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On YouTube: Drone Technology Helping Fight Against Shoreline Erosion
Great Lakes Coastal Processes and Erosion - News


Roy Widrig, Great Lakes Coastal Processes and Hazards Specialist, E: rlw294@cornell.edu, P: (315) 312-3042

Filed by Brian Dwyer for Spectrum News

Jefferson County, NY, August 12, 2021 - In an effort to better understand the sea, Roy Widrig is taking to the sky.

As a hazard specialist with New York Sea Grant, Widrig has been busy the past few years helping those along the Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River shoreline who suffered flood damage. With a drone, he is able to calculate things many cannot.

“We see a different dynamic on everything. We can see how the waves crash into the shoreline. We see how they reflect off certain barriers on the shoreline. We can also see, a lot of times, where the sediment is coming off the shore so that we can see where it’s going into the water as well,” Widrig said.

These drones can see miles down the shoreline and 10 feet deep into the water. It allows Widrig to get a good grasp on all the damage he has seen in recent years.

He has seen everything from tree loss, which allows for erosion, to how wave crashes undermine structures and rock walls, causing them to collapse.

“In some cases, we saw areas that were much deeper on the shoreline than they have been in the past, which means the waves don’t break out as far in the lake. They come in, they hit the shoreline and erode straight down, further steepening it. When that happens, you lose your beach. You don’t have as much recreation,” Widrig said.

It’s all information he is offering on a case-by-case basis to people who fill out a "virtual visit" request online on the Sea Grant’s website. He will look at the information provided, offer to help virtually, or come out in-person.

And yes, even with a drastic change in levels this year, it’s still very much in demand.

“Erosion really doesn’t stop a lot of times. So, even though lake levels are lower now that they have been in recent years, if we get one good storm, we could see quite a bit of erosion, especially since a lot of those shorelines that have been built up with softer sediments, they haven’t been revegetated, so they aren’t really as strong as they used to be,” he said.

When he comes out, Widrig will have the drone in hand to not only offer help in managing the current damage, but to learn what could happen in the future.

He says the drone has also been helpful in mapping out what kind of damage has happened, allowing for a better understanding of what areas need what help.

More Info: What You Need To Know

— Despite the low water levels during 2021, people up and down the Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River shorelines are still feeling the effects of recent flooding

— New York Sea Grant is using a drone to track any damage and erosion that can’t be seen from the ground

— New York Sea Grant says the footage from above can give experts a much better understanding of what’s happening, why and how to fix it 

More Info: New York Sea Grant

New York Sea Grant (NYSG), a cooperative program of Cornell University and the State University of New York (SUNY), is one of 34 university-based programs under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Sea Grant College Program.

Since 1971, NYSG has represented a statewide network of integrated research, education and extension services promoting coastal community economic vitality, environmental sustainability and citizen awareness and understanding about the State’s marine and Great Lakes resources.

Through NYSG’s efforts, the combined talents of university scientists and extension specialists help develop and transfer science-based information to many coastal user groups—businesses and industries, federal, state and local government decision-makers and agency managers, educators, the media and the interested public.

The program maintains Great Lakes offices at Cornell University, SUNY Buffalo, SUNY Oswego and the Wayne County Cooperative Extension office in Newark. In the State's marine waters, NYSG has offices at Stony Brook University in Long Island, Brooklyn College and Cornell Cooperative Extension in NYC and Kingston in the Hudson Valley.

For updates on Sea Grant activities: www.nyseagrant.org has RSS, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube links. NYSG offers a free e-list sign up via www.nyseagrant.org/nycoastlines for its flagship publication, NY Coastlines/Currents, which is published quarterly.

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