Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

Jindal, Volcanos, Floods and Stream Gages.

The budget item for “volcano monitoring equipment” ridiculed by Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal on the teevee last night is actually for all of the data collection equipment operated by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Most important and numerous of these are stream gages.


The USGS has thousands of stream gages all over the country, and 230 in Jindal’s own state of Louisiana. You can get real time data on these on-line, 24-7. My bookmarked one for Maine is here. Check it out.

For a century, USGS stream gages were a stick in a stream bolted to a bridge abutment that measured the height of the stream at that spot, at that moment.  Once a day or once a week a person would look at the stick and write down the number where the water touched the stick into a log book which was sent once a year to the USGS. This data collection is our only source of information about the long term flow behavior of our nation’s rivers and streams, which is critical for calculating their flood potential and risk.

Today, an electronic sensor takes the place of the stick. Using solar panels for power, these gage stations relay the water level measurements via satellite to the USGS and to their servers so anyone can get the data instantaneously. Many gage stations are also equipped with automatic air and water temperature sensors as well. All of this stuff is stored in USGS computers and becomes part of the historic data record for that gage station, which can be retrieved by anyone at anytime with an Internet link.

In my profession as an advocate for rivers and migratory fish populations, the data gathered by the USGS gage stations are priceless. USGS gage station data are the core of many legal actions I have taken to protect rivers from pollution and dewatering. This stuff is irrefutable in court.

These gages cost a lot to keep working and maintained, just because there are so many of them. They are one of the most important data gathering networks the U.S. has.

Stream gages are also the only way to accurately predict the severity of a flood — before it happens. Without modern, operating stream gages and real time link-ups via satellite and computer, you’re blind. You’ve got nothing to predict the actual progress of a flood and make critical evacuation decisions. Having this data at your fingertips can determine if people live or die.

That’s what a lot of the $140 million is for that Gov. Jindal ridiculed. Saving peoples’ lives from floods.

Seems Gov. Jindal’s rather moist, river and bayou studded state could use this type of fancy water height measuring stuff. Especially given that a tiny little crick called the Mississippi flows almost sort of close by. And especially given that Jindal believes in the literal truth of a certain very large flood destroying the entire flat Earth.

And Golly Gosh in Galoshes, here’s the stream data shizzle for Louisiana !!!

UPDATE: I do not mean for the above to diminish the importance of the volcano monitoring equipment operated by the USGS. Just the opposite. Aa and pahoehoe !!!

Pele/Jindal 2012 !!!


  1. Michelle

    I saw this one earlier today from Five Thirty Eight on Jindal v. Volcano.  Very nice.

    Before the cataclysmic eruption, roughly one million people lived in the region around Mount Pinatubo, including about 30,000 American military personnel and their dependents at the two largest U.S. military bases in the Philippines–Clark Air Base and Subic Bay Naval Station. The slopes of the volcano and the adjacent hills and valleys were home to thousands of villagers. Despite the great number of people at risk, there were few casualties in the June 15 eruption. This was the result of intensive monitoring of Mount Pinatubo by scientists with the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) and the USGS.

    So apparently, this money is put to good use and saves lives from natural disasters.  And lookey there!  It actually saved the lives of our military members and their families!  How kind of the Republicans to bash on something that benefited our military families by protecting them from a natural disaster.  Because we all know that the Republicans think that our military members are easily dispensable.

  2. and maintain them. So we improve part of our infrastructure, and this is infrastructure no matter what the Right says, save lives, and create jobs. [s] Damn, what a foolish idea. I want my money back. [/s]

    Another foolish complaint is about high-speed rail. What a great addition to our infrastructure. The private sector can’t do it – the right-of-way would be impossible for them to get. So we have a public project that will create tons of jobs, add to our infrastructure, add a greener form of transport than air travel, and ease travel between large cities. What’s not to like? Would they oppose new highways or aid to localities for new airports with as much disdain? I really don’t understand why the Dems aren’t hammering them with these points.

    Now that I’m in rant mode I might as well get another one off my chest – removing fish obstacles, or however they labeled it.

    In order to remove stream barriers, you must pay someone to remove them. This probably means hiring companies to do the work. Gee, I wonder who we could get to do this kind of deconstruction? Why I know, why not get them from the moribund construction industry? Gee, more jobs.

    Not only would this put people back to work, or prevent them getting laid off, it would also improve fish stocks. Improve fish stocks and you sell more fishing licenses. You get more fish and that means you can reduce stocking expenses. Gee, a project that would improve quality of life, increase revenue, and reduce spending. And someone is against this being in a stimulus plan? God, the stupidity of some people drives me nuts.

  3. Steve M

    I have to admit, in the ongoing debate over the appropriate size and role of government, I never would have thought there would be a dispute over whether the government should protect people from natural disasters.

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