PLATTSBURGH — With heavy rainfall and flash-flood warnings peppering the North Country lately, many residents are focused on water levels in lakes and streams.
Significant changes in the currents flowing into Lake Champlain are recorded by a series of stations located in several streams and in the lake itself. These are called stream gages (that’s the U.S. Geological Survey spelling).
Stream-gage records provide a wide range of people and agencies with statistics to determine how they should respond to rising water during potential flooding.
But the stations are again in jeopardy of closing due to budget cuts.
“The U.S. Geological Survey will discontinue operation of up to 375 stream gages nationwide due to budget cuts as a result of sequestration,” Keith Robinson, director of the New England Water Science Center, said in a statement posted on the agency’s website.
“Additional stream gages may be affected if partners reduce their funding to support USGS stream gages.”
One of those partners, the Lake Champlain Basin Program, has funded the operation of 16 gages — 10 in Vermont and six in New York — since 2010, when the federal government decided to cut off funding for the program.
“In February 2013, the LCBP’s Steering Committee agreed during an annual budget discussion that the LCPB would no longer provide financial support for the gage network,” Eric Howe, technical coordinator for the Basin Program, told the Press-Republican.
The annual cost to operate those stations was between $125,000 and $250,000 annually, Howe noted, and Basin Program officials believed they could not continue spending that without hurting other programs.
Each station costs around $15,000 to operate annually.
MANY USE DATA
The lake basin has a total of 46 U.S. Geological Survey gages in operation, many of them funded through New York state or Vermont.
“They are pretty important,” Howe said of the gaging system.