Local News

November 25, 2011

Time running out for USGS stream gages

AUSABLE FORKS — Seventeen critical river and lake gages used to measure water level and flow around Lake Champlain are slated for removal next spring.

Managed by the United States Geological Survey (USGS), they are part of a system funded with an earmark from Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) for years.

The money is gone.

But officials believe continual river monitoring is critical for regional emergency services planning, scientific research and proper roadway engineering.

The eight regional gages tagged for removal in March 2012 on the New York side of Lake Champlain are on the Great Chazy River in Perry's Mills; the Little Chazy River in Chazy; the Salmon River in South Plattsburgh; the Little Ausable River near Valcour; the Ausable River near AuSable Forks; the Boquet River in Willsboro; Putnam Creek east of Crown Point Center; and on Lake Champlain north of Whitehall, according to the Geological Survey.

A ninth gage is south of Lake Champlain on the Mettawee River.


Ward Freeman, director of the Geological Survey Water Science Center in Troy, said the data sets from the gages go back decades, providing important statistics on the waterways' rise and flow.

The Ausable River site has been monitored for 82 years and the Boquet for 73 years.

"These are important long-term records that help you understand impacts from a variable and changing climate. If we are to understand how to be able to size culverts and bridges so they don't get washed out, you need stream-gage information to come in with stream-flow statistics," he explained.


The stream-gage funding cycle actually ended Sept. 30.

"We're looking every day for resources," Freeman said.

Many people think of the "Bridge to Nowhere" when they hear the word earmark.

"But the truth is there are some pretty important projects funded by earmarks, like flood gages," Freeman said.

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