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USGS minimizes budget cut impacts on river gauges

 RIVERS -- Whitewater river runners, anglers and other groups and agencies in Idaho and Washington that rely on streamflow gauges maintained by the U.S. Geological Survey are breathing a sigh of relief.

USGS had announced that as of today (May 1) operation of "up to 375 streamgages nationwide would be discontinued due to budget cuts as a result of the $85 billion across-the-board cuts known as sequestration. Additional streamgages may be affected if partners reduce their funding to support USGS streamgages."

But agency managers worked out ways to keep the immediate closures down to three in Idaho and none in Washington.  One closure of note to anglers: 13337500 South Fork Clearwater River near Elk City.

Click "continue reading" below for the explanations I received to my queries.

Streamgages are used nationwide to predict and address drought and flood conditions by monitoring water availability. The USGS and over 850 Federal, State, and local agencies cooperatively fund the USGS streamgaging network, which consists of more than 8,000 streamgages.


Thanks for your inquiry regarding U.S. Geological Survey streamgages scheduled to be discontinued due to budget cuts. The following streamgages in Idaho are scheduled to be discontinued May 1:

  1. 13057500 Grays Lake Outlet near Herman
  2. 13337500 South Fork Clearwater River near Elk City
  3. 13342450 Lapwai Creek near Lapwai

We initially thought we would need to discontinue five streamgages, but budget developments have allowed us to continue operating:

  1. 13118700 Little Lost River below Wet Creek near Howe
  2. 13316500 Little Salmon River at Riggins

--Tim Merrick, USGS Communications, Boise


Thank you for your inquiry regarding U.S. Geological Survey streamgages scheduled to be discontinued due to budget cuts. In Washington the USGS National Streamflow Information Program (NSIP) included an equipment account for flood hardening and upgrading equipment at gages funded through NSIP.  The USGS Washington Water Science Center decided to take the sequestration cuts by zeroing out this account and thus was able to rescue gages identified for cutting in FY13. Planned upgrades will be delayed or cancelled, depending on the response of our local partners. This is a short-term solution to rescue streamgages in FY13 only; a similar cut to NSIP funding in FY14 would result in discontinuing the operation of some streamgages in Washington. 

--John M. Clemensm,  USGS Public Affairs, Tacoma 

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Rich Landers writes and photographs stories and columns for a wide range of outdoors coverage, including Outdoors feature sections on Sunday and Thursday.