Sequester threatens to shut off flood gauges
Local government officials are scrambling to keep more than 100 critical flood gauges from being shut down next month due to sequestration budget cuts. These important disaster-prevention tools measure water levels on rivers and help predict to what extent floodwaters could rise.
There are approximately 8,000 gauges across the county, paid for by federal, state and local governments. The sequester will cut 5 percent from the federal share, which means shutting down a handful of gauges in each state, according to Associated Press reports.
Jerad Bales, chief scientist for water at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), told the AP that at least 120 gauges (and up to as many as 375) will be shut down in a worst-case scenario. “It’s a life and property issue,” he told the AP, “It’s a safety issue.”
Four gauges in North Dakota, two of which are on the Red River, were on the list to be shut down, the AP reports. However, since upkeep of the gauges is a joint effort, decisions on which ones to deactivate are only being made after local and federal officials agree.
According to Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker, the Red River gauges were crucial. “Our level of protection is based on what the river is doing,” he told the AP.
The red river gauges will stay active, for now, but two others may be closed, Gregg Wiche, who runs the USGS North Dakota Water Science Center told the AP.
James Lee Witt, who ran the Federal Emergency Management Agency during the Clinton administration, expressed concern to the AP, saying, “there are as many as nine states that will be impacted by spring floods, and this is not the time to make such harmful budget cuts.”