Module 3 - 45
3.5 Survey Logistics
It is recommended that field surveys be conducted under high-water flow
conditions when all streams are flowing. This enables the survey crew to
effectively identify all watercourses and potential fish habitats within the
survey area. Surveys conducted during periods of lower flow (e.g., during
the summer months) may fail to capture every watercourse in the area
because dense vegetation cover may obscure the stream channel, and
ephemeral and/or intermittent streams may not flow outside the high-
flow periods. On the other hand, the mainstems of larger streams may be
too deep to safely survey during some high-flow periods, and should be
surveyed when lower-flow conditions exist. If adequate project funds
allow, it is recommended that two surveys be conducted: one during the
high-flow period, and a second during the season with the lowest water
flows. This second survey can capture information not visible during high
flows (e.g., the locations of discharge pipes that were under water, the
way that the stream responded to high flows, the extent of bank erosion,
changes in wetland size, etc.).
All survey equipment should be assembled and checked (Table 3.3).
Survey planning should include ordering more difficult equipment and
supplies well before planned survey periods.
Table 3.3 Recommended field equipment for SHIM mapping survey.
Orthophoto, aerial photo, or
large-scale topographical map,
and permanent marking pen
to locate landmarks and verify positions
Field cards and mechanical
cards on waterproof paper;
HB or softer pencils
for recording data when GPS
SHIM manual and data
for field reference regarding
procedures, codes, etc.
Laminated code reference
feature and vegetation codes ɷ
to ensure correct field recording of data
Landowner contact letters
for distributing to landowners
Identification (Survey team)
to show to landowners when on private
Fish collection permits and
fishing license (optional)
for setting traps and collecting fish, if
this is part of your survey
Binder or clipboard
to hold field cards and other reference
Measuring tape or tight-chain ɷ
at least 50m in length
for cross-sections, measuring channel
Range finder (optional)
to measure distances > 10m over
wooden, plastic, or aluminum ɷ
to measure water depth & hydraulic
e.g., Suunto KB14 4/360 R/D ɷ
to measure bearings between two
e.g., Suunto PM-5/360PC
to measure gradients (degrees)
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Module 3 - 46
alcohol, with double metal
to measure water and air temperatures
GPS with real-time differential
Trimble Pathfinder Pro XR
for precise location of stream centreline
Camera and spare film
digital cameras are
preferable, if available
for photodocumenting features, etc.
for placing temporary benchmarks
9" spikes and hammer
for placing permanent benchmarks
Backpack or cruiser Vest
to carry equipment
Safety vests (optional)
Chest waders with wading belt ɷ
rubber or neoprene waders,
for taking in-stream measurements and
Stream cleats or felt-soled
wading boots (optional)
for safety when walking on slippery
Bear spray, bangers
for use against attacking animals
(emergency use only)
Cell phone (optional)
Take a laminated copy of the relevant topographical map into the field
with you (or orthophoto - aerial photograph). This will help identify
landmarks such as road crossings, buildings, hydro right-of-ways,
farmland, and riparian vegetation. Landmarks can be used to tie GPS
survey results to known locations noted on the map or photo. Aerial
photos are also useful for identifying new, unmapped tributaries and for
verifying the locations of existing mapped tributaries.
3.5.3 Legal Permission: Land Owners, Statutory
Contact the planning department of your local government (Regional
District, Municipal) to identify watershed areas where development is
planned within the next five to ten years. Fisheries and Oceans Canada,
and the BC Ministry of Land, Water and Air Protection (MLWAP) will also
assist in determining priority areas for SHIM mapping.
Contact and obtain permission from any public, First Nation, or private
landowners in the survey area. In urban areas, riparian and upland areas
are typically privately owned. Respect landowners and take time to talk
with them about the benefits to be gained by mapping the stream and its
riparian corridor. Leave a pamphlet or an information sheet about your
project. Most landowners will be interested and supportive of the study.
In situations where you must cross private property to access a
watercourse, contact the landowner directly and obtain his or her
permission before crossing their property. Ideally, this permission should
be sorted out well before the survey is undertaken, but it may be possible
to talk to the landowner in person on the day of the site visit.
The following information should be made available to landowners:
ɷ name / affiliation for field surveyors / crew;
ɷ contact information for client or government contact;
ɷ purpose of the survey; and
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ɷ the expected duration of the field visit.
Landowners must be informed about the possible installation of
benchmarks, as well as other effects that the sampling procedures may
cause to their property.
Never survey on private lands unless permission has been granted.
Even with use of a GPS and data logger, field notes / records are expected
to be collected and kept. It is important to take thorough and descriptive
notes and, where necessary, provide sketches of the area surveyed. Post
trip interpretation of GPS lines and features may be easier if field notes
and sketches are available, especially if the mapping specialist was not
involved in the field survey. An orthophoto (1:5,000) or maximum scale
map of the area should be taken into the field in order to reference and
sketch the watercourse and/or any obvious features observed while
mapping. Local site conditions or anomalies on the feature being
traversed should be noted in the field book. Since the procedure also
relies upon detailed comments, it is important to write these into your
notebook or on the cards provided. GPS receiver technology does not
allow easy recording of comments and is often limited to only 40
characters. Short abbreviations and comment reference numbers should
be entered into Asset Surveyor. Field notes must later be entered into the
standard mapping database.
3.6 Mapping The Watercourse Centreline
The use of GPS in SHIM surveys is described in Module 5 (GPS Surveying
Procedures). Below is a brief overview of the use of GPS for centreline mapping.
For our purposes, watercourses are defined as streams, ditches, culverts, swales,
or other natural or human modified drainage features with defined channels and
permanent, intermittent, or seasonally flowing water. The centreline of a
watercourse is best mapped by walking along the centre of the stream channel,
or bankfull width (Figure 3.5).
Note: The centreline should not be mapped along the centre of the wetted
As the surveyor walks upstream, the Trimble GPS unit automatically logs a
continuous series of location points that will be interpreted as the stream
centreline. If, for some reason, it is impossible to obtain adequate readings from
the stream channel itself (e.g., because it passes through a steep ravine with
dense vegetative cover – excessive multipath), the GPS can be set to offset the
readings so that the centreline can be mapped from one of the banks.
Once the centreline of the watercourse has been mapped with GPS, the line data
should be overlaid on a digital orthophoto and/or provincial TRIM map using GIS
or AutoCAD software. The value of the new information gained through GPS
surveys will become apparent through this analysis.
Module 3 - 48
Total Bankfull Width
where to determine
Figure 3.5 Correct position within the watercourse channel to collect stream
channel centreline positions using GPS. Note: the wetted width is not used to
define the centreline of the watercourse.
Use of a GPS unit such as the Trimble Pathfinder requires training and practice,
therefore RIC Standard GPS training and Field Operators certification is required.
Similarly, individuals involved in mapping and interpreting watercourse
centrelines from field GPS data also have the appropriate certification (e.g., RIC
Standard Comprehensive Training for Resource Mapping). To maintain high data
quality and precision, the interpretation of GPS data requires a considerable level
of skill, expertise, and experience, and should only be done by qualified
3.7 Survey Reference Information
Record watercourse reference information at the beginning of each new survey,
or when some characteristic of the survey changes (e.g., new GPS surveyor).
The following reference information should be recorded at the beginning of each
new survey and re-entered whenever any of the information changes. If a data-
logger is used, the date and time are automatically registered each time field
information is recorded.
3.7.1 Watercourse Name
Most of the streams that are mapped using SHIM are too small to have
formal names. However, for the larger watercourses, it should be decided
at the beginning of the survey whether stream naming will include
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gazetted names only, or gazetted names and local names. A stream’s
official gazetted name
is the name that appears on existing maps. Many
of the smaller streams that lack gazetted names have been given local
names by residents of the watershed, but these names are not present on
official maps (e.g., TRIM, NTS), and may have little meaning outside a
3.7.2 Watershed Code and Tributary Code
The BC watershed coding system was created by the provincial Ministry of
Sustainable Resources as a means of referencing streams in the provincial
. Any watercourse in the province of BC, visible on a
1:50,000 scale NTS map, has been assigned a unique, 45-digit watershed
code (BC Fisheries, 1997).
The watershed coding system is hierarchical, meaning that you can tell
which stream a watercourse flows into, simply by examining its code. The
following table provides examples of watershed codes.
Table 3.4 Example of the BC provincial watershed coding system.
Watercourse Name and/or
Carbon Creek, a tributary to the
Eleven Mile Creek, a tributary to
An unnamed tributary to Eleven Mile
It is important to note that for many areas of BC, watershed codes have
only been generated for watercourses visible on 1:50,000 scale NTS
maps, although in some areas watershed codes are also available for
streams visible on 1:20,000 scale TRIM maps. In general, watershed
codes are not currently available for many of the small streams where
SHIM mapping may be conducted.
To determine whether or not codes are available for the streams you are
surveying, it is best to consult BC Fisheries directly (see SHIM Module 2).
Ideally, BC Fisheries can generate codes for the streams once you have
mapped them, but the coding takes time and may not be complete until
some time after your field work is finished. In the short term, an interim
code must be generated.
This tributary code
must be unique to a given stream, and could be
generated by using the name of the stream into which the tributary flows,
followed by a four-digit number (e.g., an uncoded stream flowing into
Carbon Creek could be coded as Carbon0001).
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3.7.3 Other Information
For future reference and data quality control, record crewmember names,
general weather conditions, air temperature near the stream (start of the
survey), water temperature, date and time for each field survey. Also
record the stream stage (water level) as dry, low, moderate, high or flood.
Record your organisation name to ensure that you receive recognition for
data collection, interpretation and are able to provide a data source
contact for the future.
3.8 Recording Stream Segment Characteristics
As discussed in Section 3.4, the stream segment is the fundamental unit of the
SHIM centreline survey, and the criteria used to define segments should be
determined after careful consideration of the survey objectives and available
resources. In the following section definitions are given for the 22 characteristics
used to define stream segments.
Note: Only a subset of these characteristics may apply to a particular survey.
Table 3.5 Characteristics used to define individual stream segments within a
Christmas tree farms
Dug out pond
Number of metres
Number of Degrees
Number of degrees
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