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The Jefferson Project at Lake George

  • 14 November 2013
  • networx

Work is underway on a high-tech scientific monitoring system that’s designed to protect Lake George’s long-term water quality.  This summer, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, IBM and The Fund for Lake George unveiled plans for a three-year, multimillion-dollar effort to counteract forces that threaten the lake, such as road salt, stormwater runoff and invasive species.

The initiative, called the Jefferson Project at Lake George, began this week with boats and aircraft conducting a sophisticated survey of the lake bed and mountains surrounding the lake.  The survey is critical to the development of a computer model that shows how water circulates in the Lake George watershed, one of several new technologies being developed during the program.
The project is named to honor President Thomas Jefferson, who upon visiting Lake George said it was the most beautiful body of water he’d ever seen.  Its technology will give scientists and the community with a real-time picture of the lake’s health. Scientists are using a combination of sophisticated aerial and boat-based surveying techniques to create a high-resolution contour map and images of the lake bed and mountains.

Residents and visitors at Lake George will see a combination of survey boats and aircraft collecting scientific data. The study will not impact the lake or disturb its ecosystem.  The circulation model built from this survey information will help researchers understand how water, nutrients, invasive species and pollutants move through the watershed and within Lake George. The circulation model is part of a series of advanced data analytics, computing and data visualization techniques, new scientific and experimental methods, 3-D computer modeling and simulation and historical data expected to provide an unprecedented scientific understanding of Lake George.

The Jefferson Project has contracted with New Hampshire-based Substructure Inc., a company with significant expertise in precision geophysical and hydrographic surveying. Substructure will use highly specialized vessels to conduct the lake bed survey. The boats, which are equipped with multi-beam SONAR, will cruise a repetitive pattern in deeper areas of the lake, beginning in the southern basin and continuing for the next several months as they map the lake. The boats cannot survey in the shallowest areas due to risk of damaging precision measurement equipment suspended from their hulls.
Shallower areas will be surveyed by Aerial Cartographics of America, with aircraft equipped with custom-designed bathymetric LiDAR (light detection and ranging) equipment. The initial aerial survey will take approximately three days, with each flying day chosen dependent on weather conditions.
The planes will fly slowly at an altitude of approximately 500 meters above the lake in a repetitive pattern for the mapping. A second round of aerial surveys of the surrounding watershed will take place later in the project.

The collaboration partners expect that the world-class scientific and technology facility at the Rensselaer Darrin Fresh Water Institute at Lake George will create a new model for predictive preservation and remediation of critical natural systems not only in Lake George, but throughout New York, and ultimately around the world.