Fed. Budget Cuts Could Impact Flood Fight in Minn.

Posted at: 04/26/2013 8:22 PM
Updated at: 04/27/2013 3:49 PM
By: Joy Lim Nakrin

In the midst of flood season, hundreds of gauges used to monitor water levels will be shut off next week including some in Minnesota. It comes as part of the federal government's automatic budget cuts.

According to James Fallon, Supervisory Hydrologist of the U.S. Geological Survey's Mounds View office, three gauges will likely but turned off in Minnesota. Fallon says the first gauge could be shut off as early as May 1.

Fallon told KSTP, "It's probably the worst timing that could happen for us." Fallon went on to explain that the gauges are used by the National Weather Service for flood forecasting.

According to Fallon, it costs roughly $16,000 annually to operate each gauge. There are 8,000 gauges across the country, paid for by a combination of federal, state and local governments. The federal government last year spent nearly $29 million on gauges, while other governments pitched in $116 million.

USGS officials are carefully prioritizing which gauges are needed most so that they can make cuts which will hurt the least.

Daniel Luna, Meteorologist in Charge at the National Weather Service Chanhassen office, is careful to point out, "The forecast models are capable of producing a forecast without a gauge."

He explains that his team relies on multiple tools to determine outlooks, saying that gauges are just one. He adds "It's just a matter of how accurate that forecast is."