Wednesday, February 6, 2013
 

 

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Senator fights to keep stream gauges online

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) urged the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to set aside a portion of its disaster relief funding recently signed into law, in order to keep dozens of stream and river gauges in the Susquehanna River Basin online.

Specifically, in the Sandy supplemental bill, NOAA received a pot of $25 million to "improve weather forecasting and hurricane intensity forecasting”. The U.S. Geological Survey recently listed 18 stream gauges and 16 rain gauges in and around the Susquehanna River Basin that are set to be shut off on March 1st, which could have serious consequences for nearby residents and businesses owners throughout the Southern Tier. These devices are critical in determining when waterways throughout the Susquehanna River Basin are nearing flooding levels, and the fit squarely in this weather forecasting requirement. Therefore, Schumer is calling on NOAA to include these stream gauges in their spending plan, which is due within 45 days of the supplemental passing and to work with the Susquehanna River Basin Commission and the U.S. Geological Survey to provide the additional funding necessary to maintain the gauges.

Schumer noted that the Susquehanna River Basin Commission recently estimated that a mere $215,000 of NOAA’s $25 million would be required to keep these stream and river gauges online. During Tropical Storm Lee in 2011, flooding and property damage were significant, but that not a single life was lost and damage could have been far worse had advanced warning and real time data not been made available through these river gauges.

“These rivers have flooded before and caused massive property loss and casualties that far exceed the minimal costs to keep this gauges online”, said Schumer.   “It is essential that we do everything in our power to maintain the best possible storm and flood warning system and these stream gauges in the Susquehanna are a vital part of that effort. The federal government cannot allow stream gauges and the safety of New Yorkers living along the Susquehanna River Basin to float away due to lack of funding,”

“I am calling on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to allocate approximately $215,000 to keep dozens of life-saving stream gauges in the Southern Tier online after Congress designated $25 million in the Sandy relief funding in order to strengthen the prediction of weather shifts and hurricane warnings,” Schumer continued. “There are thousands of lives and businesses immediately endangered if these stream gauges are shut off March 1st, and after uncovering new weather forecasting funding that is perfect for the job, it’s critical that the feds keep these devices online.”

Stream gauges are used by the National Weather Service (NWS) to provide flood forecasting and warning information ahead of potential natural disasters. Flood gauges are essential to New York communities for a variety of reasons. In the hours preceding floods and during floods themselves, gauges help first responders and community officials keep the public abreast of the current threat. Officials can predict when rivers will crest, how much water is expected to spill into certain flood plains, and have access to a wealth of other data that helps them manage the disaster. Additionally, flood gauges help provide data for future flood maps, monitor water quality and use, and help planners determine the appropriate support structures for bridges, based on the water flow beneath them.

The serious flooding experienced in the Southern Tier from Tropical Storms Irene and Lee serve as a reminder of the vital importance of the flood forecasts issued by the National Weather Service (NWS). Without the advanced warning afforded to basin communities, residents and businesses, New York would undoubtedly have experienced greater property damage from these flood events and possibly loss of life.