Homeland Security and Emergency Services

Routine Stream Maintenance


Millions of dollars in damages result from flooding each year. Local governments have long recognized that routine work to clear and maintain streams is important to reduce flooding. Such mitigation efforts alone may not always prevent major flooding, but they can significantly reduce flood impacts. In addition to clearing and maintaining the stream, a comprehensive stream maintenance program should consider maintenance needed on the adjacent flood plain. All such corridor management measures must be accomplished in a manner that protects the aquatic resources of the stream from unnecessary damage.

The cost associated with stream clearance work along with the need to obtain permits and address environmental concerns are often viewed as barriers to flood management efforts. This booklet outlines how stream maintenance can be a cost-effective means to reduce flood hazards, while also highlighting how the regulatory process can actually aid in the management of your projects.

Flood hazard reduction, such as regular stream maintenance, serves to protect life, health, property and public services. These efforts will benefit the community, its residents and their homes by easing the threat and damages of flooding. Stream clearance can further limit damages to public utilities such as water, sewer and gas systems. It can also minimize damage to existing flood control structures such as dams, levees, break walls, riprap and other channel improvements. Roads, bridges and culverts are better protected from flooding, while the costs and liability associated with rescue and relief efforts during a flood are reduced.

In most situations, stream maintenance is considered a local government or private landowner responsibility, although the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) has regulatory jurisdiction over all waters in the United States including wetlands and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has regulatory authority over protected and navigable waters as well as freshwater and tidal wetlands in New York.