NYC’s plan to close river gauges worries local officials, businesses

March 14, 2009 at 1:15 am Leave a comment

Vital tools that can predict local floods — and possibly save lives — will soon fall victim to New York City budget cuts.

Several stream gauges in the Delaware and Hudson river basins will be closed by New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection, officials from the DEP, U.S. Geological Service, Delaware River Basin Commission and Upper Delaware Council tell the Times Herald-Record.

Those unmanned gauges, in winding waterways like the Callicoon Creek and Beaverkill and rushing rivers like the Delaware and Neversink, help measure the volume, height, temperature and cleanliness of local waters — waters that have caused millions of dollars of flood damage to the region, while also bringing millions more in tourism and recreation.

Both the DEP, which funds the gauges in the New York City watershed, and the USGS, which helps operate them, would not say which of the more than 50 gauges might be closed.

But as many as 27 closures have been proposed by the DEP, said Willie Rodriguez, director of the USGS New York Water Science Center in Albany.

He said the specific closures — at a savings of less than $1 million — could be announced as soon as Friday.

“There will be some cuts, but we’re not ready to discuss which ones,” a DEP spokesman said.

The USGS monitors the gauges, which transmit data through satellites.

That data — compiled for decades-old records — is linked to a national network of gauges and is also used by the National Weather Service to measure climate changes.

But it’s the local impact of the potential closings that have many along waterways like the Delaware worried.

“If some are taken out and a major storm occurs, some would say that maybe a life would be saved if we had them,” said Bill Douglass, director of the Upper Delaware Council in Narrowsburg. “You find out when and what is happening and you can get people out.”

The gauges are also used for lucrative recreation activities, like trout fishing in the Beaverkill and Neversink and canoeing along the Delaware — both of which depend on the height, volume and flow of the water.

“We need the level to know whether it’s safe for rafting, canoeing or just whether people should go out on it,” said Rick Lander of Lander’s River Trips in Narrowsburg, who’s particularly concerned about the Delaware River gauge in Barryville.

And in these tough economic times, knowing the condition of local rivers and streams might be more important than ever, said trout fishing expert Ed Van Put of Livingston Manor, which has been devastated by floods several times in the past decade.

Fishermen will check the water conditions that are transmitted by the gauges to a “real-time” Web site before deciding whether to drive here, he said, noting that trout season starts April 1.

“It’s an invaluable resource in so many ways,” he said.

By Steve Israel
Times Herald-Record


Entry filed under: Dive In, Natural Waterfront, Region. Tags: , , , , , , , .

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