AUSABLE FORKS — "We got a call from the (National) Weather Service saying the river is going to rise quite a bit higher than they initially predicted. I immediately went to the USGS web page, reviewed the gage data, and we got AuSable Forks Fire Department and town supervisors on the phone and made decisions about evacuating more people."
It's not just a tool for prediction.
Swift-water rescue decisions are made based on flow rates, Day said.
"When fire departments do swift-water rescue training, they look at these gages to see what the flow rate is, so while they're out there, they know what 4,000 cubic-feet-per-second feels like. It gives the first responder the ability to make a judgment call in what type of equipment to deploy; if it's even safe to deploy; or if there's another means to employ in a rescue."
Day said they use the Perry's Mills and Ausable gages constantly during the spring.
Ice jams show up as a sharp spike in water flow and indicate flooding is imminent.
Brad Knapp, hydroelectric plant operator at Alice Falls, just above Ausable Chasm, uses the stream gage every day.
It is located in a green plywood box on stilts next to the river.
"They have a transducer that transmits the data out to the USGS website," he said of the setup.
"If I'm able to predict when the river's going to come up, I can set how much water we put through the turbines. And that flow data helps us meet our U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife requirements."
A constant measure of water volume is critical for studies of river health, according to Connie Miller, executive director of the Ausable River Association.
"At a time when understanding how the river works is more and more important to our communities, it's unfortunate to reduce the information we collect that could actually build our knowledge and strengthen our management," Miller said.
If no fiscal solution is found, Geological Survey will close the stations in March and remove the instrumentation.
Email Kim Smith Dedam at: email@example.com