Written by Kera Mashek, Multimedia Journalist - bio | email
WAVERLY (KWWL) -
River gauges are an important tool that help many eastern Iowa communities keep an eye on water levels. That information allows cities to know if and when flood preparations are needed. But one community's river gauge is going offline.
On the Cedar River in Waverly, a new bladder dam system is in place. It's a system that's aimed at flood control. But that very system means river gauge readings here are no longer accurate.
After a mild winter with little snow melt and no major rainfall this spring, the Cedar River in Waverly is flowing normally.
But with any change to the river levels, flood control is much easier these days. That's thanks to the city's new inflatable dam, which went online last fall.
"As it deflates, because the river rises, it will not flood the west part of Waverly, and that's the biggest key with our bladder dam," said Waverly Mayor Bob Brunkhorst.
One result of the system--the city's river gauge no longer offers accurate flood prediction readings. That's because the new dam has to take on much more water for flooding to be a problem. So for now, the city will look to other gauges to get an idea of the potential impact to local river levels.
"We're going to use a combination of Charles City, Janesville, and etc., gauges' forecasting to see what we should be doing here in Waverly," Mayor Brunkhorst said.
As for other communities downstream..
"They used to look at Waverly as a gauge and say, 'Okay. When do I have to move boats?' Well that gauge is not operation, not functioning. So they don't know when to move boats or etc. between here and Janesville. So they'll now have to look at Charles City and other places, too, to know when best to get their stuff out of harm's way," Brunkhorst said.
But to get better numbers yet, the city's working with the National Weather Service to create appropriate computer models to forecast and design new guidelines for local flood warnings. That way, cities can know exactly when to put its emergency response plans into practice, from using flood gates to barriers and even sandbags.
The city of Waterloo recently added an inflatable dam similar to the one in Waverly. But that dam is not aimed at flood control, so the city's river gauge will not be taken down.
The National Weather Service and US Geological Survey fund the operation of many river gauges nationwide. Last year, both agencies were concerned that federal funding cuts could force some gauges to be eliminated. But so far, that has not happened.
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