River Gauge A No-Go

Published 2:05 pm Thursday, October 17, 2013

CUMBERLAND — The southern end of Cumberland County is bounded by the Appomattox River, an intemperate river that fluctuates from a glorified creek to a thirty-foot deep pond capable of covering cars and flooding grocery stores. Of course, most of the time, it flows quiet and unnoticed, past old tobacco warehouses and farm land, under bridges and on towards Petersburg. It all depends on the weather.

And although that sometimes-intemperate river runs along the border of Cumberland, the board of supervisors has determined it is not worth spending taxpayer funds to keep track of its fluctuations. During the October 8 board meeting, Supervisors Bill Osl and Lloyd Banks could both agree on one thing. Cumberland County does not need the gauge.

Banks pointed out that NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, no longer wants to pay the cost of upkeep but still wants to enjoy its services. “I think it would be out of line for our public to pay for a gauge, $5,000 a year, for use by NOAA,” he said.

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The Town of Farmville had requested Cumberland contribute $5,000 a year, one-third of the funds necessary, to help maintain the river gauge located on the Appomattox River Bridge.

The United States Geological Survey has maintained the gauge in the past. However, due to budget cuts as a result of sequestration, they have chosen to no longer maintain the gauge in Farmville. As many as 375 gauges, nationwide may be discontinued because of the cuts.

The river gauge is used by the National Weather Service, a service of the NOAA, to forecast river conditions. Without the gauge, the national weather service would no longer be able to issue river stage forecasts and river flood warnings for the Appomattox River in Farmville. They would, however, be able to continue general, countywide flood and flash flood warnings based on precipitation data.

The more accurate forecasts are going to continue, despite Cumberland’s lack of funding. The Farmville Town Council and Prince Edward Board of Supervisors are splitting the costs of the gauge to keep it operational.

Osl echoed Banks’ objection to the funding. “If the United States Geological Survey has determined they don’t need this gauge, then we don’t need it,” he said.

Chairman David Meinhard said that after reviewing the information regarding the gauge he felt the Town of Farmville benefited the most from it, “There is very little, if any benefit, for Cumberland County. And I think if Farmville wants it, they can take some of that revenue from their jail and —”

Those present began to laugh and cheer, drowning out the end of Meinhard’s sentence.

He then moved to reject any contribution toward the Appomattox River gauge. The four supervisors present supported the motion unanimously. Supervisor Parker Wheeler, District Five, was not present due to a death in the family.