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News Release

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


Released: September 12, 2007
Contact:
Darrin Miller,
360-856-5700 x264

John Clemens,
253-552-1635

Thefts Hit Skagit Basin Flood-Warning Gage

Thieves completely stripped a motorized cableway and stole a solar panel from a critical stream-gaging station on the Sauk River near Sauk, Wash., according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The thefts were discovered by USGS personnel during one of the regular site visits September 10.

The Sauk River station is one of several key USGS stations that feed real-time river data to Skagit County’s flood warning system. The station is also part of the USGS network of about 240 satellite-linked stations on Washington rivers, streams, and lakes.

The back wall of the wooden cableway house was split open, and all of the streamflow-measuring equipment was stolen, including the electronic controller, electric motors, and cable spool.

"They stripped it clean," said Darrin Miller, hydrologic technician in charge of the USGS office in Sedro-Woolley. "They even took our table, fluorescent light, and extension cord. Luckily, we weren’t in any flooding conditions at the time, but a theft like this could threaten the safety of people in the Skagit River Basin."

The stream-gaging station 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 Skagit County, the National Weather Service, the Corps of Engineers, and other agencies that monitor the river for flood warning and resource management.

"We estimate the damage at about $40,000," said USGS hydrologist Bob Kimbrough. "This is a significant loss, but there’s been no interruption in streamflow data from the station. Without the cableway, though, we won’t be able to check the calibration of the station during the upcoming flood season."

The incident is under active investigation by the Skagit County Sheriff’s Office, and the gaging station is being monitored closely. Anyone with any information about these incidents is asked to call the Skagit County Sheriff’s Office, (360) 428-1739, e-mail sheriff@co.skagit.wa.us.

Real-time data from the station is online at http://waterdata.usgs.gov/wa/nwis/uv?site_no=12189500 .

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