U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) have announced that they have secured funding to prevent the imminent shutdown of 18 United States Geological Survey (USGS) river and lake gauges in the Lake Champlain basin. Those gauges – nine in Vermont and nine in New York – were seen as vital to communities impacted by last year’s spring floods and during Tropical Storm Irene. The funding has been secured through the Great Lakes Fishery Commission (GLFC).
Even before the storms of 2011, however, the USGS gauging network in New York was threatened under earlier rounds of budget cuts. These 18 gauges, plus several more around New York and Vermont, were to be shut down in less than two months, on March 1.
For years Leahy, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, has secured year-to-year funding for the 18 Champlain Basin gauges, but budget cuts this year closed the traditional funding stream. Last month the Leahy and Schumer wrote to the GLFC and to U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar requesting the funding. In a prepared statement the senators said the influx will keep these gauges operating while buying time to work on long-term funding solutions for the monitoring network. Leahy chairs the Appropriations Committee panel that oversees the GLFC budget and previously fought to have Lake Champlain come under the purview of the Great Lakes Fisheries Commission.
The gauges are considered important for ongoing water quality control monitoring and improvements, recreational boaters and paddlers, and as lifesaving tools when flooding threatens. Half of the gauges slated for shut-down have been identified by the National Weather Service as important for their flood forecasting work. Some streamgages have been operational since the early 1900s; the gauge just upstream from the Route 22 bridge over the Boquet, for instance, has been recording since 1923.
In New York, the gauges that will benefit from the funding are:
· Great Chazy River at Perry Mills
· Little Chazy River near Chazy
· Salmon River at South Plattsburgh
· Little Ausable River near Valcour
· Ausable River near AuSable Forks
· Bouquet River at Willsboro
· Putnam Creek east of Crown Point Center
· Lake Champlain north of Whitehall
· Mettawee River near Middle Granville