BOISE, Idaho — In Idaho, local, state and federal officials’ ability to forecast floods, allocate water and help the public plan for outdoor recreation will substantially improve. The U.S. Geological Survey is investing in devices used to continuously measure streamflow and other water data. Earlier this year, Congress provided $6 million in additional funding for the USGS National Streamflow Information Program. Idaho’s share of that new funding, $141,000, will be applied to 10 streamgages throughout the state.
While the streamgages can be used for a variety of purposes by millions of users, one of the most important uses has the potential to save lives and offer huge financial savings by reducing potential economic loss. The National Weather Service will use data from two streamgages in northern Idaho to help protect communities against flooding.
“USGS streamgages are a critical component of our river forecast and flood warning program,” said NWS hydrologist Katherine Rowden, “The data provided by streamgages on the Pack River near Colburn and the St. Joe River at St. Maries will help us deliver forecasts and warnings to those areas.”
Two other streamgages that will be supported by the new USGS NSIP funding—one on the Snake River near Murphy and one on the Little Lost River near Howe—are critical to Idaho Department of Water Resources allocations of water for agricultural and hydroelectric production.
“The Little Lost River streamgage is important for the distribution of irrigation water in Water District 33,” said IDWR’s Rick Raymondi. “It’s also near the eastern Snake Plain aquifer model boundary, so data from that streamgage will improve the accuracy of the model water budget in that area. The Snake River near Murphy streamgage is important for administering water rights as defined in the Swan Falls Settlement Agreement between the state of Idaho and Idaho Power Company. The flows measured there are closely watched by the state, Idaho Power Company, and other interested parties throughout the year.”
USGS NSIP also now fully funds the streamgage on the Middle Fork Salmon River at the Middle Fork Lodge near Yellow Pine. Data from that streamgage are essential to outdoor recreationists.
“The Middle Fork gaging station is used by outfitters and guides, sometimes on a daily basis,” said Grant Simonds of the Idaho Outfitters and Guides Association. “It is extremely important for Middle Fork boaters so they can plan their trips with safety as a major consideration for all flows, but especially for high and low flows.”
USGS NSIP streamgages are part of a nationwide backbone network designed to meet national needs for streamflow information. Funding for NSIP ensures full federal support for critical streamgages in Idaho and nationwide. The increased USGS NSIP funding strengthens Idaho’s network of more than 200 real-time streamgages. The program currently funds 39 of those streamgages, with an ultimate goal of funding 110 Idaho streamgages.
“Most of our streamgages are jointly funded by the USGS and state, tribal, local and other federal partners,” said Michael Lewis, director of the USGS Idaho Water Science Center. “As USGS NSIP grows toward its goal of a nationwide backbone of federally-funded streamgages, we can relieve our partners’ strained budgets and provide permanent stability to a vital state resource.”
The complete list of Idaho streamgages covered by the new funding is available on the USGS Idaho Water Science Center website. To see pictures and learn more about the importance of these streamgages to Idaho, follow @USGS_Idaho and #10forIdaho.