North Branch Elkhart River Streamgage Installation

November 2020

The St. Joseph River Basin Commission (SJRBC) recently completed a Flood Risk Management Plan for the North Branch of the Elkhart River (NBER). Following recommendations provided in the plan, three new streamgages have been installed within the watershed. The plan identified priority locations where additional information would be of greatest benefit to the community. Gathering data in these areas will allow more effective management decisions to be made in the future.

The plan recommended utilizing United States Geological Survey (USGS) streamgages, but the cost of installing just one of these gages would exceed the current water monitoring budget of the SJRBC. In order to avoid losing momentum while seeking additional funding, the SJRBC identified a low-cost alternative to the USGS streamgages called CrowdHydrology. Although this alternative will not provide the robust data needed for modeling, it will allow community members to get involved in understanding and protecting their resources.

CrowdHydrology relies on individuals making observations and delivering them via their cell phones. Anyone can read the streamgage and then text the information to a phone number provided on the gage. Once the information is received, it is graphed and provided to the public in real time via the CrowdHydrology website. One downside to this approach is that when individuals are not sending observations there are data gaps. To address this problem, the SJRBC installed the CrowdHydrology streamgages in public areas with the greatest visibility.

Using the site recommendations from the NBER Flood Risk Management Plan as a guideline, three public parks were selected. The first streamgage was installed on the mainstem of the NBER at Delt Church Park in LaGrange County. The second was installed on Little Elkhart Creek at Wolcott Park in the Town of Wolcottville. The third and final streamgage was installed on Bixler Lake Ditch at Sunset Park in the City of Kendallville.

Installing additional streamgages is just one of eight recommendations made in the NBER Flood Risk Management Plan. The SJRBC will continue working with local stakeholders on the implementation of other recommendations in the plan. The installation of the streamgages would not have been possible without the assistance of Martin Franke of the LaGrange County SWCD, Mary Franke of LaGrange County Parks, Steve Cords of the Wolcottville Town Council, and Jim Pankop of Kendallville Parks. To see the data collected from these streamgages, click here.

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