Dubuque Telegraph-Herald: Bridge Sensors on Turkey, Volga Rivers Will Assist Emergency Flood Personnel

By Pat McTaggart
Dubuque Telegraph-Herald

ELKADER, Iowa -- The installation of two new bridge sensors on the Turkey and Volga rivers will give an extra boost to emergency flood personnel in communities adjacent to those rivers, according to Clayton County Emergency Management Director Joel Biggs.

"After the flood of 2008, we were offered the sensors by the DNR, so we went after them," Biggs said.

One of the sensors was installed last October in the Turkey River at 10-Mile Bridge, located north of Elkader. The other sensor was installed in the Volga River at Wadena in February.

The Iowa Flood Center at the University of Iowa developed the sensor that uses sonar to measure the height of the water under a bridge. Data received is sent regularly to a National Weather Service database via a cellular system inside the sensor, costing the county about $15 per month. The information will be used in conjunction with river gauges already in place in communities such as Elkader and will help with projecting river levels.

"These sensors are not stream gauges," Biggs said. "They will not collect flow rates or volumes, and cannot be used to calculate them, but they will certainly help us identify how much water is coming and when it will arrive when used together with the river gauges. This should help emergency personnel, planners and decision makers with preparing for any future floods that occur."