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River Relief Conducts Aerial Trash Scout

Missouri River Relief staff and volunteers hit the skies on Friday, March 11, for a trash scout by plane of the Lower Missouri River from Kansas City to St. Louis.

Working with a pilot and GIS technician from the non-profit Ecoflight, River Reliefers Jeff Barrow and Tim Nigh used the opportunity to get a birds-eye view of trash accumulations along more than 300 miles of the river.

The project was dreamed up several years ago, when River Relief conducted a 754-mile trash scout of the river by boat, called the MegaScout.

On that project in 2006, crews got a close-up view of trash distribution patterns and dump sites from the river. But we also knew that floods deposit large accumulations of trash out of sight from a boat cruising down the the river.

Trash Mapping from the Air

The dream to map those deposits from the air got a boost this year by grants from Patagonia and New Belgium Brewery. River Relief founder Jim Karpowicz suggested that we work with Ecoflight, a non-profit organization that provides aerial flight, mapping and photo capabilities to organizations trying to communicate landscape-scale environmental problems to the public.

The crew crammed into the Cessna plane in Olathe, KS, before heading downstream toward St. Louis. Using printed maps, cameras, GPS and binoculars, the plane was able to zero in on suspected accumulation sites where flood waters deposit trash and large woody debris in areas unprotected by levees. As we process photos, we'll be posting them to show some of the amazing trash accumulations downstream of Kansas City.

The information is going to be used to direct efforts during this fall's Big Muddy Clean Sweep, when River Relief crews will be using a trash barge to conduct clean-ups with communities from Kansas City to St. Louis. The effort is highlighting River Relief's 10th Anniversary: "A Decade of Good, Trashy Fun".

KOMU News Clip

Thanks & Praises

Special thanks to Tara Hart from Woodruff Sweitzer for organizing media coverage for the project. Woodruff Sweitzer is wrapping up a year of providing pro-bono marketing support to River Relief as we approached our 10th Anniversary. Thanks for all your professional help guys!

Thanks to our sponsors Patagonia and New Belgium Brewery for financially supporting the effort.

Thanks to the great crew at Ecoflight for making it happen.

Thanks to our board vice-president Tim Nigh for directing the mapping efforts.

Thanks to the Norcross Wildlife Foundation for funding the purchase of a computer needed to analyze the data and produce a GIS database of our findings.

Thanks to ESRI for the donation of the ARC-GIS software we are using to compile our river trash database.

And thanks to the Missouri Dept. of Conservation who served as our "Plan B" flight team in the event that Ecoflight was unable to complete the scout before vegetation greened up. We didn't need you but appreciate your willingness to partner!

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