Funding cuts could mean end to flood gages - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Funding cuts could mean end to flood gages

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WATERLOO (KWWL) -

The National Weather Service and US Geological Survey fund the operation of flood gages along rivers and streams across the country.  But federal dollars budgeted for those gages could be cut.

River levels move up and down all the time, and those flood gages help cities and counties keep an eye on not just what's happening locally—but also how the river levels are changing in other areas that could cause flooding when that water comes downstream.  And when waters rise, those numbers correlate to what action is taken to protect life and property.

After recent rains, the Cedar River in Waterloo had been on the rise.  It's now starting to fall again.  At the Black Hawk County Emergency Management Agency, the data on exactly where the river levels stand comes from a flood gage.

"For Waterloo, the Cedar River at 10 feet is pretty much bank full, and we know that.  And we know what areas will be impacted when it gets to be bank full" Lori Glover with Black Hawk Co. Emergency Management.

And while the flood gages are important to let cities know when river levels could get too high, they can also be important in telling when groundwater levels are getting too high and could be filling up city storm sewers.

"Well like last year, we had significant rainfall in 2010, where we had many areas that had not river flooding, but high enough groundwater that it did impact a lot of people in the area.  So at a certain point, they get to saying what our action stages are and what we need to do," Glover said.

"It'll give you a rough date and time and when it's going to crest and how high.  And that's how we determine what we need to do in the city, what gates to close like Fletcher Avenue, or what bridges maybe need to be closed or what storm sewers to close," said Jamie Knutson, city of Waterloo associate engineer.

So the idea that the National Weather Service and US Geological Survey could lose funding for flood gages could make it tougher for cities to know when to perform those important actions.

And without federal flood gage funding, the cost could be shifted to cities and counties, which is a concern in times of tight local budgets. 

Right now, the National Weather Service says there are no firm plans to discontinue any Iowa flood gages.  But it wants to make the public aware of the possibility that could happen.

There's a public meeting to talk about the issue Tuesday at the Iowa City National Guard Readiness Center, 4540 Melrose Avenue, from 1-4 p.m.

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