Engineers and Geomorphologists

Type of work/when to contact:

Projects that impact the floodplain or floodway. Projects that require floodplain permitting. Projects that require structural engineering (such as walls or bridges).


Professional Engineer (PE)/Bachelor’s and/or Master’s degree in Civil Engineering, additional certifications and courses in their specialized field (such as geomorphology or river function).

Where to find an engineer:

Speak to local watershed coalitions, local agencies you will need permits for or neighbors who have had engineered projects completed.


Can vary greatly depending on type of work and size of project. Typically billed hourly, often with a not-to-exceed total for the project.

What to ask:

Experience with similar projects, experience with required permits, timeframe for work.

While there are many types of civil engineers, there are specialized categories that work specifically on stream systems. Water resource engineers and geomorphologists deal with a variety of water related issues and many specialize in river restoration and channel design. These engineers often design projects that restore streams, increase flood resiliency and balance other objectives such as protecting property and enhancing the riparian environment. Water resource engineers balance the dynamic hydrology and hydraulics of a site with ecology and biology, as well as public safety. Engineers also provide a wide range of services in support of stream restoration work, including floodplain evaluations, detailed design of structures and utilities such as water and sewer lines.

Engineers can help you design and permit in-stream restoration projects.

An engineer should be contacted when you realize you have a project that will require substantial work in the floodplain or if you think the project may require substantial floodplain work. This will typically require local (city or town), county and/or federal permitting which the engineer will be able to assist you with. When looking for a suitable engineer to work with, you will want to make sure they have multiple years of experience in stream restoration and natural channel design projects. They should also be licensed professional engineers (PEs) and their company should carry commercial liability insurance, general liability insurance and professional liability insurance (often called errors and omissions insurance).

Fluvial geomorphologists study how streams interact with their surrounding landscapes.

When engaging an engineer, it is helpful have an idea of the issues along your stream, as well as any restrictions or constraints that you may have. This will help the engineer to make an assessment of the most appropriate improvements. As they progress through the design, they should be able to provide a cost estimate for your specific project. Engineers can also assist in grant applications if outside funding is needed to complete the restoration work.

Often, part of the engineers’ responsibility will be to create digital models of the stream and the surrounding areas to ensure the project will not have negative impacts on the floodplain. This process is called hydraulic modeling and it is usually required for floodplain permitting submittals. This will be done during the design period of the project. Following the design process, the engineer can assist you with submitting the permits. These permits typically include floodplain permits and a USACE 404 Clean Water Act permit.

If desired, most engineers can also be hired to oversee/observe the river constructor during the construction of the project. This can be helpful because they will make sure the constructor understands the construction drawings and is installing the project per the approved plans.