What is a Riparian Zone?
Riparian zones are where water and land meet, such as stream banks and lake shores. Riparian zones serve several functions to maintain healthy water systems including:
- Providing cover and food resources for terrestrial invertebrates, birds, and mammals
- Providing a source of large woody debris, allowing complexity in stream habitats
- Shading streams to maintain cool water temperatures necessary for salmon and other aquatic organisms
- Delivering leaf litter, organic debris, and terrestrial invertebrates, which are sources of food for fish and aquatic invertebrates
- Providing stormwater treatment
- Protecting streambanks from erosion
What should I know about riparian habitat in Juneau?
Many of Juneau's streams in the Valley, Lemon Creek and Downtown have suffered impacts to their riparian habitat due to streamside development. In some cases, development occurs all the way up to the streambank. Depending on the extent of riparian vegetation removal, many of the ecological benefits may be partially or completely lost.
Photos: Vanderbilt Creek (left) and Jordan Creek (above) are examples of Juneau streams where streamside development has impacted riparian habitat.
What are stream setbacks or buffers?
In urban areas, stream setbacks or buffers are corridors of limited use or development adjacent to streams. They are often established to ensure the values and functions of riparian areas are protected for the benefit of wildlife and landowners.
The City and Borough of Juneau (CBJ) has streamside setbacks for anadromous streams established in city ordinance. The CBJ streamside setbacks prohibit development within 50 ft. of the banks of anadromous streams [CBJ 49.70.310(a)(4)] and prohibit disturbance within 25 ft. of the banks of anadromous streams [CBJ 49.70.310(b)(1)].
That is the bare minimum requirement for riparian buffers on salmon streams in Juneau. However, more ecological value can be gained with greater buffer distances. The figure below shows examples of different buffer distances recommended for specific riparian functions.
Figure from Bentrup, G. 2008. Conservation buffer: design guidelines for buffers, corridors, and greenways. Gen. Tech. Rep. SRS-109. Asheville, NC: USDA Forest Service, Southern Research Station.
How to be a "Stream-Friendly" Landowner
There are hundreds of salmon streams in Juneau and chances are that you live next to or close to one of them. Streamside landowners in Juneau play a critical role in protecting and maintaining the high quality of water and habitat our salmon and wildlife populations need to thrive.
Being "stream-friendly" means making choices that minimize impacts to our creeks, streams, rivers and lakes. The pay off is clean drinking water, healthy and functioning fish and wildlife habitat, and sustained fish and wildlife populations.
Check out our brochure, " Living Next to Salmon Stream" for hints and tips for stream friendly yard and lawn care, and for resources for local landowners.
Learn more about what JWP has been doing to improve and protect riparian habitat
The JWP has conducted a number projects to enhance riparian habitat conditions throughout Juneau's watersheds including: