Temp funding found for flood gauges

BY MICHAEL J. RUDOLF

Wyoming County Press Examiner

Funding has been obtained to keep river and stream flood gauges operating at least through the summer.

Bob Hainly, assistant director of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Pennsylvania Water Science Center, said the state Department of Environmental Protection has allocated about $270,000 to operate the gauges through the end of the federal fiscal year, which is Sept. 30.

“All of the targeted stream gauges in Pennsylvania will stay on line,” Hainly said.

Earlier this month, Hainly reported that federal budget cuts were forcing the USGS to shut down or scale back operation of 44 gauges across the state. The USGS operates about 300 gauges on Keystone State waterways, serving several watershed agencies.

Among those targeted for shutdown were the gauge on the Susquehanna River near Meshoppen, and the one on the Tunkhannock Creek in Tunkhannock Township, near Deer Park Lumber.

Hainly said the allocation from DEP was not expected. He said it came though as the state government adjusted its budget figures for the coming year.

However, Hainly said he wasn’t surprised that DEP officials recognized the need for monitoring river levels.

“Those stream gauges are critical to their mission too,” he said.

In the past, the gauges had been funded by a special Congressional budget allocation to the USGS. The money was distributed to the USGS the gauges, by the Susquehanna River Basin Commission or similar organizations in other parts of the state, which coordinate the regional flood warning systems.

The DEP allocation will enable the gauges to keep operating during the spring and summer flooding season, Hainly said. However, he said there have been instances of flooding in the autumn as well, so they are needed year-round.

The gauges in Wyoming County have already been pressed into service for an emergency situation this year. Two weeks ago, heavy rain and melting snow forced rivers and creeks over their banks, causing flooding in some areas.

A number of gauges in New York state were also targeted to be shut down due to lack of funding. Hainly said the SRBC is in discussion with the New York Department of Environmental Conservation about a similar funding allocation.

Hainly said the USGS is still looking for long-term funding options for the gauges, to take over when the DEP money runs out on Oct. 1.

“Otherwise we’ll be right back to where we were a month ago,” he said.

Direct contributions from the public are among the funding sources being sought. Hainly said anyone who uses the gauge data who wishes to contribute should contact him at 717-730-6971 or by e-mail at rahainly@usgs.gov.