Mapping Plainfield’s Waterways

putting up uas flighs

Emma Estabrook of the UVM team putting up a warning sign regarding the aerial survey. UAS stand for “unmanned aerial vehicle.” There are numerous safety protocols in place to ensure the data is gathered without risking the vehicle interferes with any people or property.

Town of Plainfield has been working with University of Vermont’s Spatial Analysis Lab to map the Great Brook & part of the Winooski River. These UVM experts, who are part of  the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources, have state-of-the-art aerial mapping equipment. Their work has already proved vital in helping Plainfield secure funding to manage a distressed house which was falling into the brook due to storm erosion.

sign uvm side of car

Why such complicated tools? Is aerial mapping required? Unfortunately Plainfield has two major waterways which have the potential to wreak havoc on property and threaten lives. The Town must undertake major infrastructure upgrades in order to ensure safety.


The funding for the improvements is prohibitively expensive for the town to undertake without outside help. The undersized bridges within the village are a case in point. One of these small overpasses was jammed with logs during the May 2011 storm event. The village narrowly escaped losing houses. The cost of replacing the bridge is roughly 3 times the entire annual road budget. This is the expense of only ONE of the many problem areas.


As adverse weather events have become more frequent the funding sources have experienced severe strain. The amount of reimbursement, the cost the town must shoulder on its own, has more than doubled (from roughly 10% to 25%). The number of municipalities competing for these dollars has also increased.

michael documenting flight cu

Michael Billingsley, member of the Hazard Mitigation Committee, documenting the flight with still photographs and video.

Given this backdrop the Town of Plainfield needs ALL tools available in order to present the strongest case for funding. Aerial mapping is an integral part of the tool kit. It gives the town the ability to scientifically present the problems which, in turn, aids the process of securing money for the solutions.


The Town has already used data collected in the aerial mapping flights in its study of the problem of debris in the Great Brook. (Note: here is a link to the Hazard Committee’s recommendations from that report.) It is in the process of seeking funding for a design for a new bridge which will also rely on this type of precise information.


The Town of Plainfield is doing everything it can to mitigate the flooding threat. Thanks to the Plainfield Selectboard, the Town Clerk’s office, the Hazard Mitigation Committee and Prof. Jarlath O’Neil-Dunne , Emma Estabrook, Taylor Norton and Mike Fahey from UVM.

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