WDFW uses drone to collect habitat restoration project data in Clark County


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George Fornes, Habitat Biologist, 360-906-6731
Rachel Blomker, Public Affairs, 360-701-3101

OLYMPIA – The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) will fly a drone over a section of the Lower Columbia River and adjacent off-channel habitat to collect information to support river restoration work. 

“The drone will collect images and videos of the South Bachelor Island Reconnection Project in Clark County,” said George Fornes, WDFW biologist. “We recently completed work to reconnect off-channel wetland habitat to restore access for juvenile salmon.”

River channel with trees along the bank
Restored off-channel habitat to benefit migrating juvenile salmon.

Periodic monitoring will begin the first week of January 2020 and continue through January 2030. WDFW anticipates approximately two flights per year with about three days per event. Staff will time flights to capture current conditions in January 2020, periods of low flow in late August through early October, and during high-water events.

WDFW excavated a 100-ft wide, half mile-long channel, and used some of the dredged material to create shallow water habitat along the margin of the river. Drones allow WDFW staff to monitor changes to the wetland reconnection to determine that it functions properly.

“With these drone flights, we’re hoping to better understand where we can place sand dredged from the Columbia River navigation channel to create the least impact to fish and other aquatic species,” said Nicole Czarnomski, Lower Columbia habitat restoration program manager for WDFW. “When we’re able to collect images by drone, we can monitor river restoration projects safely and efficiently – this work might not be possible otherwise.”

Staff will fly drones between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. for approximately 30 to 60 minutes over 2,000 feet of South Bachelor Island upstream of the confluence of the Lake and Columbia rivers in Clark County.

WDFW is the state agency tasked with preserving, protecting, and perpetuating fish, wildlife, and ecosystems, while providing sustainable fishing, hunting, and other outdoor recreation opportunities.

Individuals who need to receive this information in an alternative format, language, or who need reasonable accommodations to participate in WDFW-sponsored public meetings or other activities may contact the Title VI/ADA Compliance Coordinator by phone at 360-902-2349, TTY (711), or email (Title6@dfw.wa.gov). For more information, see https://wdfw.wa.gov/accessibility/requests-accommodation.