In an effort to expand erosion research, Dillingham will install permanent water level gauge

Aug 2, 2021

Erosion research goes one step further in Dillingham. A permanent tide gauge will be instilled at the city dock. 

Credit Brian Venua / KDLG

A permanent water level gauge will be installed at the Dillingham city dock this fall to expand erosion research. It will be the second of its kind in Bristol Bay. 

JOA Surveys is an Anchorage-based company that specializes in tide and water level gauges. It has worked on 27 different stations across the state and put one in Naknek two years ago.

Manager Nathan Wardell says the Dillingham gauge could help bridge a gap in coastline data collection across the state.

“In general Alaska and its coastline has been under represented for water levels to support everything from navigation to coastal hazard programs, storm surge modeling and engineering," Wardell said. "So that Bristol Bay region has been a real large gap in that network and it’s been known.”

The University of Alaska, Alaska Sea Grant and the state Department of Geological Surveys teamed up to fund the project.

The system will be based in the water and connected to a facility for power. The gauge will use  a vented pressure sensor to convert water pressure to depth and radar sensors to gather level data. That data will be transmitted to a satellite for real time measurements. 

Jackie Overbeck, with the state, says the water gauge will help scientists pinpoint how storm surges change water levels, which are critical factors in rapid coastline erosion.

“When you have really high water we can actually measure how high it is and compare that to local land elevation to know what parts of town might get flooded or where the erosion might be happening,” Overbeck said.

Data collected by scientists will be free to the public and could be a resource for tracking tides in real time. The website will go live once the station is operational. Earlier this summer, scientists from UAF came to the region to plot new tracking sites, upgrade equipment and install a yellow wave buoy to track wind and wave patterns.

Contact the author at tyler@kdlg.org or 907-842-2200