Save The River Gauge Station

Published 4:51 pm Tuesday, September 3, 2013

FARMVILLE — The Town of Farmville wants business owners to be able to keep their merchandise dry during floods, not be left high and dry by an absent river flow gauge.

Sequestration will shut down the Appomattox River stream flow gauge on October 1, leaving business and property owners vulnerable to flood damage.

The gauge also provides crucial stream flow data during times of severe drought.

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The Town of Farmville is hoping Cumberland County joins with Prince Edward County and the Town in a three-way equal share split of the $15,000 it will cost to keep the flow gauge service operational.

Five thousand dollars each, because all three localities have business and property owners susceptible to flooding and flood damage, is being sought.

Prince Edward County is prepared to contribute toward the funding needed for the National Weather Service (NWS) to continue providing what Town Manager Gerald Spates believes is crucial information during times of flood threat—very accurate data that helps forecasters determine when the river will crest and how high that crest will be.

Businesses located in areas prone to flooding depend on the timely flood information relayed to them by the Town, enabling them to move merchandise beyond the approaching water’s reach.

The NWS plans to discontinue three other stream gauges in the state, as well, in response to federal budget cuts.

Spates, who spoke by phone with Prince Edward County Administrator Wade Bartlett, wrote to Cumberland County Administrator Vivian Giles about the value of the river gauge and the Town’s hopes the County will also provide $5,000 to keep the service.

“They can tell by that stream gauge what the water levels are and based on the amount of rain we’ve got upstream when the river’s going to crest,” Spates explained to Town Council during its August monthly meeting, “and what it’s going to crest at.”

The Town then informs threatened property owners and knows when to close River Road in time to ensure motorist safety.

“If we know the river’s going to get up to 18-and-a-half feet we know there’s a good chance that’s going to get in Green Front (Furniture). We notify Green Front and they move their stuff out,” the town manager said.

“I think it’s really critical that we keep this in operation,” Spates told council members.

“It really helps,” he said, citing the previous flood-inducing rainfall when the NWS “said it was going to crest on Sunday at 2 o’clock and it did and then it started going down.”

The data provides valuable time for everyone in the path of the flood and for those responsible for responding to flooding.

“It gives you a chance to plan,” Spates said.

“This stream gauge station is very important to us because it affects a lot of our businesses,” he reiterated.

The town manager has written to Fifth District Congressman Robert Hurt to see if he can help intervene, “but in the worst-case scenario this is going to be discontinued October 1. We can keep it operational by paying $15,000 a year. I’ve already contacted Prince Edward and I ask council if they would approve keeping this station and I will write to the adjoining counties and see if they will share this with us, one-third, on the cost of this.”

In his letter to Giles, Spates writes that “this station provides current stream flow records that are accessible on line; as well as flood predictions for weather events. This is a very valuable tool used during weather related events and day-to-day information.”

The Town hopes to be inundated by a positive response from Cumberland County.