Riparian Setbacks

Riparian setback regulations are designed to establish distances from water resources where building and other soil disturbing activities are prohibited unless the applicant obtains a variance from the local community. The specific purpose and intent of riparian setbacks are to regulate uses and developments within riparian setback areas that would or could impair the ability of riparian areas to reduce flooding and pollutants, stabilize streambanks, prevent streambank erosion, and provide habitat and community character. Riparian setback regulations are recommended as part of a community’s stormwater management program for flood control, erosion control, and water quality protection.


Why Riparian Setbacks?  

Riparian areas are naturally vegetated lands along rivers and streams. When appropriately sized, these areas can limit streambank erosion, reduce flood size flows, filter and settle out pollutants, and protect aquatic and terrestrial habitat. Riparian setbacks are a tool local governments can use to maintain riparian area functions. Communities can establish riparian setbacks through a combination of landowner education, land acquisition, and land use controls on new development. County soil and water conservation districts, land trusts, and other organizations are skilled in assisting communities and landowners with education and acquisition efforts.  


CRWP Model Riparian Setbacks Regulation:  

CRWP’s Model Ordinance for the Establishment of Riparian Setbacks recommends setbacks measured on all watercourses, including ephemeral streams. The riparian setback distances are measured from the ordinary high water mark of a stream – Where is the Ordinary High Water Mark of a River?. Setback widths vary from 25 to 300 feet from either side of the stream and are extended to the 100 year FEMA floodplain and to the edge of any wetlands in the riparian corridor.

It is important that communities develop a map of potential riparian setbacks to assist them in implementing the ordinance. Please contact CRWP for assistance in developing and tailoring this map to your community's needs.

It is hoped that this model regulation will be helpful to local governments in their efforts to provide effective stormwater management throughout the Chagrin River watershed. Please direct questions regarding the model regulations to CRWP at (440) 975-3870.


Riparian Setback Resources: