Secretary Salazar Announces Department of Interior Economic Stimulus Projects: USGS Investments Underscore Commitment to “Best Science”

Last edited 09/29/2021

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today announced the Department of the Interior's first projects under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 – $140 million that will fund 308 U.S. Geological Survey projects across the 50 states. The USGS, the leading science research bureau in the federal government, supports the science needs of all the other bureaus of the Department of the Interior and other departments of the U.S. government. The USGS will play a critical role in addressing the nation's energy and climate change challenges.

Overall, the Department of the Interior will manage $3.0 billion in investments as part of the recovery plan signed by the President to jumpstart our economy, create or save jobs, and put a down payment on addressing long-neglected challenges so our country can thrive in the 21st Century.

“These USGS projects not only stimulate job creation and preservation, but they stimulate the scientific research that must underpin the decisions we make on behalf of the American people as the stewards of the nation's natural resources,” Secretary Salazar said in a teleconference today. “As America's leading earth science agency, USGS is central to helping us meet the imperatives of the nation's energy and climate change challenges.”

Among the programs funded through the Department's ARRA investments, USGS will dedicate $15.2 million to volcano monitoring and $14.6 million to streamgage upgrades, support that will further the agency's recent efforts to protect life and property in places such as Alaska and North Dakota.

The $140 million announced today for USGS will fund repair, construction and restoration of facilities; equipment replacement and upgrades; national map activities; and critical deferred maintenance and improvement projects. Specific investments include:

  • Volcano Monitoring - $15.2 million to modernize equipment in the National Volcano Early Warning System (NVEWS) at all USGS volcano observatories. The U.S. and its territories include some of the most volcanically-active regions in the world, with 169 active volcanoes. As many as 54 of these potentially dangerous volcanoes need improved monitoring.
  • Upgrades to streamgages used in flood monitoring - $14.6 million to upgrade to high-data radio (HDR) technology and upgrade streamgages with new technologies for streamflow measurement. All 7,500 streamgages will be upgraded by 2012.
  • Water Program Deferred Maintenance – $14.6 million for remediation to remove streamgages, cableways, and ground-water wells that are no longer in use, making these sites safer for public enjoyment and support local economies.
  • Deferred Maintenance of Facilities - $29.4 million for projects that address health and safety issues; functional needs such as improved laboratory space; make facilities more energy efficient, and incorporate sustainable design criteria in project implementation.
  • Earthquake Monitoring - $29.4 million to modernize the Advanced National Seismic System (ANSS) by doubling the number of ANSS-quality stations and upgrading seismic networks nationwide, to bring the total from approximately 800 to 1600. These improved networks will deliver faster, more reliable and more accurate information – helping to save lives by providing better situational awareness in the wake of the damaging earthquakes that can strike this nation at any time.
  • Construction - $17.8 million for research facilities at Patuxent Wildlife Refuge Research Center in Patuxent, MD; the Columbia Environmental Research Center (CERC) in Columbia, MO; and the Upper Midwest Environmental Services Center (UMESC) in LaCrosse, WI. Work at these centers will improve the ability of scientists to conduct innovative research on contaminants and wildlife, endangered species, wind power and wildlife, adaptive management, wildlife disease and much more. The rehabilitation of these facilities will support jobs for the local community, improve functionality, and reduce long-term operating costs.
  • Imagery and Elevation Maps - $14.6 million to improve mapping data, which will then be made available for multiple uses including flood mapping, emergency operations, and natural resource management.
  • Data Preservation - $488,000 to the USGS Bird Banding Laboratory (BBL) to digitize, and make available to the public via the Internet, the historical banding recovery and bird banding records. Bird banding data have a wide variety of uses including applications for disease research.

“President Obama and this Department have ambitious goals to build America's new energy future, protect and restore our treasured landscapes, and create a 21st Century Youth Conservation Corps,” added Salazar. “These USGS projects and the science that guides them will help us fulfill these goals while helping American families and their communities prosper.”

The USGS projects were selected in a rigorous merit-based process based on the longstanding priorities of the agency, as will all projects included in the Department's Recovery Act funding.

Noting that he is visiting Alaska next week, Salazar emphasized the critical nature of USGS' work in emergencies. “Their monitoring of Redoubt, which has erupted several times, alerted people in the pathway of the volcano to take precautions ahead of time. Protecting public safety is invaluable.”

The five USGS Volcano Observatories have been allotted $15.2 million to modernize monitoring networks and warning systems. Many of the dangerous volcanoes in the United States may not be monitored well enough for scientists to warn the public of explosive eruptions, alert aircraft of ash clouds or warn communities of ash falls and lava and mud flows. The importance of these observatories was evident during the recent Mar. 22 eruption of Mount Redoubt Volcano, 106 miles southwest of Anchorage. The Alaska Volcano Observatory started issuing warnings of an impending eruption starting Jan. 23 after recording increased seismic activity at the volcano, giving communities and businesses time to prepare. The observatory's top priority is to prevent repetition of the incident that occurred during Redoubt's eruption 19 years ago, when a Boeing 747 passenger aircraft strayed into an ash cloud and nearly crashed. Stimulus funds will improve AVO's preparedness and vigilance, both at Redoubt and at other similar volcanoes in Alaska.

With respect to the funds for streamflow and flood monitoring projects, USGS has a network of 7,500 streamgages, most of which run on solar power. The streamgages feature radios transmitters that send data to satellites. Because of advances in satellite communication technology, these radios will be obsolete in 2013. The stimulus funds will enable USGS to upgrade streamgages with new radio transmitters that will reduce transmission time and make data available to the public hourly, an improvement from the current wait of 3-4 hours.

“This type of technology was pivotal to addressing the flooding hazards that recently threatened North Dakota,” added Salazar. “Stream flow monitoring is critically important to our understanding of the effects of climate change on water availability in some regions of the nation, and accurate long-term streamflow information is necessary to determine how water managers can respond and adapt to these changes.”

Secretary Salazar has pledged unprecedented levels of transparency and accountability in the implementation of the Department of the Interior's economic recovery projects. The public will be able to follow the progress of each project on and on Secretary Salazar has appointed a Senior Advisor for Economic Recovery, Chris Henderson, and an Interior Economic Recovery Task Force. Henderson and the Task Force will work closely with the Department of the Interior's Inspector General to ensure that the recovery program is meeting the high standards for accountability, responsibility, and transparency that President Obama has set.

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