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Montana to keep river gauges operating

Mon., May 6, 2013

MISSOULA – Montana agencies will pay to keep four river gauges operating through September following cuts to a federal program.

The Missoulian reported that Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks and the state Department of Natural Resources decided information from the river gauges is too important to eliminate.

“They determine fishing conditions and how safe it is to float,” Pat Saffell of Fish, Wildlife and Parks told the newspaper in a story published Sunday. “They also show us what kind of water year we’re having, and hydrologists use the past data to predict the future.”

The U.S. Geological Survey planned to turn the gauges off last Wednesday due to the $85 billion in across-the-board federal spending cuts – known as the sequester – that took effect earlier this year at government agencies. The federal agency says it will save about $16,000 per gauge through September.

The four gauges are located on the Bitterroot River just below its confluence with the Clark Fork River, the Jefferson River near Three Forks, the Smith River near Eagle Creek and the Yellowstone River at Miles City.

Nationwide, the federal agency operates about 8,000 river gauges at an annual cost of about $150 million. The agency opted to stop operating 375 of them due to the budget cuts.


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