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KETCHIKAN - Two helicopters will be flying low over the coastline near Ketchikan in the next few weeks, collecting information for detailed maps.
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The coastal mapping project is being done by Coastal and Ocean Resources Inc., which already has mapped coastlines of Washington state and British Columbia, as well as Cook Inlet, Kodiak Island and Katmai in Alaska.
The digital video imagery from the Alaska surveys is available online, where viewers can "Fly the Alaska Coastline."
Also collected during the surveys is scientific data such as shoreline type and the location of kelp, eelgrass and shellfish beds.
"We've really worked hard at getting the information up and accessible on the Web," said CORI President John Harper.
The helicopters will cover about 4,000 miles of coastline from Hyder across to southern Prince of Wales Island below Hydaburg, Harper said. The helicopters will fly at about 300 feet during low tides.
on the net: http://www.coastalaska.net
"We're looking for features of the intertidal habitat," said Harper, a geologist by training. "We really want to see what's out there at low tides."
The surveys rely on low-altitude digital imagery because, on the West Coast, most of the really low tides occur in the morning, he said. Conventional satellite and aerial photography usually take place at noon when light is best, he said.
The imagery and data can be used by sea kayakers looking for good landfalls, municipal planners, and state and federal fishery agencies, he said.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is interested because of its work with fish habitat and oil spill contingency planning, he said.
Funding has come from a variety of sources. In Alaska, they include the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council, Alaska Department of Natural Resources and the National Park Service.
The Ketchikan area is being mapped under contract with The Nature Conservancy, Harper said.
The company expects to have the Ketchikan imagery posted online in two to three months, he said.