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Determining Appropriate Level of Engineering and Use of 'Soft Engineering' for Stream Restoration Activities

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Instructor Information:  George Robison

Course Length: 1 Hour

This webinar was co-sponsored by ASCE's Environmental & Water Resources Institute (EWRI) and ASCE Continuing Education.

Purpose and Background

This webinar discusses how to determine the appropriate level of engineering services for different stream restoration scenarios, provides insight into “soft engineering," stream restoration activities such as log placement in streams can cost less than the creation of hard engineering plans. Challenging issues can sometimes lead clients to try to skip engineering all together. A challenge exists to provide engineering services so there can be meaningful environmental review and biddable documents for construction. A proposed soft engineering approach is introduced to meet this challenge. This approach is defined and then explained and illustrated by actual implementation examples. Discussion is given on how to advocate for engineering services in these circumstances by discussing benefits such as biddable documents that can drive construction costs down. A step-by-step process is given on determining when this approach might be appropriate, what information is collected and analyzed, and ways to streamline the process to save on costs.

Primary Discussion Topics

  • Determining the appropriate level of engineering services for different stream restoration scenarios
  • What is "soft engineering"
  • When is the use of soft engineering appropriate for stream restoration work and when is it not
  • Illustration of a soft engineering approach for actual stream restoration examples
  • How to advocate the use of soft engineering for stream restoration activities

Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of this webinar, you will be able to:

  • Define "soft engineering" and contrast with "hard engineering" or non-engineering for stream restoration applications
  • Describe the advantages of soft engineering and how and when to advocate for it
  • Discern when soft engineering would be appropriate and when it is not
  • Set up a soft engineering process for stream restoration activities

Webinar Benefits

  • Participants will learn a new procedure to extend the utility of engineering services for stream restoration activities
  • Will be able to articulate and advocate for a soft engineering approach to provide better service to clients in certain situations
  • Engineers will hear about the cost saving and permit review advantages that soft engineering can provide
  • Real life applied information on how to implement a soft engineering approach will be provided
  • Engineers will learn when it is appropriate and not appropriate to use soft engineering
  • A process and flow will be given on how to complete a soft engineering design and permitting process

Intended Audience

  • Civil Engineers
  • Hydrologists
  • Fishery Biologists
  • Hydraulic Engineers

Webinar Outline

  • What is soft engineering and how does it apply to stream restoration
  • The advantages of soft engineering
  • When is soft engineering appropriate and not appropriate
  • A soft engineering process step by step for stream restoration activities
    • Data gathering and analysis to decide if stream restoration needed
    • Analysis to decide level of restoration activity and hard vs. soft engineering
    • Restoration site selection and initial approach
    • Soft design products
    • Navigating through reviews, permitting and bid process
            /  Need for re-design immediately before and for onsite supervision during construction
            /  Field skills necessary to successfully design a soft engineering project  
      • Evaluation and Monitoring (Adaptive Management)
    • Soft engineering examples vs. hard engineering examples
    • Ideas on how to streamline a soft engineering process