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January 17, 2014

Stream-gauge funding may reach local waterways

PLATTSBURGH — Increased funding totaling $6 million for stream and lake water-level gauges is part of the 2014 appropriations bill that is expected to pass both houses of Congress. 

The gauges are part of the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Streamflow Information Program; some of them have been slated to be decommissioned in recent years because of funding cuts.

The National Weather Service uses the gauges to assist with flood forecasts and warnings. They also help first-responders and community leaders predict when water levels will peak and where flooding will occur.

The increase raises the gauge funding for 2014 to $33.7 million and is the largest in the history of the program, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer said in a media release Wednesday.

“Stream gauges are a critical first line of defense against impending floods, and given the repeated storms and flooding we have seen across New York, I made boosting their funding a top priority over the last year,” he said. 

“Now, I will push to see those funds flow to New York, where USGS can work to keep ever-threatened gauges online and potentially add more of these flood-detection devices to high-risk flood zones in order to better prepare for the next natural disaster.” 

FLOOD FORECASTS

In addition to keeping threatened gauges in operation and possibly adding new ones, the funds can be used to upgrade software for the gauge network’s database.

There are more than 8,000 gauges across the country, including 11 in the tri-county area. Those are on Lake Champlain, the Great Chazy River, Little Chazy River, Saranac River, Little Ausable River and Salmon River in Clinton County; the Salmon River, Little Salmon River and St. Regis River in Franklin County; and the east branch of the Ausable River and Ausable River in Essex County.

Planners can use the data from gauges to determine how much support bridges require, the release said.

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