Flight Over Missouri River to Scout, Map Trash Accumulations
COLUMBIA - Missouri River Relief is conducting the first aerial scout for trash along the Missouri River corridor from Kansas City to the Mississippi River near St. Louis. The purpose of the flight is to discover trash accumulations on the shores and islands while foliage is bare for good visibility and to map the trash sites in preparation for a two-month river cleanup scheduled in September and October.
"From an airplane we can see way back from the river," River Relief Director Jeff Barrow said. "We found some really big accumulation of trash where the river is flooding; it washes it back into the woods along the river and you can't see that from a boat."
River Relief is partnering with EcoFlight, an environmental aviation organization based in Aspen, Colorado. Bruce Gordon, the director of EcoFlight and one of the pilots, operates a squadron of airplanes for conducting aerial scouting and mapping projects in North and Central America. River Relief received grant funding from Patagonia and New Belgium Brewery for the aerial scout project.
"We're shooting GPS cameras so we're taking all these digital images and we're going to collect them and put them on maps," Gordon said.
The aerial scout will build upon the boat-based "MegaScout" mapping project completed in 2006 by Missouri River Relief. This project used motorboats to scout both banks of the river to determine trash accumulations along 700 river miles from Yankton, S.D., to the Mississippi River. A multi-layered trash map was produced and distributed to interested parties.
The aerial scout will expand on this original project by exploring woodlands stretching back from the river banks and viewing overflow chutes and tributaries located far from the main river channel. A spatial database of trash accumulations (ArcGIS) will again be produced using satellite Geographic Positioning System equipment (GPS). The map will be distributed to government agencies and private organizations with an interest in the Missouri River.
The information collected will be used by River Relief staff to target trash sites when planning the "Big Muddy Clean Sweep" this fall, the flagship project of River Relief's 10th Anniversary celebration. River Relief will charter a barge to haul recovered debris during a 370-mile voyage starting Saturday, Sept. 10, in Kansas City and finishing Saturday, Oct. 29, at the Columbia Bottom Conservation Area near St. Louis. The Clean Sweep will be punctuated by numerous stops at river towns along the way. Each mooring will include community cleanups, field trips, barge tours, celebratory meals and events (See the website for information www.riverrelief.org).