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River gauges critical to public safety

Posted at 3:57 PM, May 18, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-05 14:56:25-04

GREAT FALLS – There are numerous water gauges along the Sun River; they are important to track flood years and drought years as well as monitoring water quality.

Some of these gauges are maintained by the Bureau of Reclamation, Greenfield Irrigation District, and the United States Geological Survey (USGS) which start below the Gibson Reservoir.

Other gauges are maintained by the Sun River Watershed Group (SRWG) and the USGS. These are located by the Augusta Highway 287 Bridge, the bridge at Simms and near the town of Vaughn.

These gauges are recorded approximately every 15 minutes electronically with updated data online.

These three gauges along the Sun River are funded by a cost-share program between SRWG and USGS. It costs approximately $20,000 to keep these gauges maintained and running year-round.

The money goes towards maintenance of the gauges as well as even replacement of the gauges. They can last anywhere from one to ten years.

The USGS covers 50 percent of the cost, but the SRWG has to provide the other 50 percent.

The SRWG was formed approximately 25 years ago to solve local issues through local solutions. It’s a collaborative effort and is made up of a lot of federal, state, local and government agencies.

SRWG gets funding from Cascade County, the Great Falls Flood District, Teton County, Greenfield Irrigation District, Fort Shaw Irrigation District and even some anglers. But all this funding often doesn’t add up to be enough for their $10,000 goal.

Retired Sun River Watershed Coordinator, Alan Rollo says, “Those gauges and that information is there year round to benefit everyone and anyone whether it be drought years so that we can make sure there is availability of water for irrigators and the fish and the flood years like this year.”

Anyone who would like to contribute to the SRWG to keep the gauges along the Sun River running can contact Alan Rollo at 406-727-4437, or click here to visit the website.

Reporting by Kasey Herman, Meteorologist