Rain or Shine — Still a Survey Day

Posted on: July 8th, 2016 by Caroline Stupple

Three out of five typ­i­cal week­days dur­ing the sum­mer, the Ulster Coun­ty Soil and Water Con­ser­va­tion Dis­trict (UCSWCD) sur­vey team is out mea­sur­ing var­i­ous phys­i­cal attrib­ut­es of streams in the water­shed. With this data they are able to mon­i­tor pre­vi­ous­ly man­aged streams and plan for future projects in unsta­ble stream areas. The site shown below is an area along the Stony Clove Creek near the ham­let of Chich­ester. It’s the loca­tion of a stream restora­tion project the team is now mon­i­tor­ing. His­tor­i­cal­ly, this stream was high­ly unsta­ble and con­tin­u­ous­ly erod­ed a hill­s­lope made up of lacus­trine clay and small-sized glacial deposits. The insta­bil­i­ty was a con­cern because of its threat to infra­struc­ture and to pub­lic health due to increased tur­bid­i­ty. Tur­bid­i­ty is the cloudi­ness of water caused by large num­bers of sus­pend­ed par­ti­cles. In the Ashokan Water­shed, clay par­ti­cles are usu­al­ly the cul­prit behind high tur­bid­i­ty lev­els. In 2013, the Ashokan Water­shed Stream Man­age­ment Pro­gram (AWSMP) and the NYC Depart­ment of Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion (NYCDEP), with the sup­port and coop­er­a­tion of the stream­side landown­er, imple­ment­ed a project to sta­bi­lize the stream and rein­force the hill­s­lope to help main­tain infra­struc­ture integri­ty and improve water quality.


Robot­ic Total Sta­tion set up along Chich­ester Site 2–3. Pho­to by Car­o­line Stupple.


UCSWCD, with fund­ing from the NYCDEP, pur­chased a Robot­ic Total Sta­tion (shown above) to enhance stream mon­i­tor­ing by improv­ing accu­ra­cy and effi­cien­cy. In many ways, tech­nolo­gies such as the Robot­ic Total Sta­tion and its pre­de­ces­sors have rev­o­lu­tion­ized the indus­try. Despite their impor­tance, how­ev­er, the sur­vey­ors them­selves are inte­gral to the mon­i­tor­ing process. Not only do they phys­i­cal­ly manip­u­late the robot, but more impor­tant­ly they pro­vide his­tor­i­cal knowl­edge of the site and sci­en­tif­ic exper­tise of stream form and func­tion that even the best tech­nol­o­gy can­not repli­cate. The sur­vey group con­sists of UCSWCD Water­shed Tech­ni­cians and Water­shed Con­ser­va­tion Corps (WCC) interns who metic­u­lous­ly col­lect cross-sec­tion­al pro­file, lon­gi­tu­di­nal pro­file, and peb­ble count data, to name a few, to record changes in stream sta­bil­i­ty. The data can then be used to mon­i­tor how man­age­ment tech­niques have changed the stream and which tech­niques should be used on future projects.



Sur­vey team set­ting up lon­gi­tu­di­nal pro­file at Chich­ester Site 5. Alli­son Lent, UCSWCD Stream Assess­ment Coor­di­na­tor, front left. Cas­sidy Ryan, WCC intern, front right. Tiffany Runge, UCSWCD Water­shed Tech­ni­cian, back cen­ter. Pho­to by Car­o­line Stupple.


Stream man­age­ment can­not con­tin­ue with­out the skilled mem­bers of a sur­vey crew. The AWSMP engages with the WCC intern­ship pro­gram to fos­ter inter­est in water­shed con­ser­va­tion and stew­ard­ship, and cul­ti­vate an under­stand­ing of the sci­en­tif­ic approach to stream management.