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February 6, 2013

Panel: Funding for gauges needed for public safety

The Daily Star

---- — Unless the federal government makes funding available for stream and rain gauge operations, the safety of the public will be endangered, according to the Susquehanna River Basin Commission.

Two of the rain gauges utilized by the SRBC are located in the Otsego County communities of Morris and Oneonta, while the gauges for the Susquehanna River include one in Oneonta, officials said.

The gauges, which are used by the National Weather Service to predict flooding, will run out of funding March 1, unless Congress acts to provide the $215,000 needed to keep the program going, officials said. In all, 18 stream gauges and 16 rain gauges would be impacted.

“To allow these very gages that help save lives and reduce millions in property damages to be shut down will undoubtedly increase risks to public health and safety,” SRBC Executive Director Paul Swartz said.

He added: “Certainly the citizens and businesses who suffered so tremendously in September 2011 and in June 2006 must find it unthinkable that timely flood warnings could become a thing of the past.”

Tropical Storm Lee, which struck the region in September 2011, forced the evacuation of 120,000 residents of New York and Pennsylvania and left 25,000 homes flooded.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said he is calling on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to pony up the $215,000 to keep the stream and rain gauges online.

“There are thousands of lives and businesses immediately endangered if these stream gauges are shut off March 1, and after uncovering new weather forecasting funding that is perfect for the job, it’s critical that the feds keep these devices online,” Schumer said in a statement.

In a letter to a NOAA administrator, Schumer wrote: “ 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.”