Press-Republican

Local News

November 25, 2011

Time running out for USGS stream gages

(Continued)

AUSABLE FORKS — The sites in the region slated for deactivation are part of a larger list of 31 closures pending statewide that cost approximately $429,000 a year to maintain.

Freeman said the eight Lake Champlain stream gages cost $134,000 to operate annually.

Some, including a water-level meter in Rouses Point and a river-level monitor in AuSable Forks, will remain in place, but they do not measure stream flow.

FLOOD FORECASTS

"Partner agencies fund specific sites, so that is why some sites are still funded and some are not," Freeman explained. The Rouses Point site, he said, "was originally funded through the (Leahy) earmark but was saved from being shut down when the International Joint Commission stepped up and agreed to fund the site. We are hopeful that this is a long-term funding solution for the Rouses Point site.

"The other USGS program that could support the lake-level gages and stream gages is the National Streamflow Information Program (NSIP), established to meet identified federal needs for streamflow information," he said in an email. "Many of these federal needs tie into local needs, such as for flood forecasts. Currently, there are no unallocated NSIP flow funds to take on additional stream gages. The NSIP is federally funded at this time at about 25 percent of planned full funding."

CRITICAL DATA

The gage stations feed data in real time to scientists, meteorologists and emergency services personnel, among other river users.

"Flooding is the largest, most costly natural disaster this country deals with every single year," Freeman said.

Clinton County Emergency Services Director Eric Day concurred.

"As the forecast calls for storms in the spring and in winter when we get a quick thaw, we watch the gages constantly. If I lose this tool, we lose our forewarning and some of our situational awareness."

During Irene, Day said, the data proved critical to public safety.

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