US Geological Survey Uses Raven to Monitor River Erosion on Indian Reservation

The US Geological Survey has just released this video of its Raven flights to monitor river bank erosion on the Lower Brule reservation on the bank of the Missouri River that we reported in August.The Lower Brule Sioux Tribe (LBST) Environmental Protection Office asked the USGS for assistance in monitoring erosion of the Missouri River shoreline on the Lower Brule Reservation. The LBST Reservation, home to approximately 600 Native Americans, is located on the western side of the Missouri River in central South Dakota. The Missouri River and the two lakes formed by dams, Lake Sharpe and Lake Francis Case, form the northern and eastern boundary of the LBST Reservation. Shoreline erosion has occurred along a large portion of this border. The LBST estimates that the Reservation is losing shoreline in some locations at a rate of approximately 8 feet per year.

Native Americans honour their cultural heritage and environmental resources and many ancestral sites are located along the Missouri River. Agriculture and recreation is a large part of the LBST Reservation’s economy. As bank erosion occurs, cultural heritage sites and shoreline habitat are lost or altered. To address these concerns, a monitoring programme has been developed for a portion of the Missouri River’s shoreline. The study area consists of a 7-mile stretch of shoreline with major bank loss. This area was chosen because of the high rate of bank loss and because the LBST Rural Water plant’s intake location is within the study area.

The study area’s topography is undulating; vegetation generally is prairie grasses with small areas of trees. Due to the lack of roads, crumbling riverbanks and shallow water unsuitable for motorboat traffic, this area is not easily accessible for much of the shoreline. The Unmanned Aerial System Raven technology will be invaluable as an environmental tool to monitor bank erosion and changing habitat conditions. Raven flights will be used as a reconnaissance and surveillance tool to capture video and still pictures, providing a baseline reference of conditions and recording physical changes that occur along this small portion of the Missouri River during the 2-year study. Results from this effort will be analyzed to investigate the location and severity of erosion, and the lasting impacts of cultural and environmental losses. This tool could potentially be used for many other efforts dealing with large rivers, providing a safe and economical method to monitor dangerous shoreline.

Source: USGS

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