National Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Project Office
Monitoring river impacts during removal of Elwha and Glines dams in Olympic National Park, Washington.
Because this is the first dam removal on such a large scale, there are presently uncertainties about how rapidly, and in what patterns, sediment will erode from the reservoirs and move downstream. Many of those uncertainties can be answered by using aerial over flights, including those from unmanned aircraft systems, to monitor changes in the reservoirs and river channel. The resolution of aerial photography, and if available K-U band radar imagery, collected by UAS technology will be highly valuable for scientists and managers to monitor sediment volumes eroded from the reservoir and deposited downstream, where the mobile sediment can potentially affect salmon habitat and flood-stage elevation. The use of repeated UAS surveys, especially if the imagery collected can be orthorectified, will provide much-needed data about the rates and patterns of change that occur in this first-of-its scale river restoration. We anticipate that what is learned from the Elwha River changes over the next several years will be used widely to inform other proposed and planned dam removals in the Pacific Northwest and nationwide.
This UAS research initiative on the Elwha River is a collaborative effort between the USGS, Bureau of Reclamation, and the National Park Service. Funding for this effort has been contributed by the Bureau of Reclamation Science and Technology Program and USGS, along with in-kind staff support from the National Park Service who is the lead entity for the Elwha River Restoration Project. USGS team members include staff from the USGS UAS National Project Office in Denver, CO. Reclamation team members include staff from the Remote Sensing and GIS team (division of Flood Hydrology and Emergency Management Group) and the Sedimentation and River Hydraulics Group who are leading an adaptive management monitoring program on sediment processes associated with dam removal.
UAS Missions planned for June 2012 and September 2012.
Mission results: The Raven A imagery successfully created a orthorectified imagery base over the reservoir showing the restored river basin with the rapid change in sediment movement and infill. This imagery coupled with many other remotely sensed data types will provide a multi-layered historical collection of data over the area that can be used for historical purposes and aid in providing information for future dam removal efforts.
A Drone's Eye View of the Elwha River - earthfix.opb.org, October 5, 2012
Drones are Elwha Dam researchers' eyes in sky - Peninsula Daily News, September 2012
Seattle Times Spotlights Elwha
Bureau of Reclamation UAS article
National Park Service Elwha River Web Cams
USGS Elwha River Restoration Project website
USBR Technical Memorandum
Mission Photos and Video