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News Release

U.S. Department of the Interior
U.S. Geological Survey

Release: January 8, 2003
Bill Wiggins
253-428-3600, ext. 2664

John Clemens
253-428-3600, ext. 2635

$20,000 Theft Shuts Down Puyallup R. Flood-Warning Station

Thieves broke into a USGS stream-gaging station on the Puyallup River near Alderton sometime during the holidays and took all of the scientific equipment used to monitor the river for flooding. The missing equipment's replacement cost is estimated at $20,000.

"Basically, they took the stream-gaging station completely apart," said USGS hydrologist Bill Wiggins. "It's an important station on the Puyallup River for flood warning, so they took away more than just the equipment."

Wiggins said that stream-gaging station equipment continuously collects river data and sends it to USGS computers through a self-contained satellite uplink. The USGS serves the river data, which includes river flow and height, over the Internet to Pierce County, the National Weather Service, and other agencies that monitor the river for flooding and resource management.

Transmissions from the Alderton station stopped on December 26. A follow-up field inspection revealed that the station's entire data transmission system--battery, solar panel recharger, data collector, transmitter, and satellite uplink antenna--had been taken by thieves. Wiggins said that the equipment is highly specialized, so the market for the gear is extremely limited.

Until new gear can be purchased, temporary equipment is in operation. Anyone with information about the theft of the equipment is asked to call the Pierce County Sheriff's Office at 253-798-4944.

The USGS, a bureau within the Department of the Interior, serves the nation by providing reliable scientific information to describe and understand the Earth; minimize loss of life and property from natural disasters; manage water, biological, energy, and mineral resources; and enhance and protect the quality of life.

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