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Schumer: Feds Send Lifeline to Keep Stream Gauges Operating Through the Spring

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Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer announced major progress in his pursuit to keep dozens of stream and river gauges in the Susquehanna River Basin online. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has announced that instead of March, when the gauges were slated to be shut off, the federal agency will now keep them online until June 1st. USGS plans to keep these gauges online, based on confidence in Schumer's efforts to work with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to provide funding for their use through the Sandy Supplemental bill.

In a letter earlier this month to NOAA, Schumer noted that the agency had received a pot of $25 million to "improve weather forecasting and hurricane intensity forecasting," and urged NOAA to fund these gauges through that pot. 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. Schumer has had positive conversations with NOAA since his initial letter, and is optimistic that these stream gauges can be kept online through this spending plan.

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. He also acknowledged that, while he is pleased with this short-term progress, a long-term solution must be found and Schumer highlighted that he continues to pursue a permanent fix to this repeated issue.

"I am pleased to announce the federal government will keep stream gauges in the Susquehanna River Basin operational through the spring and funding will flow for these flood warning devices in the Southern Tier," said Schumer. "For years I have fought for federal funds to keep lifesaving stream gauges online in the Southern Tier, and I will continue to urge the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to ensure that these devices are turned on and ready to predict natural disasters. With thousands of Southern Tier residents and businesses who rely on these prediction systems, these stream gauges must be functional for the long term."

"We now have until June 1st, and 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."

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.

STREAM & RAIN GAUGES MARKED FOR SHUT DOWN

18 Stream Gauges (County, River, Location)

Broome County: Susquehanna River - Binghamton, Vestal, Windsor

Chemung County: Chemung River - Elmira

Chenango County: Chenango River - Greene, Norwich, Oxford, Sherburne

Susquehanna River - Bainbridge

Unadilla River - Rockdale

Otsego County: Susquehanna River - Oneonta

Steuben County: Canisteo River - West Cameron

Cohocton River - Bath

Tioga River - Lindley

Tuscarora Creek - South Addison

Tioga County: Owego Creek - Owego

Susquehanna River - Owego, Waverly

16 Rain Gauges (County, Location)

Broome County: Vestal

Chemung County: Elmira

Chenango County: Bainbridge, Oxford, Sherburne

Cortland County: Cuyler

Madison County: Georgetown, North Brookfield

Otsego County: Morris, Oneonta

Schoharie County: Charlotteville

Steuben County: Adrian, Bath, Corning, Thurston

Tioga County: Waverly

The NOAA focuses on monitoring oceanic and atmospheric conditions. NOAA provides vital services including monitoring daily weather forecasts and severe storm warnings, guides to the use and protection of ocean and coastal resources, and conducting research to improve understanding of our environment.

The Susquehanna River Basin is the second largest river basin east of the Mississippi River and covers large parts of New York, Pennsylvania, and Maryland. It is also one of the most flood-prone watersheds in the nation -- experiencing damages in excess of $150 million on average every year. Because more than 80 percent of the basin's 1,400 plus municipalities have areas that are flood prone, it is vital to provide adequate funding for stream gauges.


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