecology to help determine what type of wetland to restore and where to focus those restoration efforts.
  • Provide a hydrologic regime similar to that of the type of wetland or stream channel being restored.
  • Identify important information such as site history, topography, tides, existing water control structures, hydrology, sediment budgets, soil, plants, salinity, timing of the restoration project, and potential impacts from adjacent human activities, before beginning a restoration project.
  • Factor in ecological principles when selecting sites and designing restoration. Consider type and quantity of pollutant, slope, and vegetated area.
  • Identify management activities that are causing disturbance to stream and riparian area. Eliminate or change all management activities contributing to the impaired condition as a first step to restoring functions. Follow by active or passive restoration.
  • Identify what land-use activities are contributing to stream degradation then refer to the appropriate section of this encyclopedia to manage polluted runoff from land-use activities. Rehabilitate stream reach or wetland for as many beneficial uses as economically and socially feasible using active restoration techniques. Continue to mitigate land-use activities contributing to the impaired condition using adaptive management. Further management and/or repairs to rehabilitated stream or wetland areas may be necessary.
  • Restore native plant species through either natural succession or selected planting or a combination of both.
  • Plant a diversity of species appropriate to the soils, and moisture and temperature regimes and manage natural successions (if appropriate) of those plant species assemblages.
  • Plan restoration as part of naturally occurring aquatic ecosystems.
  • Develop and utilize a long-term monitoring plan to measure performance of project and ability of measures to meet restoration-rehabilitation goals. Incorporate project within a larger watershed management plan to ensure long-term monitoring.
  • Use adaptive management as new monitoring data and other information becomes available.
  • Evaluate restoration-rehabilitation success and communicate to stakeholders and other interested parties.


  • Ballona Wetlands Foundation was created by a court action to preserve and protect the remaining Ballona Wetlands on California’s coast near Los Angeles. The foundation is responsible for implementing and managing a comprehensive restoration plan for the wetlands.
  • California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) abides by the no-net loss requirement for California wetlands and is responsible for creating, restoring, or enhancing wetlands or riparian areas damaged or destroyed by highway projects.
  • Salmon Protection and Watershed Network (SPAWN) works to protect endangered salmon in the Lagunitas Watershed, using a multi-faceted approach, including grassroots action, habitat restoration, citizen monitoring, citizen training, environmental education, strategic litigation, and collaboration with other organizations and agencies.
  • SCCWRP, Southern California Wetlands Recovery Project is a partnership of public agencies working cooperatively to acquire, restore, and enhance coastal wetlands and watersheds between Point Conception and the international border with Mexico. They are also building a dynamic information system, called the Wetlands Recovery Project, to help collect and distribute data, resources, and other information on Southern California’s coastal wetlands and coastal watersheds.
  • SFEI, Historical Ecology Program. Given the rapid and complex landscape changes of the past two centuries, the documentation of landscape ecological history has become an essential tool for understanding current conditions and the potential for restoration in most parts of the world.
  • USDA NRCS, California Wetlands Reserve Program has focused on the restoration of a variety of wetland types throughout the State, including seasonal wetlands, semi-permanent marsh, vernal pools along the perimeter of the Central Valley, riparian corridors, and tidally influenced wetlands.

General Resources

  • Caltrans, Standard Environmental Reference, Chapter 5: Mitigation and Monitoring provides guidance on mitigation activities used to compensate for the loss of wetlands due to transportation activities.
  • USEPA, River Corridor and Wetland Restoration features information on restoration techniques, the benefits of restoration, information resources, and links.
  • Stream Corridor Restoration was produced by the collective experience, skills, and technology of 15 federal agencies. It is a benchmark document that is being used by these agencies, as well as many others who are interested in restoring the functions and values of the nation’s stream corridors.
  • CALFED Bay-Delta Integrated Regional Wetland Monitoring provides research related to wetland restoration in the North Bay and Delta regions of the San Francisco Estuary. In this effort, data are collected and analyzed to determine how regional ecosystems are being affected by local restoration efforts and to establish a basis for subsequent longer-term monitoring.
  • Geosyntec, Stream Daylighting Factsheet for Massachusetts Nonpoint Source Pollution Management
  • Resh, V.H., Stream Daylighting in Berkeley. Center for Watershed Protection. 1(4): 184-187


USEPA. 2001. Chapter 5: Management Measure for Restoring Wetland and Riparian Areas. In National Management Measures to Protect and Restore Wetlands and Riparian Areas for the Abatement of Nonpoint Source Pollution (Draft). EPA 841-B-01-001. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC.

NPS Encyclopedia Site Map