Springhouse Run Stream Restoration, located on Federally-owned land at the National Arboretum, is part of an integrated watershed-based restoration lead by DC's District Department of Energy and the Environment. Hickey Run, the receiving stream, is a highly degraded stream that drains approximately 600 acres of a predominately impervious and industrial watershed. The incised stream had high levels of erosion, extreme sensitivity to disturbance, and poor recovery potential. Armoring and dense riparian vegetation, which had been helping to protect the stream from erosive forces, was failing.
Underwood & Associate’s Regenerative Design was used to reconnect 1930 linear feet of Springhouse Run to its floodplain. The stream now boasts a series of pools and riffles that slow down water, allowing sediment and pollutants to settle out and be filtered before water reaches Hickey Run and flows into the Anacostia River. The stream and it vegetated banks brimming with native plants now provide excellent habitat for insects, birds, and wetland-loving species.
In the summer of 2017 water temperatures were measured at the top of the stream and at the bottom of the spring where restored springheads had bubbled up. Water entering the restored section of Springhouse Run measured 80° F, while water exiting the springheads was recorded at 68°F. The cooling of water occurs when the water percolates into underground passages and cools as it slowly seeps under the streambed, filtering out pollutants and lowering its temperature. Cooler water is very desirable and valuable for fish populations.
The restoration project prevents further deterioration of Springhouse Run and serves as an educational opportunity for visitors to the Arboretum to learn about the stream restoration, native plants, the value of wetlands, and how to protect and restore our waterways.