Federal budget cuts are forcing three flood gauges along three Iowa rivers to be switched off, but officials now say two of the gauges are being rescued. Jeff Zogg, senior hydrologist at the National Weather Service, says they’ll be able to at least temporarily save gauges on the West Fork of the Cedar River at Finchford, just north of Waterloo, and on the Des Moines River at Humboldt, upstream from Fort Dodge.
“The Iowa Department of Natural Resources came forward as a funding partner for the gauges at Finchford and Humboldt,” Zogg says, “so those gauges will stay open through the end of this fiscal year, which ends in September.” There are about 75 flood gauges on Iowa’s waterways and Zogg says about 30 of them were eligible to be cut due to sequestration.
Now, it appears two of the three that were slated to be switched off have been saved. “To totally fund a single flood gauge was about $15,000 per year,” Zogg says. “The Iowa DNR has come forward to at least cost share on those gauges through the end of this fiscal year. It’s important to note, beyond September, their fate is still uncertain.”
The two gauges, he says, were key to the DNR’s effort to monitor water quality. The flood gauge on the East Fork of the 102 River at Bedford was turned off last week and Zogg admits, flooding there has been relatively infrequent.
“The impacts in the Bedford area from flood events on the 102 River are definitely minimal when you compare those to the impacts that may occur along the Des Moines River in the Humboldt area and also along the Cedar River up there in the Waterloo/Cedar Falls area,” Zogg says.
“However, (the gauges) are still important in some areas. We definitely don’t ever want to lose a stream gauge.” The gauges are used to monitor both streamflow and water levels. The gauge near Waterloo/Cedar Falls has been taking readings for more than 60 years.