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Some Idaho stream gauges avoid budget cut

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - It appears that only three rather than five stream flow gauges in Idaho will be shut off on Wednesday.

The U.S. Geological Survey's Idaho Water Science Center tells The Spokesman-Review ( http://bit.ly/YeF22L) that a cut in a federally funded program that supports 31 stream gauges statewide will likely be less than expected.

"It's still something of a fluid issue in terms of exactly how much the cut was going to be," said Michael Lewis, the center's director. "We're probably looking at a 5.2 percent cut."

He had expected a 7 to 8 percent cut but found out otherwise Thursday. The cut to Idaho stream flow gauges is part of the $85 billion in across-the-board federal spending cuts _ known as the sequester _ that took effect last month at government agencies.

Lewis said the gauges on the Little Salmon River at Riggins and on the Little Lost River near Howe will remain operating. Stream gauges collect scientific information and are also used by river runners and anglers to check stream flows, and for water rights management. The gauge at Riggins in particular is of interest to recreational users.

"It's certainly critical for the recreational industry of whitewater rafting, kayaking, fishing," Lewis said. "I've heard quite a bit from the public."

The gauge near Howe, the only gauge on the Little Lost River, is viewed as critical for administering water rights and agricultural irrigation.

River gauges remaining on the list to stop operating include one on the South Fork of the Clearwater River near Elk City, one on Lapwai Creek near Lapwai on the Nez Perce Reservation, and one in the Snake River drainage at the Gray's Lake Outlet. Those gauges have supplied information from 26 to 41 years.

Lewis said shutting down the three gauges will save the USGS about $23,000 through the end of the fiscal year, Sept. 30. He said he's cautiously optimistic that the gauges will eventually be turned back on.

"I think once we get through the sequester, hopefully we'll see the budget come back for those gauges," he said.

Of the 31 gauges in Idaho, seven have supplied continuous data for 100 years or more.

"From a scientific perspective, that is absolutely invaluable," he said.

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Information from: The Spokesman-Review, http://www.spokesman.com


(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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