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Apr 01 2013

A Few Good Reads (4/1/13): Fargo Prepares for Yet Another Potentially Major Flood Season

This week: Fargo prepares for another potentially heavy flooding season, questioning ASCE’s infrastructure grading, WRDA bill clears senate committee and how the bill shields the Corps, the importance of steamgages, and extending your HEC-RAS cross sections to high ground.

Report: Fargo should expect 1 of its worst floods

ND officials: Permanent flood protection needed (AP)

The latest weather service flood outlook for Fargo and neighboring Moorhead, Minn., includes a 50 percent chance that the river would top 38 feet later this spring, which would surpass the fifth-highest crest of 37.34 feet in 1969. There’s a 10 percent chance of an all-time record.

"It’s March madness again," said Fargo City Administrator Pat Zavoral. He noted that it would be the fourth major flood in five years, including a record crest of 41 feet in 2009.

How Bad Is Our Infrastructure, Really? (Emergency Management)

ASCE’s earlier "Failure to Act" economic report series estimated that the additional investment would eliminate a drag on the national economy equal to the entire GDP of Germany while protecting 3.5 million jobs and $3,100 annually in personal disposable spending.

But a report issued last year by the Reason Foundation, a Los Angeles-based free-market think tank, painted a more optimistic picture. After analyzing national highway data from 1989 to 2008, the Reason study found that road and bridge conditions had improved in almost every state during that time. The report also found that inflation-adjusted highway spending had increased by 60 percent over 20 years to $145,000 per mile.

WRDA Bill Clears Senate Committee (ENR)

Industry officials say they welcome progress on the WRDA bill and generally support its provisions. But environmental groups contend some policy provisions would weaken key environmental laws.

"We’re just really pleased that it’s moving, given that it’s been six years since the last WRDA," says Jim Walker, American Association of Port Authorities director of navigation policy and legislation.

Lawmakers try to shield Army Corps of Engineers from cuts (Reuters)

Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee unanimously approved a bill on Wednesday that would prohibit Congress from cutting the Corps’ budget unless lawmakers could muster a three-fifths vote. Such a hurdle is not required to cut funding at other agencies, from the Defense Department to the FBI.

The move to fence off Corps funding contrasts with the prevailing appetite for spending restraint in Congress.

"I’ve never seen anything like this," said Steve Ellis, an analyst at the watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense. "It’s basically saying everything the Corps does is more important than anything else."

Measuring the Flow: The Importance of Streamgages (USGS)

Unfortunately, funding challenges continue to erode the national network. Since 1990, more than 600 USGS streamgages with records of more than 30 years have been discontinued. More than 300 stations are currently threatened or endangered for discontinuation. Confronted by this challenge, USGS and its many partners are committed to continually seek new avenues of support and innovation that promotes more cost-effective monitoring of our Nation’s rivers.

Due to recent budget cuts as a result of sequestration, USGS will discontinue operation of up to 375 streamgages nationwide. Additional streamgages may be affected if partners reduce their funding to support USGS streamgages. Even though the operation of most streamgages is now highly automated, the gages still require periodic maintenance to ensure physical stability and for instrument calibration, communication adjustments, and battery replacement. The USGS is working to identify which streamgages will be impacted and will post this information as it becomes available.

Extending your Cross Sections to High Ground? (HEC-RAS Bloggery)

What are the implications of having a cross section that is too short and doesn’t extend all the way out to the highest computed water surface elevation?  Does it affect the results?

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