Helicopter used to survey depth to bedrock in northeast Wisconsin

Ag Report

(WFRV) – You might notice a large piece of equipment flying overhead over the next few weeks. It is an important tool in keeping our groundwater safe.

“We have outdated maps, they used different techniques 30-40 years ago, and we do not have updated information” explains Rachel Rushmann with the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.

Now, modern technology will help bring those maps up to date.

“What it is doing is measuring the depth to bedrock from the ground surface and identifying some other aquifer properties below the surface as well” she explains.

A low flying helicopter will tow an airborne sensor. According to Rushmann “it looks like a large hula hoop hanging from a cable”.

Accurate maps are critical for farmers and custom operators applying manure or chemicals.

“We have some really sensitive areas when it comes to groundwater contamination” Rushmann says.

Updated maps will highlight potentially unknown weak points, where depth to Silurian bedrock is 20 feet or less. That is the marker for manure spreading restrictions to begin.

While Kewaunee County has some of the most sensitive soils in the state, the majority of it is not covered by this project. That is because it was already mapped in a recent bedrock survey.

According to Rushmann “We actually flew over an area of Kewaunee county and used it as a calibration and we are using that to make sure we are getting accurate results”.

This round covers communities in Brown, Calumet, Door, Fond du Lac, Kewaunee, Manitowoc, and Sheboygan counties.

“We hope with additional funding to cover additional areas in the state and update maps,” Rushmann says. “This will alleviate the need for private landowners to verify because they will have a very accurate map they can utilize”.

Learn more about the project at https://datcp.wi.gov/pages/programs_services/aemsurvey.aspx

Track the daily flight at https://www.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=1f6ec5a93fe84daf9691283799594fc2&extent=-10130665.6454%2C5253556.9528%2C-9433559.9474%2C5716459.5961%2C102100

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