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What is a Stream? Why are they important?

A stream can be generally defined as a course of surface water with a defined bed and bank. Streams can be natural or constructed, and may convey water continuously (perennial stream) or periodically (ephemeral stream). 

Streams are an integral part of the water cycle, which humans and all living organisms depend on. Streams play an important role in recharging groundwater, providing habitat for fish and organisms, and serves as corridors for migrating wildlife. Learn more about the importance and benefits of streams from the Ohio EPA. 


Stream Considerations

There are several things you will need to consider when managing or dealing with streams.

  • Streams are considered natural paths of drainage.

  • When conducting certain levels of work on some streams, it may be necessary to obtain a permit from the Ohio EPA or US Army Corps of Engineers. For information regarding permitting click here.

  • Streams provide habitat to many species of wildlife as well as provide a source of clean drinking water to other animals that rely on them.

  • Landowners are not allowed to interfere with the natural flow of surface water to the detriment of others.

  •  "Log jams" and other "pinch points" can decrease the natural flow of water, causing flooding, decreased rates of flow, and decreased rates of capacity. (Depending on the situation, a landowner may have a legal responsibility to keep a stream cleared of debris)

What is a Blue-Lined Stream?
  • A blue lined stream is a stream where water flows most all of the year.

  • ​Blue lined streams are determined and named by FEMA to prevent monetary losses when constructing buildings.

  • Many factors are considered when determining blue lined streams

    • Surface flow

    • Potential for flooding

    • Stormwater runoff​

  • It is important to realize that a blue lined stream will contain water for much or all of the year.

  • Special laws dictate construction in and around blue lined steams.

Stream Setbacks
  • Stream setbacks are the distance of vegetative buffer left near the bank of a stream.

  • Setbacks are placed along streams to limit disturbance by human activity.  Leaving a setback or buffer along a stream can,

    • Increase property value​.

    • Decrease erosion.

    • Limit pollution from entering streams.

    • Provide habitat to many species of beneficial wildlife.

    • Serve as a "natural" fence to protect kids and pets from any hazards in and around the stream.

    • Prevent erosion from occurring.

Streambank Restoration
  • Many times stream restoration is necessary because the erosion has gotten to the point where damage threatens human life or property.  Any costs and permits associated with stream restoration are the responsibility of the property owner. 

  • Streambank restoration can

    • alleviate erosion problems​

    • create meaningful fish and wildlife habitats

    • be aesthetically pleasing

    • help control season flooding

  • Guidelines for streambank restoration are outlined in the USDA/NRCS National Engineering Manual  here.

For assistance regarding a stream on your property please call our main office at (513) 887-3720 or email us at

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