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News Release

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

Release: July 16, 2008
Darrin Miller
360-856-5700, x264

John Clemens

Vandals Knock Out Flood Gage On Nooksack River

[EDITORS: Photos available at ]

Vandals struck again at an important flood-warning gage on the Nooksack River, this time knocking it off the air temporarily, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) reported today.

The vandals removed sections of wiring that connect the river sensor with the satellite transmitter in the USGS stream-gaging station on the Nooksack River at Ferndale, causing about $3,500 in damage. Two previous attacks this year cost about $2,000 in repairs.

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

Replacement of damaged equipment digs into an already tight operating budget and increases costs to taxpayers. Damage to USGS stream-gaging equipment can cut off the flow of real-time river data that emergency managers need to cope with extreme conditions.

The stream-gaging station continuously collects river data and sends it to USGS computers from its self-powered satellite uplink. The USGS serves the river data over the Internet to Whatcom County, the National Weather Service, the Corps of Engineers, and other agencies that monitor the river for flood warning and resource management. Get real-time data from the station at .

The incident is under active investigation by the Ferndale Police Department, and the gaging station is being monitored closely. Anyone with any information about these incidents is asked to call the Ferndale Police Department at 360-384-3390, or use their crime reports Web site at .


July 9, 2008:
The gaging station stopped transmitting on July 9 at about 11:00 pm. USGS visited the site and found that someone had removed a section of an expensive sensor cable that connects the river sensors with the satellite equipment. The river sensor was also damaged beyond repair. Cost to replace the cable and sensor is estimated at about $3,500.

May 19, 2008:
Vandals smashed a solar panel with rocks, disabling the satellite transmitter's battery charger. Cost to replace the panel was $900.00. Ferndale police were contacted; case number is 08F-2119.

January 22, 2008:
After the gage was exhibiting sporadic problems in early January, a site visit was scheduled on January 22. USGS technicians found the gage was marked-up with graffiti, and the satellite-uplink antenna parts had been removed and thrown into bushes near the gage house. Although technicians were able to restore the gage to normal operation, the antenna was eventually replaced at a cost of $1,100.00. The Ferndale Police Department was contacted and will have an officer check the gage house during the day and evenings to help with any other future vandalism. Case number is 07F-369.

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