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Washington State News

WDFW Will Use Drones to Monitor Water Levels for Threatened Bull Trout

Photo by Roger Phillips/Idaho Fish and Game

OLYMPIA – Beginning last Monday, Aug. 1, and continuing into the fall, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) staff will use a drone to assess the effects of low water flows on bull trout movement and migration in Kittitas and Yakima counties. This work will alert biologists when they need to undertake fish rescue efforts for the species, which is listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act, as low water conditions develop and create barriers to fish passage.

Drone flights will take place over the lower reaches of tributary streams and follow those streams to U.S. Bureau of Reclamation reservoirs within the Yakima and Naches River basins. The flights will originate from lands managed by either the Bureau of Reclamation or the United States Forest Service and will take place two to three times per water body between now and the end of November.

Specific flight dates have not been set as they will be conducted according to water level conditions, weather conditions, and site-specific conditions. Each flight mission will take approximately two to four hours to complete.

The images and video footage obtained throughout these flights will be used to create maps of each stream’s reach, documenting the progression of dewatering from an aerial perspective. This will help in prioritizing remediation efforts and will be a visual tool for conveying the degree of water loss. The flights will be supplemented with ground surveys as well.

Drone flights will follow all FAA and WDFW policies and will be restricted to daylight hours, Monday through Friday.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife works to preserve, protect and perpetuate fish, wildlife and ecosystems while providing sustainable fish and wildlife recreational and commercial opportunities.