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Friday, September 19, 2008

Stream Flow Gauges May Be Eliminated

River Gauges Could Be Cut

By Kurt Aaron
WNEP-TV
For years people along the Susquehanna River have depended on river gauges for up-to-the-minute reports on water levels across the area.

Now many of those reporting stations may no longer be used after October first because of budget cuts.

Michael Schaffner is a hydrologist with the National Weather Service. He relies heavily on information from automated reporting stations along rivers and streams to forecast potential flooding.

As of October first, 14 river gauges from across central and eastern Pennsylvania, including one in Towanda, may be shut down due to lack of funding. More....

Video

Threatened Stream gages

Complain Here

These river gauges are located along rivers and streams that frequently flood. They are connected to the internet so that people living downstream and forecasters from the National Weather Service can have an idea how badly people will be flooded.

This service should be expanded, rather than being discontinued. Living in a location near the Allegheny River that has seen some disastrous flooding over the years, I would like to see one of these gauges added in the Coudersport area. Currently the first gauge is located in Port Allegany, but it has been off line, probably due to the construction of the new bridges.

The next one is Eldred. It will be just a matter of time before they will want to save some money and discontinue the gauges on the Allegheny too.

The only hope is to tell them that we don't want them discontinued. Cut out the bridge to nowhere instead.

I complained and here is the answer I got:


Dear Mr. Jones,

Thank you for your interest in the USGS streamgaging network. We agree that streamgages are vital in protecting the lives and properties of American citizens.

The USGS has done a great deal in recent years to modernize and upgrade our streamgage network. The major innovation is providing the data real-time on the internet. However, there is still a great deal that must be done to keep these gages reading accurately and reliably. One can not just set them up and let them operate without calibration and maintenance. And this operation and maintenance costs approximately $15,000 per year for each gage.

The currently threatened gages have been funded in the past by the US Army Corps of Engineers. The Corps is facing funding cuts due to a number of other issues (Katrina recovery, Iraq, etc.) and has deemed it not in their best interest to fund all of these gages next fiscal year. The USGS does have a program that would fund many of these gages if totally funded by Congress. This is the National Streamflow Information Program (NSIP see this URL http://water.usgs.gov/nsip/). Currently NSIP is funded at about 10% of the amount needed to fully operate the core streamgaging network. So the USGS is dependent on partner agencies like the Corps, state and logal agencies, and in some case non-governmental organizations to fund operation of streamgages.

One action that you can take is to communicate to your elected representatives the vital importance of the USGS streamgaging network to you and the need to fully support this very cost-effective measure to protect lives and property. The Pennsylvania Water Science Center is actively working to find other partner agencies to keep these gages in operation. Bob Hainly is the Data Chief for Pennsylvania and is cc'd on this reply.

If you have any other concerns or questions feel free to contact me at 703-648-5225 or jrkolva@usgs.gov. We all hope that we can solve this crisis and continue to provide vital information to the public.

Jim Kolva
Office of Surface Water, USGS
Reston, VA

An Email to Jim Steiner, Potter County Emergency Management Coordinator, sent on Friday, asking for support and expansion of the river gauges brought this response today:

Jim,

Sorry for the delay in getting back to you. I will definitely support the preservation of the river gauges. I am going to forward you e-mail, with posting to the EMA Coordinators in our Task Force, which does include Bradford County.

I will also send it to the Cameron County EMA Also.

Thanks

Jim

James P. Steiner
Emergency Management Coordinator
Potter County Dept. of Emergency Services
24 Maple View Lane
Coudersport, PA 16915

Kevin Johnson, Director of Cameron County Emergency Services writes:

Mr. Jones,
Please consider this as a letter in support of maintaining and expanding the river stream gauges. In Emergency Management these stream gauges are as close to a crystal ball as we can get. They provide information that is critical in planning for and responding to the frequent flooding that occurs in our area.

Kevin Johnson
Director

Cameron County
Office of Emergency Services
20 E 5th Street
Emporium, Pa 15834
814-486-9352
Fax 814-486-9393

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