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Ice Jam Monitoring in the Mohawk River

Ice Jam Monitoring in the Mohawk River

Ice jam floods are a threat to lives and property in low-lying areas along the Mohawk River, particularly in the vicinity of the Stockade District in Schenectady, New York. Backwater from an ice jam can cause flooding upstream of the jam, and the abrupt release of backwater from a jam breaking up can post a threat to lives and property downstream. Historically emergency managers monitored ice jams and associated water levels through on-site observations, which can be inefficient and do not describe the spatial or temporal extent of the ice jam conditions, which can spread over several river miles. During the winter of 2012, the New York Science Center of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in cooperation with NYSDEC's Mohawk River Basin Program, the New York State Power Authority, Brookfield Renewable Power and Union College launched a monitoring tool to help emergency managers assess river conditoins and the potential for ice jam flooding in the vicinity of the Stockade District in Schenectady. A web camera located between Lock 8 and Freeman's Bridge combined with four USGS stream gages along the Mohawk River between Lock 8 and the Vischer's Ferry Dam, 11 miles downstream from Lock 8, provides an alternative to the previous on-site observations made by emergency managers. Data from these stream gages are used as input to simple models that estimate the amount of ice-related backwater between each stream gage. Graphs depicting the changing backwater conditiosn are updated every 20 minutes on the project webpage. Additionally, the web camera located in the Stockade District provides real-time images of the river during the winter months. This monitoring tool is available to the public as a web-based product at: http://ny.water.usgs.gov/flood/MohawkIce/