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Innovate! Uses Data for Improved River Health


The United States is home to about 2.9 million miles of rivers to enjoy and protect. Across our country, river health varies with some in poor or critical condition. Through the use of data, Innovate! Inc. (Innovate) passionately supports public entities to identify the source of these adverse effects and then develop mitigation, management, and monitoring solutions for improved river health. Here are a few of our ongoing accomplishments.

Chesapeake Bay Program (CBP)

The Chesapeake Bay Program is responsible for collecting, storing, and distributing environmental monitoring data for the entire Chesapeake Bay watershed. Innovate designed and developed the Chesapeake Watersheds Assessment (CHWA) application, a visualization tool for watershed data to help promote the improvement of Chesapeake Watershed health.

The Chesapeake Bay watershed (drainage basin) extends about five hundred miles south from the headwaters of Otsego Lake, near Cooperstown, New York to the Atlantic Ocean and Suffolk, Virginia. It extends east from mountain streams near Blacksburg, Virginia to Berlin, Maryland (near Ocean City). It is essentially a giant, sprawling system of rivers that all drain into one shallow tidal basin, the Chesapeake Bay, and its tidal tributaries (average depth, only 21 feet).

The CHWA application takes complex data—60+ attributes for over 80,000 unique catchments—and enables users, specifically non-GIS professionals, to interact with and visualize the data. Innovate created CHWA using Esri’s ArcGIS Enterprise and Esri’s Web AppBuilder Developer Edition. The mapping application contains over 150 layers and nine widgets/tools, which allow users to use specific layers, filter data, turn on satellite imagery as a basemap, and create bookmarks for easy navigation, all on-demand. One of the key features of the application is a custom reporting tool, built via a custom Web AppBuilder widget. This tool allows users to explore metrics and indices related to watershed health and generate a custom report for the selected catchment. The app is used by the Chesapeake Bay Program and other organizations to study and monitor the watershed catchments of the Chesapeake Bay.

Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ​​Carson River Mercury Superfund Site

In the late 1800s, Northwestern Nevada was mined for its large natural deposits of gold and silver. Over time, this mining process released an estimated 14 million pounds of mercury into the environment. In 1990, the Carson River Mercury Superfund Site became part of the National Priorities List. This list consists of some of the most toxic Superfund sites in the country and is intended to guide the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in determining which sites warrant further investigation.

The Carson River Mercury Superfund Site covers five counties, about 330 square miles, and more than 130 river miles. Historic mill sites in Carson City, Virginia City, Dayton, Washoe Valley, and Pleasant Valley have mercury contamination. Waterways located next to mill sites spread mercury from the 100-year floodplain of Carson River to the terminal ends. EPA’s site investigation found mercury in soil, sediments (earthen materials that settle at the bottom of a water body), fish, and wildlife.

The primary purpose of Innovate’s partnership project is to provide support for organizing existing geospatial data by acquiring new geospatial data from field surveys and analytical sampling across this large mercury-poisoned area. The goal of data management is to eventually create online mapping products in the EPA GeoPlatform, including map services, web maps, and web mapping applications to excavate (dig up) and remove mercury-contaminated tailings and soils from the site.

Innovate continues to assist clients in planning, designing, and implementing Geospatial and IT-based environmental solutions and systems. We support our clients in delivering on their mission to protect the environment through the successful implementation of technology, business consulting, and geospatial services.

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