River gauges to provide vital data in Duck Creek Watershed

November 30, 2011

LOWER SALEM – The installation of three new data-reporting river gauges along the Duck Creek in Noble and Washington counties will provide emergency officials, residents and business owners with vital information during potential flooding from the fast-rising creek.

 

Officials from the federal, state and local levels celebrated the new gauges during a ribbon-cutting event held Tuesday (Nov. 29) in the Lower Salem Community Building. The Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District (MWCD) served as the primary local cost-share partner on the project by providing $78,000 toward the $200,000 total cost of the gauges, and the MWCD also will contribute toward the operation and maintenance costs.

 

Flooding along Duck Creek in 1998 caused five deaths and property damage estimated at $20 million, and local officials have been working to improve warning and information systems since then. The installation of the gauges in the Duck Creek at sites in Macksburg, Harrietsville and Whipple, are key steps in that ongoing process, said Lower Salem Mayor David Brightbill.

 

“The flood of 1998 is something I never want to see again,” said Brightbill, a former member of the MWCD Board of Directors. “But after that flood and several years of talking about what we wanted to do and a lot of frustration, it’s good to see this system finally in place.”

 

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) managed the project and the federal government paid for the majority of the costs of the gauges, which utilize the data and expertise of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the National Weather Service (NWS). Data is collected on rainfall, water level and streamflow in as near real-time as possible and transmits the data to a dedicated website, as well as to interested residents and officials.

 

Jim Mangus, a data chief for the USGS, said that the gauges can be key for local officials to provide vital warnings to Duck Creek residents and business owners that can save lives and reduce property damage in the event of potential flooding. With about 48 hours of advance information for a potential flooding event, property damage from flooding can be reduced by about 60 percent, he said.

 

“Subscribing” to the water alert data from any or all of the three gauges, as well as other managed through the USGS and NWS, is free and can be completed at water.usgs.gov/wateralert. The website alerts system permits users to have daily or hourly updates sent via e-mail or text message when the current conditions meet or surpass selected levels.

 

Washington County Commissioner Cora Marshall said that since she entered office in 2009, one of her “assignments” has been the river gauge project in the Duck Creek Watershed. She praised all of those associated with the planning and installation of the river gauges, and pointed out the MWCD’s financial commitments to the project.

 

“This is what the assessment funds (collected by the MWCD) are being used for and what they are intended to be used for,” Marshall said. “These funds have been set aside for Noble and Washington counties for this to assist our residents.”

 

Boris E. Slogar, MWCD’s chief engineer, said the conservancy district is committed to the early warning systems and said the MWCD also will be part of the system being developed in the Marietta area.

 

“We’ll be involved in the maintenance of the system here and ensure that the gauges work properly because we recognize how important this information can be for the residents in the watershed,” Slogar said.

 

The MWCD, a political subdivision of the state, was organized in 1933 to develop and implement a plan to reduce flooding and conserve water for beneficial public uses in the Muskingum River Watershed, the largest wholly contained watershed in Ohio. Since their construction, the 16 reservoirs and dams in the MWCD region have been credited for saving nearly $10 billion worth of potential property damage from flooding, according to

the federal government, as well as providing popular recreational opportunities that bolster the region’s economy. A significant portion of the reservoirs are managed by the MWCD and the dams are managed for flood-risk management by the federal U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE).

 

For more information about the MWCD, visit www.mwcd.org and follow the MWCD on Facebook and Twitter.

 

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