Flood monitoring could be impacted by automatic spending cuts - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Flood monitoring could be impacted by automatic spending cuts

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BLACK HAWK COUNTY (KWWL) -

Expected funding (with a source to be announced) may be able to save two of three stream gages that were on the federal budget chopping block.

The announcement of the gage closures came Wednesday. The United States Geological Survey (U.S.G.S) said it would have to shut down the gages on the West Fork Cedar River at Finchford, the Des Moines River at Humboldt and the East Fork 102 River at Bedford.

Stream gages monitor a variety of information including river levels, stream flow and water quality, and the 180 gages on Iowa's rivers are used by a number of agencies--including the National Weather Service (NWS) and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

"The Finchford gage is very important because it measures about 25 percent of what flows past in Waterloo-Cedar Falls." Jeffrey Zogg, Senior Hydrologist with NOAA/National Weather Service said. "For example, back in the flood of 2008, the flood gage there at Finchfod, what went past that gage accounted for about five feet of the crest in Waterloo and Cedar Falls. If that gage goes away that means that back in 2008… there would be a big question mark on that five feet of the crest in Waterloo-Cedar Falls."

But even though these gages are helpful for multiple agencies, the U.S.G.S. says these three gages were picked for the chopping block because they were funded by U.S.G.S. money but serviced fewer needs for the geological service.

"The reason why we chose those three sites is because the U.S.G.S. really wasn't collecting other information at this site such as water quality or didn't meet any of the additional needs of U.S.G.S. It's not to diminish it, or that the flood forecasting isn't important to us. It is very important to us," U.S.G.S. Hydrologist Jon Nania said.

On Thursday, Nania said funding is in the works for two of the three gages thanks to a local government agency that can't be announced yet. The gages in Finchford and Humboldt may have funding soon for the rest of the fiscal year, which ends in September. But that's not a permanent fix. Nania says they may be in a similar situation next year, if the federal sequester doesn't end.

The gages were scheduled to be taken off-line on Friday.

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