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​​​​​Creating A Digital Elevation Map For Communities and Partners

Project Summary

Project ID: WA2016_47
Lead Investigator: Brian Wright, U.S. Geological Survey
Collaborators: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Federal Emergency Management Agency, National Resource Conservation Service,  Alaska Ocean Observing System​Alaska Department of Natural Resources - Division of Geological & Geophysical Surveys 
Project Duration: 2016 – 2017

The coastal areas of the Yukon and Kuskokwim River Deltas (YKD) are among the most productive in Alaska.  The fish, wildlife, and plant resources have been an integral part of communities in this region for thousands of years.  Some of the same traits that make it so productive also make it a challenging place to live and work.  To better understand and plan for coastal erosion and storm surges, or plan for roads and trails, information about elevation patterns on the YKD are needed. Current topographic maps have limited value given the flatness of the area.  

A group of partners worked together with to collect elevation information and create a map that will reveal a portion of the delta’s topography. Through USGS's 3D Elevation Program, Woolpert Inc. and subcontractor Kodiak Mapping flew an airplane instrumented with Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) sensors to collect the elevation data. The data were collected in the fall of 2016 and became publicly available in late August 2017.  The communities of Emmonak, Scammon Bay, Hooper Bay, Chevak, Newtok, Mertarvik and Merkoryuk were included in the project area.  A few examples of the plans to use these data include:

  • The  Natural Resource Conservation Service is working with Hooper Bay to create sustainable trails, and this new information will help them with the trail work.  
  • All of the partners want the information to help communities prepare for emergencies caused by storms and erosion. 
  • The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service wants the information to better understand how changes on the delta affect wildlife habitat. 
  • There are many research partners studying changes in permafrost, berry production and wildlife distribution patterns who are eager to have better elevation data to strengthen their products.
The Western Alaska LCC is one of many partners are collaborating to support this project, with USGS being the lead support agency.  Additional support for this project is from U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Alaska Ocean Observing System, Alaska Division of Geological & Geophysical Service. 

Data can currently be accessed through the State of Alaska, Department of Natural Resources, Division of Geological &Geophysical Surveys at their Digital Elevation Portal.  A webinar describing this work can be found at this link: Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta Lidar Webinar​

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