NEIWPCC Urges Congress to Support Streamgage Network

Posted on Monday, October 26th, 2020 | Posted in News

In a letter sent last week, NEIWPCC urged Congress to increase federal funding for the USGS Streamgage Network. This program provides invaluable data for water resource management.

Streamgage site at Bunnell Brook in Connecticut. Credit: Henry Witt, USGS.

The streamgage network collects real-time water flow data in rivers and streams across the country. According to the USGS, the program filled more than 640 million data requests in 2017.

There are more than 10,000 gages across the network, but many are at risk of being discontinued without increased federal funding.

In the Northeast, streamgages have been particularly important for measuring floods, predicting future flooding impacts, and planning infrastructure projects.

“Without current and historical streamgage data, we cannot accurately predict how to safely repair, replace, or construct infrastructure and development,” wrote Executive Director Susan Sullivan.

“Continuous investment in streamgage placement, maintenance, and research is critical to water resource management, including forecasting and responding to water resource emergencies.”

Endangered Gages

Across the country, many streamgages have been discontinued or are at risk of being discontinued due to lack of funding.

In New England and New York, at least thirteen streamgages have been discontinued, many just in the last year.

A streamgage on Staten Island, which regularly experiences flooding events, was discontinued in 2013.

In the letter to our member states’ congressional delegates, NEIWPCC warned that many more gages in the region are in danger. For instance, there are eight streamgages in Connecticut at risk of being discontinued in the next two to seven years.

Funding Mismatch

The USGS streamgage network is supported with federal and state matching funds, but the financial burden on states has grown unsustainable.

Federal appropriations have not kept up with the rising cost to maintain the streamgage network.

In the 1990s, cost-sharing for the program was split about half-and-half between federal and nonfederal funding. In 2018, only 37% of the funding was supported with federal appropriations.

NEIWPCC suggests federal appropriations to the USGS be adjusted so cost-sharing for the network can return to a roughly 50-50 split.

“This would signify an additional $24.635 million to USGS across all of the nation’s streamgages and greatly reduce the burden on states to fund streamgages as they grapple with the financial implications of COVID-19,” wrote Sullivan.

For more information about the importance of the USGS Streamgage Network in the Northeast, contact Maryann Dugan, NEIWPCC environmental analyst.