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As remnants of Tropical Depression Florence approach New England: Engineers to monitor rainfall, tidal water to regulate Corps-managed projects to minimize area impacts

Published Sept. 17, 2018

CONCORD, Mass. – As the remnants of Tropical Depression Florence approach New England with an anticipated 2-4 inches of rainfall to the region, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in New England is preparing its dams and hurricane protection projects and staffs to be ready.


Hydraulic engineers from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are monitoring water levels in the region’s major rivers to regulate Corps of Engineers-managed dams to minimize downstream impacts from the New England District headquarters in Concord, Mass. They also are monitoring tidal water in the operation of three hurricane barriers to reduce potential area tidal flooding – the New Bedford Hurricane Barrier in New Bedford, Mass., the Fox Point Hurricane Barrier in Providence, R.I., and the Stamford Hurricane Barrier in Stamford, Conn.


Central New England is expecting approximately 2-4 inches of rain on Tuesday from the remnants of Tropical Depression Florence. Some isolated areas may receive higher amounts.


“The engineers in our Reservoir Control Center are especially busy now monitoring the path of the remnants of Tropical Depression Florence, coordinating activities with the National Weather Service and the U.S. Geological Survey, and coordinating with our field personnel across New England in preparation of the storm,” said Jack Keenan, Chief of the Corps of Engineers, New England District Reservoir Regulation Section. “We also are receiving frequent data so we can interpret water levels and flow within rivers we regulate – from the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite.”


New England District uses the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) system, more specifically the GOES East satellite, as its primary source of data collection. The District data collection platforms monitor pool, tailwater, river levels, ocean levels, precipitation, and air and water temperature, recording data every 15 minutes in most cases. The data collection platforms also monitor piezometer data and record these every four to six hours, depending on the site.


By collecting information about river stages and flows and their increases and decreases from approximately 100 data collection platforms within the Connecticut, Merrimack, Thames, Housatonic and Blackstone River Basins, the hydrologists can effectively regulate the Corps of Engineers-managed dams to minimize impacts downstream.


“This system assists us in deciding when to close or hold back water within our network of 35 dams with reservoirs, to provide the maximum flood damage prevention benefits to downstream areas,” Keenan said. Through the use of this real-time hydrologic data, and an exchange of information with the National Weather Service’s Northeast River Forecast Center, significant water movement can be identified, examined and predicted.


Engineers also monitor tidal activity to determine if and when the hurricane barriers under Corps management should be operated.


The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has designed a system of flood risk management projects which includes 35 flood risk management dams with reservoirs, 112 local protection projects, and five hurricane barriers in New England. A total of 31 of 35 reservoir projects, and three of five hurricane barriers are operated and maintained by the Corps, while the remaining projects are operated and maintained by local interests.


Cumulative flood reduction damages prevented by all projects, including local protection projects, since their construction are more than $6.8 billion.


Streamflow and other project/reservoir data are available online at the Corps’ New England District website at http://www.nae.usace.army.mil. Select Reservoir Control Center.


Tim Dugan

Release no. 18-076