Watershed group installs river gauges

BEULAH— Visiting and area anglers and now have an opportunity to take an active part in the monitoring of Betsie River.

Max Bromley, a volunteer with Betsie River Watershed Restoration Committee, has spearheaded a program that depends on the public to report water levels on-site at the river. Bromley enlisted the help of Mike Jones, conservation specialist for Benzie Conservation District, to install river gauges at several points along the Betsie River to monitor water levels. River gauges have been used for decades to observe stream flow trends, and to measure fluctuation in river heights. Organizations like the United States Geological Survey use river gauges to gather hydrometric measurements of water surface elevation, referred to as “stage,” and the volumetric discharge of the water flowing through a given stream.

Through a University at Buffalo-based project called “Crowd Hydrology,” the Betsie River Watershed Restoration Committee was able to install stream gauges at several prominent points along the Betsie River. The newly installed river gauges are located at Grass Lake Dam, Long Road Canoe access, just south of Wallin Road, King Road, Homestead Dam and Lewis Bridge Canoe access on River Road.

Until these gauges were installed, the only gauging station in Benzie County was a USGS station on the Platte River, located near U.S. 31 west of Honor.

However, unlike the gauging station in Platte River, which utilizes a highly automated telemetric transmission system to provide real-time data to the USGS website, these gauges must be read manually.

Crowd Hydrology’s system uses “crowd sourcing” to gather data for each station.

This method of data collection relies entirely on people passing by the river. A person can stop and send text messages from the different gauge sites with the recorded water level.

Once the water level is sent to Crowd Hydrology, the water level point is compiled into their online database and published for public use. Data is then displayed in the form of a hydrograph, which can then be interpreted and used in a variety of ways.

The current data can be seen at www.crowdhydrology.geology.buffalo.edu.

Crowd Hydrology’s mission is to provide inexpensive data for anyone through the use of this crowd-sourcing technique. These river gauges will not only let people easily monitor the effects of precipitation on river heights, but it will also allow people to examine the stream conditions for fishing or paddling, and to quantify surface water and groundwater exchange in streams. The gauge data will also be used in writing a new watershed management plan for the Betsie River. This information can also be used to teach students about their watershed’s hydrologic cycle.

For more information, contact Mike Jones, Conservation Specialist, (231)882-4391; mike@benziecd.org.

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