Wewahitchka, FL. – The city of Wewahitchka, Fla., is named after the Seminole Indian name meaning "water eyes” and is the location where U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Mobile District’s coastal engineer Richard Allen is working with nature’s elements. Allen is monitoring how the bodies of water flowing through the Florida panhandle are impacting the Apalachicola Chattahoochee Flint (ACF) Basin and the surrounding communities.
“The primary benefit of our mission is to ensure that the basins are being operated properly for environmental protection and flood-risk management.” said Allen.
The data collected at the Wewahitchka gauge site has a direct impact on the environment as it helps the Mobile District team to manage the environment, by monitoring the impacts to the endangered mussels and sturgeon that are native to the region.
“This data helps to monitor minimum water releases, and gives the District team information, to ensure that enough fresh water is flowing in the river for environmental sustainability,” said James Hathorn, chief of water management for the Mobile District. Hathorn and his engineering team, of which Allen is a member, manages the ACF Basin, as well as four other basins within Mobile District.
Hathorn also noted that navigating the Apalachicola River can be the most challenging in the Wewahitchka area’s dynamic channel conditions. “The river channel is continuously changing, which makes it very challenging for operators who navigate that segment of the river,” Hathorn explained.
Allen uses a specialized piece of equipment called an Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (ADCP). The ADCP employs the “Doppler effect” by emitting a sequence of high frequency sound pulses that scatter off of moving particles in the water. This state-of-the-art technology helps to measure the speed and direction of the water, enabling Allen to estimate the volume of water flowing down the river.
Allen sends these readings along with information collected from the Corps’ gauge on the Apalachicola River back to the district office in real time through satellite telemetry. “Mobile District controls water movement through the ACF basin--The managers can make informed decisions, using this real-time data to best manage the basin water releases.” said Allen.
The Mobile District’s Water Management team posts the real-time water levels for this critical reach on the website for commercial tugboats and recreational boaters.