Mad River Project; Chris Whitworth, Deputy Director Humboldt County Department of Public Works

Dear Mr. Engber,

I am writing this letter to thank you for the diligence and expertise your crew demonstrated in the construction of the bio-stabilization project on the Mad River Bluffs in McKinleville.

The completion of the 1,300 foot stabilization project involved access problems, diverse habitat conditions and a short timeline in which to complete the project.  Your crew lead by operator Gene Wixson pioneered the access ramp and constructed the toe buttress at the base of the 40 foot bluffs within the first two weeks of the project.  Chris Anderson then quickly demonstrated his expertise in the implementation of biological stabilization techniques, and in consultation with you developed modifications to the project that will assure its longevity.  The crew organized quickly and began a routine that completed 60 - 80 feet of planted embankment a day.

Your firm completed the project on time and within budget providing innovations to the design that will ensure its long-term success.  Thank you for the willingness to take on this difficult project.


Chris Whitworth
Deputy Director
Humboldt County Department of Public Works


Mad River Project; Ken Miller, Resident of the Mad River Bluffs


Residents along the Mad River Bluffs on Ocean Drive may have been the poster faces of the threat posed by the meandering Mad, but we were not the primary targets. Our entire neighborhood, with its infrastructure and utilities were in direct danger. After much negotiation and hand-wringing, we understood that although we were victims of historic constraints on the river to create Arcata agricultural lands, we few bluff residents were going to pay hefty shares of any grant to protect the bluffs, so we focused on the project itself rather than the blame.

As you can imagine, federal (NRCS, ACOE), state (Coastal Commission), and county all had skin in the game. Hank Seeman, engineer from County Public Works navigated the minefield of environmental engineering consultants, who expressed expensive concerns over any credible evaluation of the many variables involved, and the regulators with their permitting requirements.Ultimately, we avoided the morass by declaring an emergency, appropriately since one residence was 23 feet from the edge, and proceeded. But proceed with what? ACOE proposed a long rock pile, others wanted a rigid polymer wall. None of us wanted either.

Then, along came Evan, and his hearty band. Soon, expert loaders and excavators and diggers and spreaders and foremen were unloading and distributing vast quantities of quarried rock from Strawberry Rock area, building a 1500 foot roadbed surveyed to rise above high water mark. From there, they placed many hundreds of 2-4 ton boulders with the precision of a surgeon until they had built groins and road. Next came harvesting of nearby willows which were planted amongst the rocks. CFG/CFW supplied some second growth redwood logs which were  interspersed as subsurface habitat at high tide, exposed at low for the convenience of otters, among others.

We watched from above and from the river, entertained by the choreography of giant machines delicately and deftly handling enormous rock, and pleased with how effective the sediment barriers were, even in this tidal reach. Sprinklers wetted the fresh willow saplings until their maturity, at which point they completely secured the boulders in what is now a living beautiful garden habitat that has prevented further erosion into the bluffs while delighting the senses. One of the best parts was interacting with Evan’s crew. They  were clearly having fun as they worked their magic, bringing this work of art to fruition, under budget! Thank you Evan for saving our hood and our homes with such an elegant model of geo-engineering.

Ken Miller, Landowner


Please allow me to add my voice to those who would enthusiastically recommend Evan Engber and his team at BioEngineering Associates for the holistic and visionary approach they take to river restoration.

Several years ago, Frog's Leap Winery was faced with a monumental problem of bank instability at our Galleron Lane Vineyard located on a stretch of the Napa River.  Severe undercutting and subsequent erosion were threatening a large portion of our vineyard. Evan's innovative approach using natural bioengineering techniques has not only transformed this section of the river, but his team also brought the project in on time and within a budget that no other contractor could match.  Ten years later, no one could tell their work was not a natural part of the riverscape.  Evan and his team are true professionals, and I would recommend them to anyone.


John Williams


Frog's Leap Winery



Asti Projects; Jeff Collins, Asti General Manager

Hard to believe that this is the 5th winter since BioEngineers completed the work. Looking at the bank you wouldn't know work had been done unless you knew what you were looking for.  However, that work remains a source of pride for Asti Winery, not just in knowing that we 'did the right thing' in terms of the environmental approach taken to the project, but in the fact that so many different groups (NOAA Fisheries, Fish and Game, the United Wine Growers of Sonoma County, etc) hold Asti and Bioengineering's work as the model for how a stabilization project should take place, and what the results should look like.

Two weeks ago Asti Winery was honored with the Business Environmental Award by the Sonoma County Business Environmental Alliance. Your work featured prominently in the nomination and was mentioned during the presentation as one of the measures we've taken to be both a profitable and environmentally friendly business.

Jeff Collins, General Manager, Asti Winery


Odd Fellows Recreation Club Projects; Jack Davies, OFRC Chairman of the Board of Directors

To Whom It May Concern,

Odd Fellows Recreation Club is a private community of some 600 residents located on the lower reach of the Russian River two miles upriver from Guerneville, CA.  it has nearly one and a-half miles of riverbank on its northern boundary.  The community’s 336 acres serve as a watershed for the river and is heavily forested with redwoods, firs, bay laurels, and tan oaks.  Our forestland has been managed to benefit our watershed and wildlife.

We have always been fiercely protective of the water quality in our river and we have been proactive leaders of regional efforts to protect our river and promote water conservation.  When we realized many of our older redwood septic tanks would one day outlive their usefulness and could endanger our river, we banded together as a community to build a state of the art sanitary sewer system to protect water quality.  Realizing that waiting to access federal funding for a project of this scope could take years, we joined together and decided this timeframe was unacceptable.  We simply could not wait up to a decade to ensure our river’s protection, and we voted to assess ourselves for the cost of a new sewer system (even though it meant many families would have to borrow money for their portion of the assessment).

It was a very proud day for us when we finished our system, but Mother Nature soon eclipsed our joy in this accomplishment.  Shortly after completion of the sewer, we endured a winter (in 2002 – 2003) that caused major riverbank failure, carrying away vast swaths of our riparian corridor and critically endangering our only access road and underground utilities.  In the history of our area, we had never dealt with such devastation to our riverbank or faced such grave destruction possibilities to our principal infrastructure.

As a community, we immediately began working to develop a plan to permanently stabilize our failing riverbank, stop the sedimentation of the river that was harmful to the ESA salmonid population and in the process establish new habitat for Coho, Chinook and Steelhead salmon.  But even with hundreds of thousands of dollars in temporary stabilization work, subsequent winters saw major portions of our bank literally explode and disappear downstream.  Many places along 2,100 feet of our riverbank were so severely weakened that they were susceptible to any storm event.  The winter of 2008 was fairly mild and yet in February we still came within hours of losing the sewer system during a heavy rainstorm (due to a new, massive blowout that occurred instantaneously).  The defect extended 100 feet horizontally into the bank, was 60 feet wide and thirty feet deep.  A massive amount of sediment had been introduced into the river.  Quick action by our emergency crews, engineering team and state response agencies was what saved our multi-million dollar sewer system from being lost to the river.  Ultimately, it required over 1,500 tons of rock to stabilize the defect.

For all intents and purposes, the prospect of a massive bank failure with loss of the sewer system would have rendered the community completely uninhabitable.  It became imperative that we must proceed with a remediation project to stabilize and restore the failing riparian corridor.  Due to the fact that the riverbank was in such a fragile state that it would not be able to survive even a mild winter, it was vital that such a project be completed before the coming rainy season of 2009.

We had started planning for this project after the severe riverbank loss during the winter of 2002 – 2003.  From the outset, we engaged the firm of Parry and Associates to act as our project manager.  We felt that Cam Parry, one of the principals, was uniquely qualified for the task at hand.  At that time, Cam had a decade of experience working for the restoration of (and help to create new legislation in support of ) anadromous fish populations on the Pacific Northwest Coast.

Fortunately, we were able to complete the Riverbank Restoration Project in November, 2009.  Its completion literally saved our community as the winter of 2009 – 2010 proved to have some of the greatest rainfall amounts recorded in the previous five years, with the Russian River closely approaching flood stage at our site.  Our sewer system would have been lost to the river had the project not been in place.

Cam was also instrumental in our selection of Evan Engber and John Gardiner of BioEngineering Associates as our contractor for the project.  Through Cam’s knowledge of the riparian restoration process, we understood that in order for the project to gain the necessary approval from local, state and federal agencies, we would need to utilize a bioengineered approach (as opposed to typical rock rip-rap) to our design.  He was very familiar with Evan from his previous bioremediation projects and felt BioEngineering Associates would be the right fit for us.

BioEngineering Associates is a national leader in bioengineering study, technology, and design, and has completed a vast array of restoration projects including riparian reconstruction of sites on the Napa River, Forsythe Creek, Mill Creek, Streeter Creek, Dooley Creek, Middle Reach of the Russian River, and the Mad River.

Our particular project, while not the largest in scope, would present several challenges to Evan and John and their team due to the technicalities of the riverbank soil characteristics and its inherent pore pressure problems and the dynamics of the river’s streamflow and its effect on bank erosion.

As it turned out, this was the largest high-bank bioremediation effort completed on the lower Russian River to date, encompassing over 2,100 feet of river frontage.  NMFS termed it a critical sediment loading site, probably the worst on the lower river.  NMFS Restoration Supervisor Pat Rutten called this project, “Crucial to the health of the lower Russian River.”  Up to 100 feet of horizontal bank along the 2,100 foot stretch was lost, dumping massive amounts of sediment into the river and infilling critical ESA salmonid habitat.  With the help of NOAA and DFG biologist, significant new salmonid habitat was created as the bank was stabilized and remediated.

The completed bioremediation is now a nationally-recognized bioengineering model, used a living study laboratory.  It will grow stronger every year, as it relies on “green armor” instead of rip-rap for its strength.  The restoration saved the lower Russian from the environmental disaster of losing an entire community’s sewer system into the river, which would have severely damaged the area’s water recreation-dependent economy for years.

Without the technical expertise of Evan, John, and the whole BioEngineering Associates team, this project would not have been possible.  They brought us this project in on time and exactly on budget, which demonstrated remarkable administrative skill for such a complex undertaking.

The Odd Fellows community is forever in debt to Cam Parry, Evan Engber, and John Gardiner for their superb efforts in planning, designing, constructing and administering this vital project.


Jack Davies
Executive Director
Odd Fellows Recreation Club