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.