press blog entries


Dept of Interior to shift away from ‘project-by-project’ management

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell has unveiled the outlines of a new landscape-level mitigation strategy across millions of acres of federal land that she said is designed to take the department’s agencies away from narrowly focused project-by-project assessments. The mitigation strategy includes four key objectives the department will work to implement in the coming months in an effort to take a broader approach to managing public lands – landscape-level planning, banking, in-lieu fee arrangements and other mitigation tools.

Conservation Groups Challenge Limited Protections for Lesser Prairie Chicken

Three conservation groups – Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife and WildEarth Guardians – have filed a legal challenge to force full protection of the lesser prairie chicken under the Endangered Species Act. The move comes in response to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s recent decision to protect the highly imperiled bird only as “threatened” while providing special exemptions that would allow ongoing destruction of their dwindling grassland habitat.

New Home prepared for endangered American Burying Beetles

Oklahoma energy and construction companies now have another potential option for dealing with an endangered insect that has bugged operations in the state for years. For now, however, the companies still have no way to take advantage of the offering. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this week approved the American Burying Beetle Conservation Bank. Operated by Edmond-based Common Ground Capital on 1,600 acres of Pittsburgh County, the conservation bank will provide a safe home for the beetle that has been listed as an endangered species since 1989.  “Conservation banking provides for a free market regulatory compliance solution,” Common Ground Capital owner Wayne Walker said. “They provide customers a lot of certainty that they are getting a competitive price on a regulatory system that’s proven.”
New rules still awaiting implementation are expected to require companies to obtain an “incidental take” permit for the beetle by purchasing conservation credits. But the rules have been delayed more than a year. The permit would remove the liability from killing or harming the beetles. “It’s not a perfect situation for us, but the American Burying Beetles situation has been pretty complex,” Walker said. “We now have part of the equation to enable a market here with our approved habitat. We’re a few months away from the ability to sell credits. We’re pretty close to having a much more improved situation than we’ve had for the last couple of years. It requires patience.”

That Ain’t Right!: Critic of dam removal fails to disclose conflict

I came into the office this morning (Saturday!) and was surprised to learn I had missed a News and Observer article earlier this morning about our proposal to remove the Milburnie Dam on the Neuse River.

Anyway, I found the article, “Firm Again Asks to Remove Dam,” a mixed bag.  I appreciated seeing the support of the Neuse River Association, and the accurate comments of Dickie Harrison of the Deep River Parks Association about the Carbonton Dam.  But I was shocked and disappointed to see a name from Restoration Systems past make nutty statements about the Lowell Dam project — and fail to be identified as someone with an ax to grind.

David Grady is quoted saying,

 “The fish that they were supposed to spawn were going to have to grow legs, because they dried the river up,” he said. “They absolutely decimated the river.”

— David Grady

I’ve got two problems with that silly quote. One, it is demonstrably inaccurate that the Lowell dam removal failed to enhance the spawning opportunities for migratory fish (more on that in a moment) or that we, “dried the river up.”  And two, David Grady is the disgruntled son of a fine man RS was involved in a purchase of land from well before the Lowell Dam was removed, making him a score settler — not a source of good information.

I suspect his beef has less to do with the river — and more to do with…..his beef over the earlier transaction.

As for the Little River after the Lowell Dam was removed, here is what N.C. State and 876 fish have to say:

Prior to the removal of Lowell Mill Dam on the Little River, resident upstream fish could migrate downstream by spilling over the dam, but upstream migration, including that by anadromous fish, was precluded. Following dam removal, both resident and anadromous fish species were captured at the weir moving upstream and downstream. In total, 876 unique fish took advantage of the unobstructed migration and some migrated past the former dam site in both directions. American shad and gizzard shad utilized the entire extent of restored habitat as they migrated up to the impassable Atkinson Mill Dam. Increased spawning migrations by American shad following dam removals have been documented in previous studies (Walburg and Nichols 1967, Burdick and Hightower 2006). In addition to utilizing upstream habitat for spawning, the reconnected river allows fish to move freely for food, cover, and preferred water temperatures, flow, and depth in the Little River, but also in tributaries and the Neuse River.

Annual Report

Joshua K. Raabe
Joseph E. Hightower
United State Geological Survey
North Carolina Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit
North Carolina State University, Department of Zoology
Raleigh, North Carolina
February 20, 2008

If 876 fish seems a bit low, consider that this was in 2007, one of the worst droughts in recent years (see video).  The fact remains that removing the Lowell Dam was good for the Little River and good for fish — if not David Grady.

As for the Little River “drying up,” consider this quote from Dr. Josh Raabe of N.C. State:

“That’s what excites me, when we catch huge fish, the big catfish.
We’ve caught a couple of 40-pound-plus catfish,” Danesi said. “I like seeing the dynamics of the river, too. Just a couple of days ago, this was a trickle, and now it’s seven feet.”  Josh Raabe, Researchers Study Little River Migration, Goldsboro News Argus, July 15, 2010

Josh gets it.  Natural river levels fluctuate. Sometimes the river is low — sometimes it is high.  That’s what healthy rivers without dams do.

Finally, make certain to check out this fabulous video produced by N.C. State regarding the recent ecological history of the Little River following the dam removals.  If removing the dam was an environmental disaster — I’ll take another helping:


Firm Again Asks to Remove Neuse’s Milburnie Dam

Raleigh News and Observer

December 10, 2011

RALEIGH New plans are rising to demolish and remove the 15-foot Milburnie Dam, the last man-made barrier along the Neuse River between Falls Lake and Pamlico Sound.

Restoration Systems, the Raleigh-based firm seeking approval, argues that pulling down the dam will release more than 32,000 linear feet of water and return the Neuse to a more natural state.

In their prospectus submitted to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, they predict water quality will improve and migratory fish such as striped bass and American shad will get to swim and spawn farther upriver.

“If you just remove the dam, you open up a whole new world of habitat,” said Adam Riggsbee, consultant to Restoration Systems. “It’s almost instantaneous.”

But residents along the river see a grim future for the Neuse without the dam, which dates to 1855. Water levels would drop so drastically that Raleigh’s river would become a trickle, they say, spoiling the scenery just as the city is working to draw people there with greenways and pedestrian bridges.

They recall that the Corps turned down Restoration Systems last year, asking the firm to provide more data on the potential for draining wetlands and spreading toxic sediment.

“If they remove the dam, instead of having a nice beautiful river above the dam for the enjoyment of everyone, what we’re going to have is a meandering little muddy steam that you and I can wade across,” said James E. Smallwood, who lives just above the dam.

Meanwhile, the public has until Dec. 14 to comment.

Based in Raleigh, Restoration Systems has a long history of environmental mitigation banking, which means the firm does work to improve ecology and receives credits for that work. Those credits can then be sold to public and private developers doing construction projects that negatively impact wetlands.

As proposed, those credits could be used in a territory following the Neuse basin and its immediate surroundings, an area that stretches roughly from Person to Craven counties.

‘Decimated’ river

In recent years, Restoration Systems has taken out dams on the Deep and Little rivers nearby. Reviews are mixed.

Kenly Mayor David Grady said the Little River is narrow and shallow enough to jump across within three miles of the spot where the dam was removed. “The fish that they were supposed to spawn were going to have to grow legs, because they dried the river up,” he said. “They absolutely decimated the river.”

On the Deep River near the Chatham-Lee county border, taking out the dam rid the river of oil slicks and algae blooms in the lake-like water, said Dick Harrison of the Deep River Parks Association.

“Everything has turned out very good for us,” he said. “The water quality, the fish, the wildlife. I actually had five teenagers baptized down there.”

The firm’s prospectus is more than six times longer than its 2010 proposal, and it addresses the wetlands concerns by estimating that roughly 11 acres would be threatened by removing the dam.

As to the sediments, Restoration Systems points to a study conducted in August by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Raleigh. Data from the study were not included in the firm’s prospectus, but a draft report of the findings was provided to The News & Observer.

Dr. Tom Augspurger, ecologist and contaminants specialist with the Fish and Wildlife Service, reported pollutants in the samples collected both above and below the dam were lower than the level of concern.

Also, he said pollutants in sediment below the dam were typically higher than above, concluding that removing the dam is unlikely to increase pollution downriver.

Upper Neuse Riverkeeper Alissa Bierma said she supports removing the dam to make the Neuse more free-flowing. But she thinks the area where mitigation credits could be used should be smaller.

If the Corps approves Restoration Systems’ prospectus for the Neuse, it would still have to issue a permit later. Taking out the dam, if approved, would take years.

[email protected] or 919-829-4818

Workshop – Implementing the Galveston Stream Tool

On October 26th a workshop will be held in Houston, Texas to discuss the Interim Stream Condition Assessment Standard Operating Procedure which was recently put on the street by the Galveston Corps District.   This workshop is free and open to the public so if you would like to attend please visit the webpage and RSVP.  The workshop is key to anyone working on projects that may impact streams within Galveston District.

There will be three topics discussed during this workshop-

  • Jayson Hudson and Dwayne Johnson (USACE) will present on the Stream Condition Assessment SOP and how it should be implemented.
  • Lee Forbes (KBR) will discuss stream restoration techniques and present local project examples.
  • And RS’s very own Travis Hamrick will discuss our newest stream bank servicing the Houston Metro area- The Katy Prairie Stream Mitigation Bank.


We expect this workshop to be well attended (100+ people responded on the first day) so please RSVP to insure that there is enough room for everyone. See you there!

Good News in the Shallow Deep

Endangered Fish Returns to 10-mile Reach of the Deep River after Dam Removal

Carbonton, NC – September 6, 2007  Restoration Systems, L.L.C., an environmental restoration and mitigation firm in Raleigh, North Carolina, has reported an extraordinary occurrence in Central North Carolina‘s lazy and historic Deep River.  The Cape Fear shiner, a federally Endangered Species thought to be headed for extinction, has repopulated nearly ten miles of the restored river following the company’s 2005 removal of the Carbonton Dam.  

Scientists from The Catena Group, an ecological consulting firm under contract to Restoration Systems to monitor progress in the restored river, discovered several groups of the sensitive fish distributed throughout a reach of the now free-flowing Deep River that was formerly impounded behind the dam.  The former dam and more than ten miles of backwater served as a barrier, which isolated populations of the shiner known to occur below the dam and at locations well above the upstream limit of the former impoundment (more than ten miles upstream).  Now it is reasonable to expect two-way genetic exchange among the several groups that presumably were isolated from each other for so many years.   

The shiner has been in steady decline in recent decades, likely a result of the loss or reduction of suitable habitats in the region.  Restoring appropriate habitat and encouraging the recolonization of the species was a central goal of the dam removal project.       

Dr. Adam Riggsbee, an environmental scientist with Restoration Systems, and dam removal authority, says rivers can restore themselves when the appropriate dams are removed, bringing large-scale improvements to aquatic ecosystems, such as those now documented at Carbonton.  

“The Carbonton Dam was selected from many candidates because it provided the hope of returning unequivocal ecological improvements when removed, which apparently it did,” says Riggsbee.  “As far as we can determine, the documented recolonization of a federally Endangered Species following dam removal is unprecedented.”    

The dam removal was paid for by the Ecosystem Enhancement Program, an initiative of the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources.  This innovative state program is responsible for the acquisition and implementation of mitigation projects resulting in environmental improvement “credits” from private providers to offset unavoidable public and commercial impacts to natural areas. 

In order to generate environmental improvement credits, the project is required to produce demonstrable enhancements to water quality and in-stream habitat for common and endangered aquatic species.  Project monitoring was initiated prior to dam removal to document baseline conditions.  Monitoring activities documenting the progress of restoration are currently ongoing.  In addition to fish, monitoring efforts are targeting freshwater mussels, aquatic insects, overall habitat and water quality.  Fifty-eight “stations” along a 25-mile stretch of the Deep River and its tributaries were established to monitor the restoration over the course of five or more years. 

Prior to the documented recolonization of the endangered shiner, the fish was known to inhabit only four locations elsewhere in North Carolina.  Dam construction in the Cape Fear watershed, culminating in the Randleman Dam this decade (the fourteenth dam on the Deep River), had severely limited the available habitat. 

“The Carbonton removal,” said project manger and company principle George Howard, “was intended as a demonstration project.  We are hopeful the good news on the shiner will open some eyes to the importance of dam removal over traditional stream restoration methods, as some regulatory agencies are considering drastic reductions in the utility of this approach.”  

Restoration Systems has built a multi-acre public park on the banks of the Deep River at Carbonton adjacent to the former dam site.  The park and historic powerhouse are being transferred to the Deep River Parks Association this month along with funds for improvements and care as public facilities.  Restoration Systems has also made a large contribution to the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, which was used to support graduate research on the Deep River resulting in peer-reviewed scientific publications.     

The project team assembled by Restoration Systems consisted of engineers (Milone & MacBroom, an engineering firm based in Connecticut), general ecological expertise (EcoScience Corporation, multi-disciplinary environmental consultant in Raleigh, NC), aquatic biology specialists (The Catena Group in Hillsborough, NC) and an experienced ecological contractor to take down the dam (Backwater Environmental in Pittsboro, NC).  

For more information on the Cape Fear shiner, visit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s website at


Kristen M. Poillon


[email protected]

Restoration Systems to Provide Grant Funding for Restoration Research

Raleigh, NC- February 8, 2007- Restoration Systems, LLC is extremely pleased to announce its most recent collaboration with Dr. Joseph Hightower, PhD., of the North Carolina State University Zoology Department, and the North Carolina Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit.  In an effort to support the ongoing research and development of environmental restoration, and the pursuit of academic excellence in the field, Restoration Systems will provide funding in the amount of $16,000 to support the purchase of essential materials and equipment to construct, install and maintain a Resistance Board Weir Panel on the Little River in Johnston County, NC.  This important piece of equipment will support the graduate research efforts of Joshua Raabe in pursuit of his Ph.D. at NCSU under Dr. Hightower’s advisement. 

The weir will be used to provide quantitative data on the numbers of migrating fish moving up stream from below Restoration Systems’ Lowell Mill Restoration Site, located in Johnston County, NC.   Such data is extraordinarily rare in the literature of east coast migratory fisheries.   

“The work should be extremely meaningful to the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission and the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries, as well as the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Marine Fisheries Service and state and federal agencies across the region,” said Randy Turner, Restoration Systems’ resident Senior Biologist and Project Manager.  “Furthermore,” he continued, “the knowledge gained from this research effort should be of interest to anyone who cares about the health of anadromous fisheries, specifically American shad, hickory shad, herring and many other important species.” 

Restoration Systems anticipates that the research might underscore the importance of removing derelict dams and other barriers from our state’s streams and rivers; a topic near and dear to the company.  

“Our company has made a substantial investment in the identification and pursuit of dams that should be removed from the waterways of North Carolina and elsewhere in the United States,” said George Howard, Co-Founder and EVP of Restoration Systems.  

He went on to add, “Our staff of scientists and other professionals is single-minded in its determination to implement appropriate dam removals using compensatory mitigation as a funding source.  This strategy can result in significant and almost instantaneous restoration of upstream spawning opportunities to important migratory fish.  Such actions contribute to building and sustaining healthy migratory fish populations which can serve compensation for damage done elsewhere in the watershed.”   

In addition, Restoration Systems anticipates working alongside appropriate agencies and other scientific/academic interests to determine if additional data can be derived from a subset of the fish that Raabe captures throughout his research; before they are released back into the river.  The subject of these subsidiary interests might include attempts to quantify the presence of mollusk glochidial masses on fish gill tissues, and the possibility to elucidate the species of mollusk attached to the host fish, should glochidia be found.  Such inquiries will be undertaken in strict coordination between Hightower, Raabe and  state and/or federal resource managers, along with hands-on participation by recognized experts from academia or resource agencies. 

“Restoration Systems welcomes the continued opportunity to be a positive force in improving the state’s natural systems," Turner concluded.  “We hope this research is academically successful and rewarding and we thank Joe and Josh for their significant contributions to the science of migratory fish in the southeast.”

Kristen M. Poillon
If you have any questions or comments, we welcome you to contact us at 919-755-9490, or email [email protected]

Restoration Systems Welcomes Visitors to Holiday Open House

Raleigh, NC- November 13, 2006- Restoration Systems is opening its doors to the public this holiday season in an effort to share some holiday cheer. On Tuesday, December 5, 2006, RS will hold an Open House from 3-7pm for all who would like to learn more about the process of the work that RS has achieved within the walls of the historic Pilot Mill building in downtown Raleigh.

"We always have a chance to walk in and around the halls at the Parker Lincoln building, the Archdale and Legislative buildings, and so on, but it is a rare occasion that we have had a chance to share our own surroundings with our industry colleagues," said George Howard, co-founder and EVP of Restoration Systems.

Join us for a guided tour where we will walk you through the history and environmental accomplishments of Restoration Systems through our pictorial office space, located in the Nationally Registered Historic Pilot Mill Building. The company is proud to not only restore the environment, but to also work from a beautifully restored building. Click here to learn more about the history of the building.

Restoration Systems started out in a small upstairs office with only two rooms, which housed co-founders John Preyer and George Howard. The company has since expanded rapidly into two office spaces within the building.

"We have grown to twenty employees in a few short years and would like to present the opportunity for our employees and agency members alike to become familiar with one another. All of the RS employees are looking forward to sharing the tools that they are using every day to get the job done."

If you are interested in attending the Open House, please email [email protected] RSVP by November 28, 2006. We look forward to seeing you!

Kristen M. Poillon
If you have any questions or comments, we welcome you to contact us at 919-755-9490, or email [email protected]