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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 5, 2013

SCHUMER: DOZENS OF LIFE-SAVING RIVER GAUGES IN SUSQUEHANNA RIVER BASIN SET TO BE SHUT OFF IN MARCH – SENATOR HIGHLIGHTS NEW WEATHER FORECASTING FUNDING IN DISASTER SUPP, CALLS ON FEDS TO PROVIDE $215,000 TO KEEP GAUGES ONLINE IN SOUTHERN TIER



Schumer Highlights That Sandy Supplemental Bill, Which He Fought to Pass, Directs NOAA To Spend $25 Million On Hurricane Forecasting – Stream Gauges in the Susquehanna River Basin, Which Predict When Floodwaters Will Crest, Should Receive Small Portion

NOAA Dollars Would Keep Early Warning Flood System Vital in Flood-Prone Broome, Tioga, Chenango, Steuben and Chemung Counties from Being Shut Down

Schumer: Feds Cannot Let Stream Gauges and NYers’ Safety Float Away

 

Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer urged the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to set aside a portion of its disaster relief funding recently signed into law, in order to keep dozens of stream and river gauges in the Susquehanna River Basin online. Specifically, in the Sandy supplemental bill, NOAA received a pot of $25 million to "improve weather forecasting and hurricane intensity forecasting”. The U.S. Geological Survey recently listed 18 stream gauges and 16 rain gauges in and around the Susquehanna River Basin that are set to be shut off on March 1st, which could have serious consequences for nearby residents and businesses owners throughout the Southern Tier. These devices are critical in determining when waterways throughout the Susquehanna River Basin are nearing flooding levels, and the fit squarely in this weather forecasting requirement. Therefore, Schumer is calling on NOAA to include these stream gauges in their spending plan, which is due within 45 days of the supplemental passing and to work with the Susquehanna River Basin Commission and the U.S. Geological Survey to provide the additional funding necessary to maintain the gauges.

 

Schumer noted that the Susquehanna River Basin Commission recently estimated that a mere $215,000 of NOAA’s $25 million would be required to keep these stream and river gauges online. During Tropical Storm Lee in 2011, flooding and property damage were significant, but that not a single life was lost and damage could have been far worse had advanced warning and real time data not been made available through these river gauges.

 

“These rivers have flooded before and caused massive property loss and casualties that far exceed the minimal costs to keep this gauges online. It is essential that we do everything in our power to maintain the best possible storm and flood warning system and these stream gauges in the Susquehanna are a vital part of that effort. The federal government cannot allow stream gauges and the safety of New Yorkers living along the Susquehanna River Basin to float away due to lack of funding,” said Schumer.

 

“I am calling on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to allocate approximately $215,000 to keep dozens of life-saving stream gauges in the Southern Tier online after Congress designated $25 million in the Sandy relief funding in order to strengthen the prediction of weather shifts and hurricane warnings,” Schumer continued. “There are thousands of lives and businesses immediately endangered if these stream gauges are shut off March 1st, and after uncovering new weather forecasting funding that is perfect for the job, it’s critical that the feds keep these devices online.”

 

Stream gauges are used by the National Weather Service (NWS) to provide flood forecasting and warning information ahead of potential natural disasters. Flood gauges are essential to New York communities for a variety of reasons. In the hours preceding floods and during floods themselves, gauges help first responders and community officials keep the public abreast of the current threat. Officials can predict when rivers will crest, how much water is expected to spill into certain flood plains, and have access to a wealth of other data that helps them manage the disaster. Additionally, flood gauges help provide data for future flood maps, monitor water quality and use, and help planners determine the appropriate support structures for bridges, based on the water flow beneath them.

 

The serious flooding experienced in the Southern Tier from Tropical Storms Irene and Lee serve as a reminder of the vital importance of the flood forecasts issued by the National Weather Service (NWS). Without the advanced warning afforded to basin communities, residents and businesses, New York would undoubtedly have experienced greater property damage from these flood events and possibly loss of life.

 

While Schumer understands that budget cuts have forced federal and local agencies to scale down their stream gauge management, he believes that Irene and Lee demonstrate the importance of New York’s gauges, especially in the Southern Tier, and that they should be listed as high priority that will continue to operate and be funded. Stream gauges in the Susquehanna River Basin include:

 

STREAM & RAIN GAUGES MARKED FOR SHUT DOWN MARCH 1, 2013

 

18 Stream Gauges (County, River, Location)

 

Broome County:             Susquehanna River - Binghamton, Vestal, Windsor

 

Chemung County:           Chemung River - Elmira

 

Chenango County:          Chenango River - Greene, Norwich, Oxford, Sherburne

                                        Susquehanna River - Bainbridge

                                        Unadilla River - Rockdale

 

Otsego County:                Susquehanna River - Oneonta

 

Steuben County:              Canisteo River - West Cameron

                                         Cohocton River - Bath

                                         Tioga River - Lindley

                                         Tuscarora Creek - South Addison

 

Tioga County:                  Owego Creek - Owego

                                         Susquehanna River - Owego, Waverly

 

16 Rain Gauges (County, Location)

 

Broome County:             Vestal

Chemung County:           Elmira

Chenango County:          Bainbridge, Oxford, Sherburne

Cortland County:            Cuyler

Madison County:            Georgetown, North Brookfield

Otsego County:               Morris, Oneonta

Schoharie County:          Charlotteville

Steuben County:             Adrian, Bath, Corning, Thurston

Tioga County:                 Waverly

 

The NOAA focuses on monitoring oceanic and atmospheric conditions. NOAA provides vital services including monitoring daily weather forecasts and severe storm warnings, guides to the use and protection of ocean and coastal resources, and conducting research to improve understanding of our environment. 

 

The Susquehanna River Basin is the second largest river basin east of the Mississippi River and covers large parts of New York, Pennsylvania, and Maryland.  It is also one of the most flood-prone watersheds in the nation – experiencing damages in excess of $150 million on average every year.  Because more than 80 percent of the basin’s 1,400 plus municipalities have areas that are flood prone, it is vital to provide adequate funding for stream gauges.

 

A copy of Sen. Schumer’s letter to NOAA appears below:

 

Dear Dr. Lubchenco:

 

I am writing today to discuss the implementation of post-Hurricane Sandy National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) projects in the State of New York.  As you know, Congress passed a Supplemental Appropriations relief package for the affected Sandy states.  Working with our colleagues in the Congressional delegation, we fought for the inclusion of $25 million in appropriations to improve weather forecasting.  I urge you to direct the $215 thousand dollars necessary to keep 18 threatened stream gauges and 16 rain gauges in the Susquehanna River Basin active. They are threatened to shut down March 1, 2013 and provide important lifesaving weather data that communities depend on in the Southern Tier of New York. 

I am aware that difficult choices must be made in allocating federal resources, but we as we have learned from Superstorm Sandy, we cannot shortchange programs that our communities rely on to keep their citizens safe and well-informed. In addition, both tropical storms Irene and Lee caused significant flooding and devastated communities throughout the Susquehanna River Basin. As these and other disasters have shown, funding stream gauges is a critical and comparatively minor investment relative to the cost of dealing with a flood for which a community did not have time to prepare.

Our local communities use the data they provide to plan emergency evacuations, make watershed management decisions, and make smart decisions about rebuilding following flooding that destroys homes and businesses. The Susquehanna River Basin Commission needs an additional $215 thousand dollars to maintain operation of nineteen stream gauges and seven rain gauges located in New York – a small price tag for the valuable information these gauges provide.

As you craft your spending report for the Sandy Supplemental Appropriations package, I ask that you to consider the great importance of these gages and to work together with the partnership of the Susquehanna River Basin Commission, the U.S. Geological Survey, and Army Corps of Engineers to provide the additional funding necessary to maintain the gauges.

I thank you for your attention to this important matter and look forward to working with you and our regional partners in the Susquehanna River Basin to maintain our stream gauges.

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