Drones and STEM Help a Local Nonprofit Farm

We are partnering with a local nonprofit farm’s vocational mentorship and farmers in training students, to use STEM to help solve real-world problems. In this example, mitigating a riverside erosion and channel migration into critical elk habitat, with drone imagery, Google Earth, and a long-term ecological restoration project.

Drone Photo of the scour hole on the NW corner of the farm on the Snoqualmie River

Channel migration and a meandering river is not a new problem in the Snoqualmie River Valley. In fact, torrential rains, yearly flooding, and working “with the river” are just part of living and farming here. While many people support “setting rivers free” to some extent, there are always cases and places where balancing conservation, stewardship, and agricultural goals are a challenge. As you can see in the drone image, the river makes an almost 90-degree corner along the border of this historic farm, held in place for years by mid-century bank reinforcements, slabs from an old road, and abandoned concrete cattle infrastructure. Today the historic ring of tress protecting this section of the bank are long gone, the rock escarpments and slabs have been breached, and now the forces of erosion and flooding are combining to cut a new channel that will, over time, separate 30+ acres of forest and hay fields from the farm.

The solution, involving local students, staff, and experts from local government and nonprofits, is a series of sequential reforestation and monitoring efforts, over a number of years. The goal, long term, is to help naturally reshape the river, while preserving historic farmland, elk habitat, and riparian buffer strip. With a solid first year planting and 95% survival thanks to an elk fence, we look forward to watching this project in the years to come.

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