Wednesday, April 16, 2008

High (water) marks for the USGS

It’s been a long winter, and we’re eager to get on the water to begin cleaning. Julie and I took a drive to the park where one of our surveys had revealed a lot of debris, in the hope of figuring out whether it would be possible to organize a clean-up for Earth Day.

It was not to be. The spring rains and snowmelt runoff leaves the Mississippi River too high for safe recovery efforts. The high water leaves literally no riverbank to walk… only a ledge that would put people at risk of falling into very cold and fast moving water.

So I went home and hit the web, with the goal of comparing the river level from September 29, 2007 (the date we surveyed this part of the river) to the river level this week. I found most of my answers at the US Geological Survey. But the web site only provided historic discharge (which is the volume of water moving through the river). I could not find a historic record of water level… which is what I was after. So I found a phone number for the USGS office in Mounds View, and was connected with Eric Wakeman. Within just a few minutes, Eric was able to provide me with precisely the 2007 annual watermarks I needed.

This is a valuable resource! Now, I can check-in to see the real-time river levels at… and compare the water depth today to that of the survey date. In other words, I’ll know when the water has receded far enough to again expose the items we inventoried last fall.

The USGS long been a resource to taxpayers and government agencies; today, it finds a new use in our river restoration projects. My thanks to Eric Wakeman, and all the folks at USGS.

© 2008 Mike D. Anderson, Crystal, MN.

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