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The Surveying Unit was busy this past winter collecting data to support several New England Water Science Center projects.

Regardless of the season, the New England Water Science Center Surveying Unit continues data collection to support the precise vertical datum needs of our center. 

We support a range of colleagues' needs, such as setting vertical control for new project sites, new real-time network gages, and sampling platforms; verifying elevations at existing network sites; and collecting other geographic data to support indirect streamflow calculations throughout the region.

Generally, we perform these survey campaigns on an as-needed basis and welcome the opportunity to coordinate directly with other project staff on these objectives.  Meanwhile, we continue to make efficient progress on our main mission: to accurately collect riverine survey data and dimensional-elevation measurements of in-channel bridges, dams, and weirs to support the center’s robust Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) program in the development of flood insurance rate maps at our New England project sites.



Preparing for collecting cross-section measurements
Hydrologic Technicians prepare for cross-section measurements, Connecticut River, Maidstone, Vermont.
Performing Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (ADCP) cross-section surveying
Hydrologic Technicians perform cross-section surveys on the Connecticut River, near Maidstone, Vermont.


Traditionally, summertime is prime season for prolonged riverine fieldwork: flows are down, air and water temperatures are up, and longer days offer the promise of increased data-collection productivity without the need for additional cumbersome personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect people and equipment from the elements. But, for the Surveying Unit, once the leaves fall from the trees, it is prime time for efficient data collection! Without overhead leaf cover and leafy understory vegetation, our Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) rovers and total stations operate more efficiently, similarly to how we can see deeper into the forest and more clearly up to the stars during fall and winter. Conducting field operations during this time of year comes with additional challenges: sun exposure and biting insects are replaced with the potential for cold-weather injuries. Safety is paramount while we conduct our work; therefore we stay vigilant to changing conditions and prepare for the worst with training, including the Motorboat Operators Certification Course (MOCC) and training in operating nonmotorized boats, over the water safety, and avoiding slips, trips, and falls. Year-round, on-the-job practice also helps prepare us for all conditions.

Since the beginning of fiscal year 2022, the Surveying Unit has worked throughout New England on a variety of tasks. Our primary operations for FEMA have been focused on work in Vermont, and we continue to support several other programs in the center. The following are some highlights from the past several months. As spring comes around, please feel free to reach out to us to discuss any of your projects’ datum needs!


Railroad bridge spans the White River, Royalton, Vermont
Circa 1928 railroad bridge spans the White River, Royalton, Vermont.
After ice out on the Black River, Weathersfield, Vermont
After ice-out on the Black River, Weathersfield, Vermont.


The Surveying Unit also continued to provided support to other initiatives in the center, including establishing datums at new and existing Hydrologic Monitoring Program (HMP) network sites in southeastern Massachusetts, Cape Cod, and Rhode Island. In Connecticut, our crews support the Water Quality Networks Section to establish datums at two new real-time water-quality monitoring sites along the southeastern coast, and in New Hampshire we helped collect domestic well water samples for an extensive statewide study.

In Maine, we helped the HMP over the winter with the annual snow course survey and assisted with ice measurements on the Kennebeck River.

Looking ahead, we have several seasons of work lined up with our FEMA projects in Vermont and Maine. Meanwhile, we continue to bolster our unit's skillsets with opportunities by helping others within and outside the center. To help meet these goals, we intend to send five members of our team to the next in-person GNSS and trigonometric leveling course, hosted by the authors of both U.S. Geological Survey Techniques and Methods publications on the subject matter. The course is scheduled for August later this year.