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Federal News

Conowingo Dam Above 90 Percent Capacity For Sediment Storage

USGS Newsroom - Wed, 02/18/2015 - 10:28
Summary: The Conowingo Dam on the Susquehanna River is at about 92 percent capacity for sediment storage according to new U.S. Geological Survey research

Contact Information:

Michael Langland ( Phone: 717-730-6953 ); Hannah Hamilton ( Phone: 703-648-4356 );



The full report is available online

The Conowingo Dam on the Susquehanna River is at about 92 percent capacity for sediment storage according to new U.S. Geological Survey research.

Since the dam’s construction in 1929, sediment and nutrients have been building up behind it, being released periodically downriver and into the Chesapeake Bay, especially during high flow events.

“Storage capacity in Conowingo Reservoir continues to decrease, and ultimately that means more nutrients and sediment will flow into the Bay,” says Mike Langland, a USGS scientist and author of the study. “Understanding the sediments and nutrients flowing into the Bay from the Susquehanna River is critical to monitoring and managing the health of the Bay.”

Previous research has shown that having excess nutrients in the Bay depletes the water of oxygen needed to maintain healthy populations of fish, crabs, and oysters.  Additionally, the nutrients, along with sediment, cloud the water, disturbing the habitat of underwater plants crucial for aquatic life and waterfowl.

At full sediment-storage capacity, the Conowingo Reservoir will be about one-half filled with sediment, with the remainder--about 49 billion gallons--flowing water.  That amount of sediment could fill approximately 265,000 rail cars, which if lined up would stretch more than 4,000 miles.

The Susquehanna River is the largest tributary to Chesapeake Bay and transports about half of the total freshwater input to the Bay, along with substantial amounts of sediment, nitrogen and phosphorus.

Measuring the capacity of the dam to hold sediments and nutrients contributes to an improved understanding of factors that influence the health of the Chesapeake Bay.

Three hydroelectric dams and their associated reservoirs on the lower Susquehanna River have been impacting sediment and nutrient transport since construction in the early 1900’s. Previous USGS studies have shown the two upstream reservoirs have reached their sediment storage capacity and the most downstream dam and reservoir, the Conowingo, was also losing its ability to trap nutrients and sediment from reaching the Chesapeake Bay. A 2012 USGS report revealed that, even though the Conowingo reservoir had not yet reached its maximum storage capacity, it had begun to lose its phosphorus and sediment-trapping ability, with increasing amounts going into the Bay.

Due to the concerns about increasing nutrient and sediments loads flowing into the Bay, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, working with several partners, will soon be releasing ,the Lower Susquehanna River Watershed Assessment. The study suggests several sediment-management options for the reservoirs on the Lower Susquehanna River and indicated additional monitoring and research are needed to support management decisions.

The long-term analysis (1900-2012) conducted for this new USGS study reported here revealed how past practices affected sediment transport in the Susquehanna River Basin.

The USGS study, in addition to providing the current estimate of sediment capacity also provides a longer-term (100 years) analysis of sediment flowing into the reservoirs.

Sediment loads transported over the past 100 years in the Susquehanna River into the reservoirs have decreased from 8.7 million tons per year in the early part of the 20th century to the current level of about 3.5 million tons. The declines of sediment into the reservoirs since the 1950s are most likely related to introduction of soil conservation practices, land reverting back to forest, and better management of stockpiled coal piles.

Since construction of Conowingo Dam was completed in 1929, an average 70 percent of the transported sediment reaching the upper Chesapeake Bay is from the Susquehanna watershed. The additional 30 percent of the sediment is being scoured, or removed from sediment deposited in the reservoirs.

From 1929 through 2012, approximately 470 million tons of sediment was transported down the Susquehanna River into the reservoir system.  Of that number, approximately 290 million tons were trapped behind dams in the reservoirs, and approximately 180 million tons were transported to Chesapeake Bay. The reservoirs are continuously losing their ability to trap sediment and more is flowing into the Bay.

Information from this report and new partner studies will be used by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Chesapeake Bay Program and the state partners in considering options to reduce nutrient and sediment loads to help meet the requirements of the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load.

The study, Sediment Transport and Capacity Change in Three Reservoirs, Lower Susquehanna River Basin, Pennsylvania and Maryland, 1900–2012 Open-File Report 2014-1235 is available online.

Additional information on USGS Susquehanna results and Chesapeake Studies can be found online.

Show Me New Data for Show-Me State Maps

USGS Newsroom - Wed, 02/18/2015 - 09:30
Summary: Newly released US Topo maps for Missouri now feature selected trails and other substantial updates. The data for the trails is provided to the USGS through a nation-wide “crowdsourcing” project managed by the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA)

Contact Information:

Mark Newell, APR ( Phone: 573-308-3850 ); Larry Moore ( Phone: 303-202-4019 );



Newly released US Topo maps for Missouri now feature selected trails and other substantial updates. The data for the trails is provided to the USGS through a nation-wide “crowdsourcing” project managed by the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA). Several of the 1,196 new US Topo quadrangles for the state now display public trails along with additional improved data layers such as public land survey information, map symbol redesign and new road source data.

"The US Topo maps are widely used and appreciated by many state and local agencies," said Shelley Silch, The National Map liaison for Missouri and Illinois. "The addition of numerous trials to the new state US Topo quadrangles is a great advancement, as Missouri has been named the 'best trails state" by American Trails." 

For Missouri residents and visitors who want to explore the rolling Ozark landscape on a bicycle seat or by hiking, the new trail features on the US Topo maps will come in handy. During the past two years the IMBA, in a partnership with the MTB Project, has been building a detailed national database of mountain bike trails. This activity allows local IMBA chapters, IMBA members, and the public to provide trail data and descriptions through their website.  MTB Project and IMBA then verify the quality of the trail data provided, ensure accuracy and confirm the trail is legal.  This unique crowdsourcing venture has increased the availability of trail data available through The National Map mobile and web apps, and the revised US Topo maps.

Another important addition to the new Missouri US Topo maps is the inclusion of Public Land Survey System data. PLSS is a way of subdividing and describing land in the US. All lands in the public domain are subject to subdivision by this rectangular system of surveys, which is regulated by the U.S. Department of the Interior.

These new maps replace the first edition US Topo maps for Missouri and are available for free download from The National Map, the USGS Map Locator & Downloader website , or several other USGS applications.

To compare change over time, scans of legacy USGS topo maps, some dating back to the late 1800s, can be downloaded from the USGS Historical Topographic Map Collection

For more information on US Topo maps: http://nationalmap.gov/ustopo/

Updated 2015 version of the Weldon Spring, Missouri quadrangle with orthoimage turned on. (1:24,000 scale) (high resolution image 2.5 MB) Vintage 1903 quadrangle covering the O’Fallon, Missouri area from the USGS Historic Topographic Map Collection. 1:25,000 scale (high resolution image 3.3 MB) Updated 2015 version of Weldon Spring quadrangle with orthoimage turned off to better see the trail network. (1:24,000 scale) (high resolution image 1.8 MB)

FEMA Offers Safety Tips for Continued Bitterly Cold Temperatures Expected This Week

FEMA Press Releases - Tue, 02/17/2015 - 14:07

CHICAGO – Dangerously low temperatures and bitterly cold wind chills continue to be in the forecast for much of the Midwest this week. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) wants individuals and families to be safe when faced with the hazards of cold temperatures.

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Categories: Federal News

Largest Dam Removal in U.S. History Scientifically Characterized

USGS Newsroom - Tue, 02/17/2015 - 12:00
Summary: The effects of dam removal are better known as a result of several new studies released this week by government, tribal and university researchers. The scientists worked together to characterize the effects of the largest dam removal project in U.S. history occurring on the Elwha River of Washington State

Contact Information:

Jonathan Warrick ( Phone: 831-460-7569 ); Paul Laustsen ( Phone: 650-329-4046 );



Aerial photos of the Elwha River mouth before and during dam removal. Photos show (A) the river mouth wetlands before dam removal, (B) the turbid coastal plume that occurred during much of the dam removal project, and (C) the expansion of the river mouth delta by sediment deposition. Photos provided by Ian Miller of Washington Sea Grant, Jonathan Felis of USGS, and Neal and Linda Chism of LightHawk. (High resolution image)

SEATTLE — The effects of dam removal are better known as a result of several new studies released this week by government, tribal and university researchers. The scientists worked together to characterize the effects of the largest dam removal project in U.S. history occurring on the Elwha River of Washington State. New findings suggest that dam removal can change landscape features of river and coasts, which have ecological implications downstream of former dam sites.

“These studies not only give us a better understanding of the effects of dam removal, but show the importance of collaborative science across disciplines and institutions,” said Suzette Kimball, acting director of the U.S. Geological Survey.

Five peer-reviewed papers, with authors from the U.S. Geological Survey, Reclamation, National Park Service, Washington Sea Grant, NOAA Fisheries, the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, and the University of Washington, provide detailed observations and insights about the changes in the river’s landforms, waters and coastal zone during the first two years of dam removal. During this time, massive amounts of sediment were eroded from the drained reservoirs and transported downstream through the river and to the coast. 

One finding that intrigued scientists was how efficiently the river eroded and moved sediment from the former reservoirs; over a third of the 27 million cubic yards of reservoir sediment, equivalent to about 3000 Olympic swimming pools filled with sediment, was eroded into the river during the first two years even though the river’s water discharge and peak flows were moderate compared to historical gaging records. 

This sediment release altered the river’s clarity and reshaped the river channel while adding new habitats in the river and at the coast. In fact, the vast majority of the new sediment was discharged into the coastal waters of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, where the river mouth delta expanded seaward by hundreds of feet. 

“The expansion of the river mouth delta is very exciting, because we are seeing the rebuilding of an estuary and coast that were rapidly eroding prior to dam removal,” said USGS research scientist and lead author of the synthesis paper, Dr. Jonathan Warrick. 

Although the primary goal of the dam removal project is to reintroduce spawning salmon runs to the pristine upper reaches of the Elwha River within Olympic National Park, the new studies suggest that dam removal can also have ecological implications downstream of the former dam sites. These implications include a renewal of the sand, gravel and wood supplies to the river and to the coast, restoring critical processes for maintaining salmon habitat to river, estuarine and coastal ecosystems.

“These changes to sediment and wood supplies are important to understand because they affect the river channel form, and the channel form provides important habitat to numerous species of the region,” stated USGS research scientist and river study lead author, Dr. Amy East.

The final stages of dam removal occurred during the summer of 2014. Some sediment erosion from the former reservoirs will likely continue. The Elwha Project and research teams are continuing to monitor how quickly the river returns to its long-term restored condition.

“We look forward to seeing when the sediment supplies approach background levels,” said Reclamation engineer and co-author, Jennifer Bountry, “because this will help us understand the length of time that dam removal effects will occur.” 

The five new papers can be found in Elsevier’s peer-reviewed journal, Geomorphology, and they focus on the following topics of the large-scale dam removal on the Elwha River, Washington (web-based publication links using digital object identifiers, doi, are provided in parentheses): 

New Maps for Nevada Include Trails

USGS Newsroom - Wed, 02/11/2015 - 10:00
Summary: Newly released US Topo maps for Nevada now feature selected trails. The data for the trails is provided to the USGS through a nation-wide “crowdsourcing” project managed by the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA)

Contact Information:

Mark Newell, APR ( Phone: 573-308-3850 ); Larry Moore ( Phone: 303-202-4019 );



Newly released US Topo maps for Nevada now feature selected trails. The data for the trails is provided to the USGS through a nation-wide “crowdsourcing” project managed by the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA). Several of the 1,785 new US Topo quadrangles for the state now display public trails along with other improved data layers such as land survey information (PLSS), map symbol redesign and new road source data.

"Users of the US Topo maps in our state are excited about the release of these new versions," said Carol Ostergren, The National Map Liaison for Nevada. "Nevada features numerous trails, so the addition of several mountain bike trails will increase the use of the new US Topo maps. Also, adding PLSS will assist many of our users who have been asking for that data for a long time."

For Nevada residents and visitors who want to explore the stunning desert landscape on a bicycle seat or hiking shoes, the new trail features on the US Topo maps will come in handy. During the past two years the IMBA, in a partnership with the MTB Project, has been building a detailed national database of mountain bike trails. This activity allows local IMBA chapters, IMBA members and the public to provide trail data and descriptions through their website.  MTB Project and IMBA then verify the quality of the trail data provided and ensure accuracy and confirm that the trail is legal.  This unique crowdsourcing venture has increased the availability of trail data available through The National Map mobile and web apps, and the revised US Topo maps.

Another important addition to the new Nevada US Topo maps is the inclusion of Public Land Survey System data. PLSS is a way of subdividing and describing land in the United States. All lands in the public domain are subject to subdivision by this rectangular system of surveys, which is regulated by the U.S. Department of the Interior.

These new maps replace the first edition US Topo maps for Nevada and are available for free download from The National Map, the USGS Map Locator & Downloader website , or several other USGS applications.

To compare change over time, scans of legacy USGS topo maps, some dating back to the late 1800s, can be downloaded from the USGS Historical Topographic Map Collection.

For more information on US Topo maps: http://nationalmap.gov/ustopo/

Updated 2015 version of Boulder City, Nevada quadrangle with orthoimage turned on. (1:24,000 scale. (high resolution image 1.1 MB) Vintage 1886 quadrangle covering the Boulder City, Nevada and Camp Majove, Arizona area from the USGS Historic Topographic Map Collection. 1:25,000 scale. (high resolution image 1.6 MB) Updated 2015 version of Boulder City, Nevada quadrangle with orthoimage turned off to better see the trail network. (1:24,000 scale) (high resolution image 610 KB)

Predicting Plant Responses to Drought

USGS Newsroom - Tue, 02/10/2015 - 11:15
Summary: A new U.S. Geological Survey study shows how plants’ vulnerability to drought varies across the landscape; factors such as plant structure and soil type where the plant is growing can either make them more vulnerable or protect them from declines Long-term Research to Help Protect Drylands

Contact Information:

Seth Munson ( Phone: 928-523-7740 ); Marisa Lubeck ( Phone: 303-526-6694 );



A new U.S. Geological Survey study shows how plants’ vulnerability to drought varies across the landscape; factors such as plant structure and soil type where the plant is growing can either make them more vulnerable or protect them from declines.

Recent elevated temperatures and prolonged droughts in many already water-limited regions throughout the world, including the southwestern U.S., are likely to intensify according to future climate model projections. This warming and drying can negatively affect vegetation and could lead to the degradation of wildlife habitat and ecosystems. It is critical for resource managers and other decision-makers to understand where on the landscape vegetation will be affected so they can prioritize restoration and conservation efforts, and plan for the future.

To better understand the potential detrimental effects of climate change, USGS scientists developed a model to evaluate how plant species will respond to increases in temperature and drought. The model integrates knowledge about how plant responses are modified by landscape, soil and plant attributes that are integral to water availability and use. The model was tested using fifty years of repeat measurements of long-living, or perennial, plant species cover in large permanent plots across the Mojave Desert, one of the most water-limited ecosystems in North America. The report, published in the Journal of Ecology, is available online

“The impacts of drought are not going away, and sound science to understand how water-limited ecosystems will respond is important for managers to plan climate adaptation strategies,” said Seth Munson, USGS scientist and lead author of the study. “By using monitoring results that scientists and managers have diligently reported for the last several decades, our study helps forecast the future state of drylands.” 

Results show that plants respond to climate differently based on the physical attributes of where they are growing in the Mojave Desert. For example, deep-rooted plants were not as vulnerable to drought on soils that allowed for deep-water flow. Also, shallow-rooted plants were better buffered from drought on soils that promoted water retention near the surface. This information may be helpful for resource managers to minimize disturbance in areas that are likely vulnerable to water shortages. 

Water moves horizontally and vertically through the landscape, which affects the amount of water plants can take up through their roots. There is more to plant water availability and use than the precipitation that falls out of the sky. Understanding how water moves through ecosystems is critical in regions that already have marginal water available for plant growth. Predicting climate change impacts in these areas requires more than an understanding of climate alone.

This study was done in cooperation with the University of Arizona, the Fort Irwin Directorate of Public Works, Utah State University, University of Nevada, California Polytechnic State University, Ohio State University, California State University and the National Park Service. 

Virginia Earthquake Aftershocks Identify Previously Unknown Fault Zone

USGS Newsroom - Tue, 02/10/2015 - 09:25
Summary: Aftershocks from the 2011 Virginia earthquake have helped scientists identify the previously unknown fault zone on which the earthquake occurred New Quake Research Brings This, Other Discoveries to Public

Contact Information:

Wright Horton ( Phone: 703-648-6933 ); Christian Quintero ( Phone: 813-498-5019 );



RESTON, Va.-- Aftershocks from the 2011 Virginia earthquake have helped scientists identify the previously unknown fault zone on which the earthquake occurred. The research marked one of the few times in the Eastern United States that a fault zone on which a magnitude-5-or-more earthquake occurred was clearly delineated by aftershocks, and is just one finding in a 23-chapter book with new information on the Virginia earthquake and eastern seismic hazards.

Research by the U.S. Geological Survey along with its partners and collaborators defined the newly recognized fault zone, which has been named the “Quail” fault zone. USGS and others worked cooperatively in an effort to capture the accurate locations of hundreds of aftershocks by deploying portable seismic instruments after the earthquake. Most of these aftershocks were in the Quail fault zone, and outlying clusters of shallow aftershocks helped researchers to identify and locate other active faults. Knowing where to look for the active faults helped to focus geologic mapping, geophysical imaging and other technologies to better understand earthquakes in the Central Virginia Seismic Zone and Eastern U.S.

The book includes contributions by Virginia Tech, the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals, and Energy and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission among many others.

“Studies of the Virginia earthquake have improved our understanding of earthquakes and seismic hazards in Eastern North America,” said USGS geologist Wright Horton. “The Virginia earthquake served as a ‘wakeup call’ for many residents of the Eastern U.S., where the probability of major earthquakes is fairly low, but many buildings are vulnerable to damage during earthquakes.”  

The new book, “The 2011 Mineral, Virginia, Earthquake, and Its Significance for Seismic Hazards in Eastern North America”, is a collection of articles that covers a broad range of subjects relating to the 2011 earthquake. Highlights from the book include:

  • Earthquake shaking and its effects, such as widespread changes in groundwater levels, occurred at greater distances from the source in this and other Eastern U.S. earthquakes as opposed to those of comparable magnitude on the West Coast
  • Shaking intensities and related damage were more severe along the northeast trend of the Appalachians than in northwestward directions across this trend
  • Evidence that the earthquake ground motion was amplified in parts of D.C. and other areas around the Chesapeake Bay with thicker coastal plain sediments or artificial fill is stimulating further studies to determine how much seismic shaking is amplified by local geological conditions
  • Analysis of data on residential property damage in the epicentral area delineates a “bulls eye” distribution of shaking intensities and also confirms that damage is influenced by the age and construction of homes
  • Damage to unreinforced masonry buildings in D.C., as far as 80 miles from the epicenter, highlights the seismic risk to buildings in Eastern North American cities. Ground motions occur at farther distances from the epicenter on the East Coast than other parts of the U.S., and buildings are not as well designed to sustain these motions as in other locations 
  • Seismic reflection imaging—which is similar to medical sonograms—and geophysical flight surveys of the Earth’s magnetic and gravity fields were used to image geologic structures down to about 5 miles underground where the earthquake occurred
  • Airborne laser swath mapping using lidar, and radiometric flight surveys—which mapped radioactive elements in rocks and soils within a few feet of the land surface—identified and accurately located preexisting linear features including faults associated with aftershock clusters for detailed surface geologic mapping and trenching studies
  • New geologic mapping and trenching reveal previously unknown faults and evidence that the faults were active more than once in the past
  • Recorded ground motions from the Virginia earthquake were consistent with previous USGS estimates for the region, and they are helping to improve the assessments of potential earthquake ground motions used to design buildings that will be better able to withstand strong earthquakes

Earthquakes in Eastern North America are not as frequent or as well understood as those along Earth's tectonic plate boundaries, such as on the West Coast. The magnitude 5.8 Virginia earthquake was the largest to occur in the eastern U.S. since the 1886 earthquake near Charleston, South Carolina, and it may have been felt by more people than any other earthquake in U.S. history. It was felt over much of the Eastern U.S. and Southeastern Canada, triggered the automatic safe shutdown of a nuclear power plant and caused significant damage from Central Virginia to the National Capital Region. The earthquake provided a wealth of modern scientific and engineering data to better understand earthquakes and seismic hazards in Eastern North America.

Louisiana Receives More Than $1.4 Million for Repairs to Touro Infirmary in New Orleans

FEMA Press Releases - Fri, 02/06/2015 - 15:00

DENTON, Texas – The Federal Emergency Management Agency has awarded more than $1.4 million to Louisiana for repairs to Touro Infirmary in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Isaac.

Wind and rain from the storm damaged multiple buildings and structures in the hospital system: the main hospital; the Quaife building; the St. Charles garage; the Gumbel building; the Medical Arts Building; and the Buckman Building/Garage.

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Texas Receives Federal Funding for Repairs & Debris Removal Following the 2013 Floods

FEMA Press Releases - Fri, 02/06/2015 - 14:57

DENTON, Texas – More than $465,000 was recently awarded to the state of Texas from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for repairs to two lift stations; multiple sewer manhole covers; a city of Austin water supply pipe; and the removal of more than 40,000 cubic yards of debris in the aftermath of the 2013 Halloween flooding.

The damage from the flooding includes:

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Categories: Federal News

Federal Flood Risk Management Standard

FEMA Press Releases - Thu, 02/05/2015 - 15:57

WASHINGTON – On January 30, the President issued an Executive Order 13690, “Establishing a Federal Flood Risk Management Standard and a Process for Further Soliciting and Considering Stakeholder Input.” Prior to implementation of the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard, additional input from stakeholders is being solicited and considered on how federal agencies will impl

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Federal Aid Programs for the State of Vermont Declaration

FEMA Press Releases - Tue, 02/03/2015 - 20:26

Following is a summary of key federal disaster aid programs that can be made available as needed and warranted under President Obama's disaster declaration issued for the State of Vermont.

Assistance for the State and Affected Local Governments Can Include as Required:

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President Declares Disaster for Vermont

FEMA Press Releases - Tue, 02/03/2015 - 20:23

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency announced that federal disaster aid has been made available to the State of Vermont to supplement state and local recovery efforts in the area affected by a severe winter storm during the period of December 9-12, 2014.

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FEMA to Evaluate Readiness of Virginia

FEMA Region III News Releases - Tue, 02/03/2015 - 15:29
Emergency preparedness exercise scheduled for Surry Power Station

PHILADELPHIA – The Federal Emergency Management Agency will evaluate a Biennial Emergency Preparedness Exercise at the Surry Power Station.  The exercise will occur during the week of February 9th to test the ability of the Commonwealth of Virginia to respond to an emergency at the nuclear facility.

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FEMA to Evaluate Readiness of Virginia

FEMA Region III News Releases - Tue, 02/03/2015 - 15:29
Emergency preparedness exercise scheduled for Surry Power Station

PHILADELPHIA – The Federal Emergency Management Agency will evaluate a Biennial Emergency Preparedness Exercise at the Surry Power Station.  The exercise will occur during the week of February 9th to test the ability of the Commonwealth of Virginia to respond to an emergency at the nuclear facility.

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FEMA to Evaluate Readiness of Virginia

FEMA Press Releases - Tue, 02/03/2015 - 15:29
Emergency preparedness exercise scheduled for Surry Power Station

PHILADELPHIA – The Federal Emergency Management Agency will evaluate a Biennial Emergency Preparedness Exercise at the Surry Power Station.  The exercise will occur during the week of February 9th to test the ability of the Commonwealth of Virginia to respond to an emergency at the nuclear facility.

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Categories: Federal News

CORRECTION: FEMA 2014 Funding for Arkansas Tops $43 Million

FEMA Press Releases - Tue, 02/03/2015 - 12:10

DENTON, Texas — The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provided more than $43 million in 2014 funding to the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management (ADEM) and community partners for disaster recovery, mitigation and preparedness.

“FEMA, in partnership with ADEM, continues to provide funding to assist communities recovering from and mitigating against future damage,” said FEMA Region 6 Administrator Tony Robinson. “We are committed to helping Arkansas residents strengthen their resilience.”

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President's 2016 Budget Proposes $1.2 Billion for the USGS

USGS Newsroom - Mon, 02/02/2015 - 14:00
Summary: The President’s fiscal year 2016 budget request for the U.S. Geological Survey is $1.2 billion, an increase of nearly $150 million above the FY 2015 enacted level Reflects robust Administration support for science-based decision-making in managing natural resources

Contact Information:

Diane Noserale ( Phone: 703-648-4333 ); Bonnie  Ridgeway ( Phone: 703-648-4626 );



The President’s fiscal year 2016 budget request for the U.S. Geological Survey is $1.2 billion, an increase of nearly $150 million above the FY 2015 enacted level.  The FY16 budget reflects the vital role the USGS plays in advancing the President’s ongoing commitment to scientific discovery and innovation to support a robust economy, sustainable economic growth, natural resource management, and science-based decision-making for critical societal needs.

The budget request includes increases that ensure the USGS is at the leading edge of earth sciences research.  It includes robust funding for science to inform land and resource management decisions, advance a landscape-level understanding of ecosystems, and develop new information and strategies to support communities in responding to climate change, historic drought, water quality issues, and natural hazards.  The budget also funds science to support the Nation’s energy strategy, to help identify critical mineral resources, and to address the impacts of energy and mineral development on the environment.  

“The USGS has a strong 136-year legacy of providing reliable science to decision-makers,” said Suzette Kimball, Acting USGS Director.  “This budget request recognizes our unique capabilities with multi-disciplinary earth science research and will allow the USGS to meet societal needs for our Nation now and in the future.”

Key increases in the FY 2016 Budget are summarized below. For more detailed information on the President’s 2016 budget, visit the USGS Budget, Planning, and Integration website. 

Meeting Water Challenges in the 21st Century

The FY16 budget provides an increase of $14.5 million above the FY 2015 enacted level for science to support sustainable water management.  Meeting the Nation’s water resource needs poses increasing challenges for resource managers, who must contend with changes in the frequency and magnitude of floods and droughts.  As competition for water resources grows for activities such as farming, energy production, and community water supplies, so does the need for information and tools to aid decision-makers.  The budget provides increased funding across several USGS mission areas to support resource managers in understanding and managing competing demands related to water availability and quality and to enable adaptive management of watersheds to support the resilience of the communities and ecosystems that depend on them.  This includes a $3.2 million increase for science to understand and respond to drought, a $4 million increase for water use information and research, a $2.5 million increase to study ecological water flows, a $1.3 million increase for stream flow information, and a $1.0 million increase to advance the National Groundwater Monitoring Network.

Powering Our Future and Supporting Sustainable Energy and Mineral Development

The 2016 USGS budget provides $9.6 million in program increases across the energy, minerals and environmental health portfolio for science to support the sustainable development of unconventional oil and gas resources, renewable energy sources such as geothermal, wind, and solar, critical minerals such as rare earth elements, and to address the environmental impacts of uranium mining.

Specifically, the budget includes a program increase of $1 million for mineral resources science to continue life-cycle analysis for critical minerals such as rare earth elements and to develop new science and tools to reduce the impacts of minerals extraction, production, and recycling on the global environment and human health.  A life-cycle analysis will trace the flow of critical minerals from generation and occurrence through the consequences of human activity to ultimate disposition and disposal.  The Nation faces key economic decisions within each stage of the resource life cycle.  Scientific understanding is an essential input to these decisions.  The program change will support new workforce capability to address the main thrusts of the President’s four working groups in the Office of Science and Technology Policy that are currently focused on critical and strategic materials essential to national security, economic vitality, and environmental protection.

Responding to Natural Hazards

The budget provides an increase of more than $6.6 million above the FY 2015 enacted level for natural hazard science.  This includes an increase of $4.9 million to expand the Global Seismic Network used for worldwide earthquake monitoring, tsunami warning, and nuclear treaty verification monitoring and research in partnership with the Department of Energy and the Department of Defense. It also includes  a $1.7 million increase to support space weather (solar flare) geomagnetic monitoring.  The increase will also support the installation and operation of rapid-deployable streamgages and expand the library of flood-inundation maps to help manage flood response activities.  The proposed increase will also support landslide, wildfire, and sinkhole response capabilities as well as provide disaster scenario planning products for emergency managers.  Included in the request is funding to build on investments to continue development of an earthquake early warning system, with the goal of implementing a limited public warning system for the U.S. west coast by 2018, as well as continued investments in volcano monitoring networks and science.

Building a Landscape-Level Understanding of Our Resources

The budget includes $15.6 million to expand, enhance, and initiate ecosystem science activities to increase the understanding of the Nation’s landscapes and how they work. This includes budget increases of $6.7 million in support of critical landscapes. Specifically it provides a $4.2 million increase for the Arctic, a $1 million increase to study sagebrush landscapes that provide habitat for survival of greater sage-grouse, and a $1.5 million increase that supports science for Puget Sound, Columbia River, and the upper Mississippi River. USGS research will continue to support restoration of other priority ecosystems, such as Chesapeake Bay, Everglades, Great Lakes, California Bay Delta, and the Gulf Coast.  The budget request also provides an increase of $2.2 million for research on invasive plants and animals that cause significant economic losses in the U.S. and transmit diseases to wildlife and people, and $1.6 million to study the decline of insects, birds, and mammals that pollinate agricultural and other plants.  Finally, the budget increases funding by $5.1 million to support coastal resilience to hazards and adaptation to long-term change from sea-level rise and coastal erosion.

Foundations for Land Management

The President’s budget request includes an increase of $37.8 million to provide data and tools to help land and resource managers make informed decisions across the landscape and provide data and information to the public for use in a wide variety of applications.  The budgets of USGS and NASA provide complementary funding to sustain the Landsat data stream, which is critical to understanding global landscapes.  An increase of $24.3 million in the USGS budget supports the ground system portion of the Sustained Land Imaging Program, including funding for ground systems development for a Thermal Instrument Free Flyer, Landsat 9 (a rebuild of Landsat 8), and to receive data from internal partners.  The increase also will enhance the accessibility and usability of data.  Specifically, the budget includes a $4 million increase for Landsat science products for climate and resource assessments.

The budget provides increases for other foundational data and tools needed to support landscape-level understanding.  For example, an increase of $3.7 million will expand three-dimensional elevation data collection using ifsar (interferometric synthetic aperture radar) for Alaska and lidar (light detection and ranging) elsewhere in the U.S. in response to growing needs for high-quality, high-resolution elevation data to improve aviation safety, to understand and mitigate the effects of coastal erosion, storms, and other hazards, and to support many other critical activities.  A $1.8 million increase will enhance understanding of the benefits of the Nation’s ecosystem services, and a $1.1 million increase for the Big Earth Data Initiative will make high-value data sets easier to discover, access and use. The accessibility and usability of these data are critical for land management, hazard mitigation, and building a landscape-level understanding of our resources.

Supporting Community Resilience in the Face of a Changing Climate

The USGS plays an important role in conducting research and developing information and tools to support communities in understanding, preparing for, and responding to the impacts of global change.  The budget includes an increase of $32 million above the FY 2015 enacted level for science to support climate resilience and adaptation.  Climate change requires the Nation to prepare for more intense drought, heatwaves, wildfire, flooding, and sea level rise.  These challenges are already impacting infrastructure, food and water supplies, and physical safety in communities across the Nation.  Understanding potential impacts to communities, ecosystems, water, plant and animal species, and other resources is crucial to federal, state, tribal, local, and international partners as they develop adaptive and resilient strategies in response to climate change.  The budget includes a $6.8 million increase in science for adaptation and resilience planning, an increase of $2.3 million for the USGS to provide interagency coordination of regional climate science activities across the Nation, an increase of $8.7 million to support biological carbon sequestration, and an increase of $11 million for the USGS to support the community resilience toolkit, which is a web-based clearinghouse of data, tools, shared applications, and best practices for resource managers, decision-makers, and the public.  

What's Being Done to Protect the Great Lakes?

USGS Newsroom Technical - Mon, 02/02/2015 - 12:45
Summary: New and improved science tools can help managers and researchers evaluate current threats and develop management strategies to protect and restore the valuable Great Lakes ecosystem New Products Provide Easy Access to Restoration Information

Contact Information:

Marisa Lubeck ( Phone: 303-202-4765 );



New and improved science tools can help managers and researchers evaluate current threats and develop management strategies to protect and restore the valuable Great Lakes ecosystem.    

The recently released U.S. Geological Survey products provide free environmental data to the public as part of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), a collaborative effort to conserve the Great Lakes. The new GLRI Science Explorer and redesigned GLRI website (most compatible with the Google Chrome browser*), launched in November 2014, offer critical information pertaining to USGS GLRI projects, and allow researchers to contribute their own material. The interactive Science in the Great Lakes (SiGL) mapper was released in December 2014 and provides information about current and past Great Lakes studies.   

Researchers, managers and the public can use the GLRI Science Explorer to find information about USGS GLRI science projects, as well as publications and datasets resulting from those projects. It currently contains information about 74 projects that are completed and in progress, 66 publications and 11 datasets. Science Explorer information is stored in ScienceBase, a cataloging and content management platform developed by the USGS, which allows for contributions from USGS scientists and collaborators. 

“We are eagerly seeking contributions of data or metadata to the Science Explorer,” said USGS scientist Jessica Lucido. 

The interactive SiGL mapper is a centralized place where researchers and managers can identify relevant scientific activities and access fundamental information about these efforts. It was designed to help coordinate all of the scientific projects in the Great Lakes Basin. SiGL captures information about any type of scientific activity and provides details on how to access the data and results from those projects. 

“SiGL can help researchers and managers strategically plan, implement and analyze their monitoring and restoration activities,” said Jennifer Bruce, a USGS scientist. “We hope to encourage coordination and collaboration among all organizations throughout the Great Lakes Basin with this tool.”

SiGL contains over 250 projects and 10,500 sites, including all the USGS GLRI projects in the Science Explorer. Over 65 organizations have contributed to SiGL, including federal, state and local governments and agencies, tribes, universities and non-profit organizations. It provides information about general project details, specific sampling efforts, publications, data availability and access and contact information. 

For more information about these and other USGS GLRI tools, please visit the USGS GLRI website

The GLRI accelerates efforts to protect and restore the Great Lakes, the largest system of fresh surface water in the world. It targets the most significant problems in the region, including invasive aquatic species, pollution and contaminated sediment. 

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