DEP may shut down flood gauge devices

By Jay Braman Jr.
Stream gauges used as tools to help predict flooding in the New York City Watershed are on the chopping block as the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) mulls closing them as a cost saving measure.
The small buildings housing the gauges can be seen along the banks of streams all over the region. At first glance they resemble an old-fashioned outhouse on steroids. Built out of steel with large padlocks on the doors, these structures contain sophisticated monitoring technology to 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.
According to spokesman Michael Saucier, DEP currently provides funding to the United States Geological Survey for an extensive network of approximately 100 stream gauges within and outside of DEP’s watershed area. Of those, he said, DEP will no longer support 22 of those stream gauges. It remains unclear which gauges will be shut down.
“As a result of the need to reduce expenditures during this difficult economic time, DEP is reviewing all aspects of its budget, including the support it provides for the gauging network,” Saucier said in a prepared statement “The results of this analysis indicate that many of the gauges no longer serve the purpose for which they were originally intended.”
State Sen. John Bonacic vowed to preserve the gauges and called DEP’s actions “inappropriate.” Bonacic wants to discuss the matter with DEP officials.
On Monday, Middletown Supervisor Len Utter talked about the importance of the gauges during flood events, saying that watershed dwellers can go onto a Web site and see precise and up-to-the-minute flows and elevations of the many creeks monitored by the gauges, which feed the data to satellite. Utter said such data is an invaluable resource for a host of emergency service agencies during flood events.