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Eye On Boise

Posts tagged: sequester

Three Idaho stream gauges to shut down May 1, but Riggins gauge spared from cut…

It now looks like three stream flow gauges will be shut off May 1 in Idaho, according to the USGS Idaho Water Science Center, down from the five originally expected to be shut down due to sequestration budget cuts. “It’s still something of a fluid issue in terms of exactly how much the cut was going to be,” said Michael Lewis, the center’s director. He’d been anticipating a 7 to 8 percent cut in a federally funded program that supports 31 stream gauges statewide, but just learned last night “we’re probably looking at a 5.2 percent cut.”

That means two gauges that had been targeted for closure won’t be, on the Little Salmon River at Riggins and on the Little Lost River near Howe. The Riggins gauge is a popular and heavily watched one. “It’s certainly critical for the recreational industry of whitewater rafting, kayaking, fishing,” Lewis said. Since the USGS posted a notice that the gauge could be shut down, “I’ve heard quite a bit from the public,” he said. The gauge near Howe is the only gauge on that river; it’s considered critical for water rights administration and agricultural irrigation.

Still on the hit list: One in southeastern Idaho in the Snake River drainage at the Gray’s Lake Outlet; one on Lapwai Creek near Lapwai in north-central Idaho on the Nez Perce Reservation; and one on the South Fork of the Clearwater River near Elk City.

All play important roles in scientific monitoring and are used by various agencies for fisheries management, flood forecasting and more. Lewis said seven of the 31 gauges in the program have 100 years or more of continuous data. “From a scientific perspective, that is absolutely invaluable,” he said, reflecting stream flows through a wide array of climate and hydrologic conditions. The three targeted for shutdown have a “shorter period of record” of between 26 and 41 years.

By shutting down the three stream gauges, the USGS will save about $23,000 between May 1 and the end of the federal fiscal year Sept. 30. Each gauge requires eight to 10 site visits a year by technicians for maintenance and calibration; they also transmit data to the USGS that gets posted on the agency’s website for public use.

Lewis said he’s “cautiously optimistic” that the stream gauge shutdowns won’t be permanent. The program long has had strong bipartisan support in Congress, he noted. “I think once we get through the sequester, hopefully we’ll see the budget come back for those gauges.”

The USGS operates a total of 236 stream gauges in Idaho, with a variety of funding sources; the one that’s getting cut is the National Stream Flow Information Program, which is fully federally funded and supports 31 stream gauges statewide. 

Sequestration cuts to shut down some stream gauges that monitor water levels, including in Idaho

More than 100 crucial gauges that warn of imminent flooding or lack of needed water will be shut down starting next month as part of the federal government's “sequestration” automatic budget cuts, the Associated Press reports; gauges in Idaho and Maine are up for the first shutdowns in May. The Idaho stream gauges are used by whitewater rafters and fishermen to monitor stream levels, as well as for flood control efforts; some of the gauges targeted for shutdown are in the nine states threatened with spring flooding, U.S. Geological Survey officials said in interviews with The Associated Press. Click below for a full report from AP science writer Seth Borenstein.

Crapo, Risch back move to shift budget cuts away from Idaho airport towers

Idaho Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch are co-sponsoring legislation ordering the FAA not to close small-city airport towers - like those in Idaho Falls, Lewiston, Hailey and Pocatello - under the sequestration budget cuts. The two GOP senators, who both supported the sequester legislation, say the FAA can make the cuts elsewhere.  “There are ways to keep FAA towers open using unobligated research and capital funds from prior appropriations bills, but the FAA has not endorsed these alternatives,” Crapo said. “This legislation, which is growing in support, will change the situation.” The two join a bipartisan group comprising nearly a third of the Senate in co-sponsoring S. 687. Sequestration requires $85 billion in across-the-board spending reductions in an array of federal government programs; click below for the two senators' full news release.

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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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