Interior Department and its Agencies Assist Citizens Threatened by Midwest Floods


Video and B-Roll Available


03/27/2009

Contact: Joan Moody
202-208-6416

WASHINGTON, D.C. –The Department of the Interior and its agencies around the country, in cooperation with state and local partners, are acting to help citizens threatened by the record-setting Midwest floods in ways ranging from providing the streamgage and satellite data used in weather predictions to conducting search-and- rescue operations in boats usually used in national parks and wildlife refuges.  

The U.S. Geological Survey and the Department today released video and B-roll of flood damage and response in Fargo, North Dakota, showing employees measuring streamflow and checking streamgages. Over the past few days the highest river flows in the Red River Basin in recorded history have caused evacuations of several thousand people and damage to infrastructure.

“I am proud of the work of our employees in the field and in the command centers,” Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said.  “We have called for the entire Department of the Interior to cooperate with federal, state and local efforts to do everything we can to protect people as well as to prevent harm to both the resources we manage and those of the local communities.”

The department’s Office of Emergency Management, U.S. Geological Survey, Bureau of Indian Affairs, National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Reclamation and other Interior offices are coordinating with the Federal Energy Management Agency (FEMA) and all state, local, and Federal agencies involved in responding to the floods. 

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), for example, is conducting multiple flood monitoring activities in Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota.  Nationwide, the National Weather Service depends on the USGS expertise in hydrology and the USGS network of 7,000 streamgages feeding the information used in making weather predictions.

Based on measurements made by the USGS crew in Fargo on Mar. 26, the National Weather Service is forecasting the Red River at Fargo to crest around 42 feet and lasting into early April.  This would be the highest in recorded history and cause historic levels of flooding. Already multiple floods have caused evacuations and damage to property.

USGS has more than twenty hydrographer crews in North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota making special direct measurements of streamflow with acoustic Doppler profilers. The streamflow measurements are being relayed as soon as they are made to the Weather Service, Corps of Engineers, and various local and state emergency management agencies.

USGS crews are also providing field accounts of ice and flood conditions. They are installing emergency streamgages along the Missouri River to respond to rapidly deteriorating flooding conditions in Bismarck as the result of multiple ice jams; making special measurements of streamflow along the Missouri River and tributaries in the affected area; and making direct measurements of streamflow to support the emergency response efforts in the James and Missouri Rivers of South Dakota.

USGS also is monitoring floods and streamgages and providing data for emergency management use from its satellites—LANDSAT 5 and 7—to other satellites, agencies and countries. USGS is disseminating geospatial data for the Red River valley at the following website:  http://hdds.usgs.gov/EO.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs is monitoring flood threats at the Standing Rock and other Indian reservations. The community of Cannonball has been inundated.  The BIA and BIE are working to protect 15,000 people residing in a 2 million square-acre area. BIA also is available to help in Bismarck and other outside communities.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which has 10 national wildife refuges as well as hatcheries and preserves in the area, has provided equipment and personnel for emergency management and law enforcement. Significant damage to refuges and other facilities is anticipated. While protecting refuges, FWS is also providing search-and-rescue support including airboats and crew needed by sheriffs in several counties.

The National Park Service, in addition to protecting park employees and sites, is mobilizing incident management teams, boats and operators to support FEMA should states call for additional search and rescuesupport.When states request such assistance, the NPS is the primary federal agency for coordinating land-based search-and-rescue.

All these agencies deploy personnel immediately in responses to disasters to ensure employee and public safety on Interior-managed lands and within tribal communities.  They also respond to requests for help from local communities and initiate humanitarian actions.  In addition, under the National Response Framework, they provide assistance to help the efforts of FEMA.  The Office of Emergency Management, which coordinates these efforts for Interior, reported in 2005 that more than 6,000 Interior employees were involved in response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

For more information on federal, state and local partnerships and disaster assistance, see www.fema.gov.