A pair of sophisticated high-tech river gauges, slated to be in place on the Ohio and Muskingum rivers within the next couple of months, could provide valuable flood warning data for Marietta and other river communities.
The new devices will be the latest additions to a system of flood warning gauges that were installed along Duck Creek last year.
"The hope is that this system of gauges will provide comprehensive flood warning information that will benefit the entire area," said Marietta city engineer Joe Tucker.
He said advance flood warning has proved to be the best resource for preventing millions of dollars of damage during major flood events.
Tucker and engineering department project manager Wayne Rinehart have been working on the project with the U.S. Geological Survey, Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and Washington County officials.
"We're looking at new gauges that will be installed near Beverly on the Muskingum River, and at Hannibal on the Ohio River," Tucker said. "These are very specialized types of gauges that measure velocity, height and flow, and the Hannibal unit is the first of its kind on the entire Ohio River."
New river gauges coming:
Two new flood warning gauges will be installed on the Ohio and Muskingum rivers by the end of this year.
The specialized gauges will provide comprehensive velocity, height, flow and other data about river conditions above Marietta.
One gauge will be installed at Hannibal on the Ohio River, and the other on the Muskingum River at Beverly.
Total cost of the flood warning system gauges project is $540,000. The Muskingum River Conservancy District and U.S. Geological Survey are covering the cost.
Source: Marietta engineering department.
He said rain gauges will also be installed along the Muskingum River to provide better measurement of precipitation amounts that will also assist in better flood forecasting.
Total cost of the project is $540,000, to be paid over three years. The MWCD is funding the lion's share-$400,000, with the remaining $140,000 being picked up by the USGS.
Annual operation and maintenance costs will be jointly shared by the city, USGS, MWCD, Corps of Engineers and Washington County.
Tucker said he hopes other river communities and counties that stand to benefit from the system may also contribute to the annual maintenance costs.
The installation of a gauge at Beverly is good news for Jeff Lauer, emergency management coordinator for Washington County.
"The closest gauge we currently monitor on the Muskingum is at McConnelsville, but that data is not always reliable because there are several major tributaries that empty into the Muskingum River between there and Marietta," he said.
Tucker noted that the Muskingum River drainage basin-the largest in Ohio-consists of 8,051 square miles.
"That's why it's important to monitor locations in the upper reaches of the Muskingum" he said. "All of that drainage eventually comes through Marietta."
Lauer said emergency management monitors several area flood gauges, three of which were just installed along Duck Creek in 2011. Those gauges have yet to be tested during a real flood event because there's been so little rainfall over the past year.
"We do have the link on our computers that we check periodically where we could monitor any flooding events, but there hasn't been enough precipitation to cause flooding since the gauges were installed," said Lauer.
He said the Duck Creek gauges are located near the Ohio 821 bridge in Whipple, on the north bridge in Macksburg, and on the east branch of Duck Creek in Noble County just north of Harriettsville.
The same gauge data is available from a home computer or laptop at water.usgs.gov/wateralert, he said, noting that United States Geological Survey website also provides information from any stream gauge throughout the country.
The three Duck Creek gauges were installed by the USGS at a total cost of around $200,000, according to John Yeager, project manager with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers during a meeting with local officials celebrating the gauge system in November of last year.
He said $78,000 of the funding came through the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District property tax assessment that began in 2009.
Boris Slogar, chief engineer with the MWCD, has said the agency will also be contributing to operation and maintenance costs for the gauges.
Washington County and the city of Marietta are also contributing funds to keep the gauges maintained and running, according to a 2009 memorandum of understanding between the two jurisdictions.
On Thursday Marietta City Council approved its portion of the maintenance cost,which is $1,400. The county will kick in another $4,400 for annual maintenance and operation of the gauges. And because one of the gauges is located on Duck Creek just over the county line, Noble County will also be contributing to those maintenance costs.