baltimoresun.com

« Weds/Thurs snow risks diminish; rain tonight | Main | Two months in, it's been a cold winter »

February 7, 2011

Fed. budget woes threaten Susq. River forecasts

The agency that manages the water resources in the Susquehanna River is warning that federal budget cuts threaten funding for the Susquehanna Flood Forecast and Warning System.

Officials at the Susquehanna River Basin Commission say loss of system funding would cut off data used to forecast flooding along the river, and to manage the withdrawal of water by regulated water users. Those users include Marcellus shale gas development projects and, in times of drought, the Susquehanna floodBaltimore water system, which serves the city and surrounding suburbs.

"In a time of tight budgets and with the country determined to get its fiscal house in order, everyone understands the need to curb spending," said the commission's executive director, Paul Swartz. "But eliminating funding for this proven system risks loss of life and property, and leaves Susquehanna basin residents, communities and businesses vulnerable. Is that a prudent financial decision?"

The $2.4 million needed to keep the system of stream and river gauges operating has been provided until now by "congressionally directed funding," or "earmarks." But the Senate has passed a two-year moratorium on the practice. 

Sen. Barbara Mikulski, a Maryland Democrat, has been a key supporter of the funding on the Appropriations Committee, said she was "disappointed" in the situation. But she added, "it is unlikely that congressionally designated projects will be funded in the near future."

In a release, Swartz said the forecast and warning system "provides the National Weather Conowingo DamService the critically important data necessary to issue flood warnings. The system is extremely cost-effective, providing a 20-to-1 benefit-cost ratio."

Funding for the system this year is coming through the "continuing resolutions" that Congress has passed in lieu of a FY 2011 budget. The current resolution expires on Mar. 4. Without a new earmark for the system, it would not be funded in FY 2012, either.

River basin commission officials said they intend to work to secure some sort of "bridge" funding to keep the system working through September 2012. They also hope to have the funding included in the President's budget for FY-2013. "That is exactly where funding for the system belongs ... Congress has carried the burden of funding the system for too long," Swartz said.

"It is not a question of whether flooding will again occur in the Susquehanna River Basin, but rather when it will occur, and how severe it will be," he said. "I pray it will not take the devastation of another flood event for us to once again learn the wisdom of the adage that 'an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.'"

The warning system was established 25 years ago to protect the 1,100-or-so flood-prone communities in the basin, which stretches 444 miles from upstate New York, through Central Pennsylvania to Maryland.  Here's more on how the river forecast system works.

(SUN PHOTOS: Port Deposit (top) and Conowingo Dam, 2004; Karl Merton Ferron)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:13 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Flooding
        

Comments

false economy obviously, they will spend billions on the cleanup. But I'm guessing the basin commission could find 1M in savings and reduce the cost, too. Other than measuring water flow (I thought the Geo Survey did that?) what does the Commission itself do (and its Board members, support staff, etc.)

FR: The USGS operates the system, the NWS uses the data for forecasting. The river commission is merely lobbying for the funding. Its role is to manage the water resources in the Susquehanna, allocating withdrawals for for mining, municipal water systems, power generation etc.

Post a comment

All comments must be approved by the blog author. Please do not resubmit comments if they do not immediately appear. You are not required to use your full name when posting, but you should use a real e-mail address. Comments may be republished in print, but we will not publish your e-mail address. Our full Terms of Service are available here.

Verification (needed to reduce spam):

About Frank Roylance
This site is the Maryland Weather archive. The current Maryland Weather blog can be found here.
Frank Roylance is a reporter for The Baltimore Sun. He came to Baltimore from New Bedford, Mass. in 1980 to join the old Evening Sun. He moved to the morning Sun when the papers merged in 1992, and has spent most of his time since covering science, including astronomy and the weather. One of The Baltimore Sun's first online Web logs, the Weather Blog debuted in October 2004. In June 2006 Frank also began writing comments on local weather and stargazing for The Baltimore Sun's print Weather Page. Frank also answers readers’ weather queries for the newspaper and the blog. Frank Roylance retired in October 2011. Maryland Weather is now being updated by members of The Baltimore Sun staff
-- ADVERTISEMENT --

Sign up for FREE weather alerts*
Get free Baltimore Sun mobile alerts
Sign up for weather text alerts
SKY NOTES WEATHER

Returning user? Update preferences.
Sign up for more Sun text alerts
*Standard message and data rates apply. Click here for Frequently Asked Questions.
Maryland Weather Center


Area Weather Stations
Resources and Sun coverage
• Weather news

• Readers' photos

• Data from the The Sun's weather station

• 2011 stargazers' calendar

• Become a backyard astronomer in five simple steps

• Baltimore Weather Archive
Daily airport weather data for Baltimore from 1948 to today

• National Weather Service:
Sterling Forecast Office

• Capital Weather Gang:
Washington Post weather blog

• CoCoRaHS:
Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network. Local observations by volunteers

• Weather Bug:
Webcams across the state

• National Data Buoy Center:
Weather and ocean data from bay and ocean buoys

• U.S. Drought Monitor:
Weekly maps of drought conditions in the U.S.

• USGS Earthquake Hazards Program:
Real-time data on earthquakes

• Water data:
From the USGS, Maryland

• National Hurricane Center

• Air Now:
Government site for air quality information

• NWS Climate Prediction Center:
Long-term and seasonal forecasts

• U.S. Climate at a Glance:
NOAA interactive site for past climate data, national, state and city

• Clear Sky Clock:
Clear sky alerts for stargazers

• NASA TV:
Watch NASA TV

• Hubblesite:
Home page for Hubble Space Telescope

• Heavens Above:
Everything for the backyard stargazer, tailored to your location

• NASA Eclipse Home Page:
Centuries of eclipse predictions

• Cruise Critic: Hurricane Zone:
Check to see how hurricanes may affect your cruise schedule

• Warming World:
NASA explains the science of climate change with articles, videos, “data visualizations,” and space-based imagery.

• What on Earth:
NASA blog on current research at the space agency.
Most Recent Comments
Blog updates
Recent updates to baltimoresun.com news blogs
 Subscribe to this feed
Charm City Current
Stay connected