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Robert Black,
Biologist,
934 Broadway,
Suite 300
Tacoma, WA 98402

(rwblack@usgs.gov)
(253) 552-1687
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White River Videography

Project Summaries

  
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WA434 - Aerial Video Habitat Assessment for the Upper White River - Completed FY2002

Problem - The quantity and quality of instream habitat is one of many factors affecting aquatic organisms such as anadromous and non-anadromous salmonids. The measurement and assessment of instream habitat has been the focus of many habitat monitoring and restoration projects throughout the State of Washington. On-the-ground habitat monitoring is extremely important for specific variables and specific levels of detail, but it is often a slow and costly process. The quality of the habitat data can also vary depending on sampling methods.

Objectives - The USGS in cooperation with the Washington Department of Ecology is proposing to use a relatively new technology, an aerial multispectral videography system, to evaluate the quantity and quality of instream and riparian habitat in the Upper White River Basin.

Relevance and Benefits - The recent listing of Chinook salmon in the State of Washington under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) has resulted in the urgent need to rapidly and effectively identify the extent and location of suitable instream salmon habitat throughout the State of Washington. Given the recent ESA listing and the State of Washington's need to establish baseline conditions to evaluate the success or failure of Chinook salmon habitat restoration efforts, a rapid and effective assessment of habitat conditions in specific watersheds throughout Washington needs to be completed. The State of Washington has identified the Upper White River watershed as critical Chinook salmon habitat. The USGS has been asked to help develop and evaluate a rapid instream Chinook habitat assessment tool. To accomplish this task we will test a very unique system capable of evaluating instream habitat using an aerial based video system. The video system has successfully been used in other parts of the country, but it has not been tested in the Pacific Northwest.

The successful application of this very unique technology will significantly reduce the costs and time associated with assessing Chinook habitat in the Upper White River watershed as well as other streams covered by the ESA listing. An effective, rapid and cost effective tool like the one proposed for this study will significantly increase the speed at which federal and state agencies can address the ESA listing of the Chinook salmon.

While a few aerial based video systems are available, the proposed system has a unique combination of features. First, the video system has an incorporated radiometer, which allows for the absolute radiometric calibration of the spectral video imagery. This improves the ability to identify riparian and instream habitat, both critical to this study. Second, the system has the ability to produce ortho-rectified imagines. These images will produce a 3 dimensional image of the stream sections being flown. This ability will allow for the calculation of stream slope conditions as well as assess river confinement. The successful application of the proposed aerial videography will produce the same amount of data in a day that would take ground-based surveyors months to accomplish.

In summary, the proposed project addresses several priority water-resource issues identified in the strategic plan of the Water Resources Division (WRD). These issues include the Suitability of Aquatic Habitat for Biota and the Investment in New Capabilities - Field and Laboratory Methods and Instruments and Technology. The proposed project directly addresses the suitability of aquatic habitat for a federally listed endangered salmon species using cutting edge technology. This technology has the potential to significantly reduce the time it takes to collect and analyzes data needed to assess the status of current and future instream habitat used by salmon and other aquatic species. The proposed project also addresses the goal of using state of the art technology to address water resource issues in the state of Washington as outlined in the USGS Washington Water Science Center Science Plan.

Approach - While a few aerial based video systems are available, the proposed system has a unique combination of features. First, the video system has an incorporated radiometer, which allows for the absolute radiometric calibration of the spectral video imagery. This improves the ability to identify riparian and instream habitat, both critical to this study. Second, the system has the ability to produce ortho-rectified imagines. These images will produce a 3 dimensional image of the stream sections being flown. This ability will allow for the calculation of stream slope conditions as well as assess river confinement. The successful application of the proposed aerial videography will produce the same amount of data in a day that would take ground-based surveyors months to accomplish. Finally, the processed video image is digitally stored so it can be evaluated in the future as new image processing tools become available and can be used to evaluate changes in habitat conditions in the Upper White River system in the future. The successful application of this very unique technology will significantly reduce the costs and time associated with assessing Chinook habitat in the Upper White River watershed as well as other streams covered by the ESA listing. An effective, rapid and cost effective tool like the one proposed for this study will significantly increase the speed at which federal and state agencies can address the ESA listing of the Chinook salmon.

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