Catalog Record: River Gauging and Climate Stations in NPR-A
Filename: map (35).geojson



River Gauging and Climate Stations in NPR-A

Development of rating curves, flood frequency, and flood magnitude can aid in infrastructure routing/design and characterizing regional hydrologic trends. Six river gauging stations (plus assistance for two additional USGS stations) are maintained that monitor river stage and discharge. A subset of sites have weather stations (rainfall, air temp, wind speed & direction). Sites were established between 2001-2004.

The river gauge sites were chosen based on their proximity to oil development or the necessity for them to be crossed enroute to or for their proximity to future oil development. Because the river and weather stations transmit on GOES satellite the River Forecast Center and NWS automatically ingest data into the MADIS database which allows streamflow and weather data to be utilized for flood and weather forecasting. Gauges on the Meade and Ikpikpuk Rivers provide important gauging data for future river crossings on the north slope. All gauges are used to provide flood warning, basic runoff characteristics, peak flows, stream passability (especially for access to subsistence cabins), and timing of local lake recharge. The timing of first flows, peak flows and real-time stages are needed by many users and for planning purposes. Continued gauging is needed to support estimates of peak, mean, and low-flow frequency statistics needed for design of stream crossings, streamside structures, and fish habitat assessments.

The Umiat airport period of record spans the period 1949 – 2001, and 2003-present with a missing period from 1955-1975. The weather station was re-activated by BLM in 2003 after the camp changed owners and weather data collection was terminated. The station was converted to a RAWS station in 2007. This station plays a critical role in providing real-time weather for aircraft operations and maintaining the long-term dataset at the airport. Nearby tundra fires east of Umiat in 2007 highlighted a need for a RAWS station in the Umiat area. The snow depth sensor is useful for real-time monitoring of snow conditions. One wind event in 2008 removed 8 inches of snow after strong 50 mph gusts. This indicated additional compliance visits may be needed to inspect the condition of snow roads. RAWS stations are presently located at Umiat and Inigok.

Snow surveys at Umiat are needed for calculating the likelihood for recharge of local lakes which have been pumped for ice roads, pads and camp use. Comparison with historical snowfall quantities will be used to predict the magnitude of breakup. Obtaining early and late season snow surveys and snow depths can be useful input to tundra openings and closings. Impacts from seismic operations will be greater for those years with less snow cover and knowledge of current conditions will allow efforts to focus on low-snow areas within NPR-A for monitoring. Snow surveys will detect rain-on-snow events which are forecasted to occur with greater frequency with subsequent impacts to wildlife which cannot break through the hard crust.

Up to 6 webcams at Umiat provide critical flight-safety information for flights into Umiat and the region. Poor weather and low ceilings present a constant hazard for year-round flight operations in NPR-A. The Umiat, Ivotuk and Inigok webcams play a critical role in planning flight operations and insuring conditions are landable before departures are made. These webcams are also useful for observing trends in deteriorating or improving weather conditions and rain-on-snow events.

Maintain operation of a self-powered uplink site (using a HughesNet Satellite dish) which was established in Umiat in 2006. This station can operate independent of Umiat camp power and can utilize solar, wind, and remotely started generator power. This uplink site allows year-round communication with Umiat area weather sites and radio-networked BLM, UAF and USGS climate monitoring sites north of Umiat. It also provides BLM personnel at Umiat access to critical helicopter and fixed-wing flight-safety websites such as DOI’s Automated Flight Following website and real-time FAA airport observations at Nuiqsut, Barrow, Atqasuk. Critical real-time data from weather station extending north to Inigok is relayed through this station and decisions related to tundra openings are determined from this data.

Initially funded by DOE, this radio network set up repeaters in NPRA for transmitting real-time climate data from 10 long-term USGS active-layer monitoring sites close to oil and gas exploration areas and needed by researchers and for operational needs within NPR-A. BLM and the USGS have greatly benefited from accessing these weather stations through the radio telemetry network and a minimal amount of support (mostly helicopter time) is now required to maintain this network. Field visits will be made to fix broken links in the communication chain or for sensor calibrations or replacement. The following weather stations report out of Umiat: Umiat, Umiat Tower, Inigok, Inigok Tower (current camera), Fish Creek, Ikpikpuk, Drew Point, Lake 145, East Teshekpuk, and the following repeaters: Leo Repeater, NW Tesh repeater, R5, R6, R8, R9, R13, R14.

A gauge at Otuk Creek will be maintained in the upper Colville R above Umiat for flood warning and to evaluate existing conditions for higher elevation rainfall/runoff characterisitics. It’s stage readings will be used in planning field operations within other drainages in the region.

A gauge at Seabee Creek will be maintained at Umiat at the road crossing where previous culverts have washed out in the past. Rigs or seismic camps may be stacked at the Seabee pad and access to this pad needs to cross Seabee Ck from the airstrip and main Umiat camp. Peak flows will be needed to size future culvert installation, low flow mmts are needed to determine water availability and duration of flooded conditions will be needed for calculating periods of road closures during breakup.

Operate a continuous recording gauge on Prince Creek to obtain peak and low –flow stage and discharge measurements. Anadarko drilled a well in the Prince Ck basin in 2009 and access to any future developments in the Wolf Creek area will require crossing Prince Ck below the gaging site. Future bridge design will require streamflow and peak flow data and a knowledge of watershed characteristics.

Additional water resource field studies in the vicinity of winter drilling exploration programs may be needed, which may include stream-flow and water quality measurements, channel geometry and flood surveys. The hydrologic flow regime in the Umiat area is not well understood and it is not known where the water sources for the pumped lakes might originate from due to the interconnections between lakes. High accuracy lidar and GPS survey data will allow determination to be made of the 100 year floodplain boundaries. This data has been collected from the State of Alaska, Anadarko and Renaissance and may be available to use by BLM. The proposed Clover Gravel Mine site is located 1 mile east of the Ublutuoch R gage. Field visits are necessary during breakup to determine flow characteristics ( duration and quantity) before the project commences.

Maintain BLM Umiat camp infrastructure and buildings, satellite dish, airsock and JET-A fuel tank. Maintain two Skandic snowmachines and two ATVs and trailer to support BLM activities in the Umiat area.

Assistance and support is given to the USGS in the operation of the Colville and Meade R gauges in order that the quality of the streamflow record is maintained. This may involve collecting discharge mmts, running levels, collecting water samples and fixing or replacing malfunctioning sensors. The Umiat gage has been used to correlate with the 100-year flood elevation in the Umiat area by COE, AKDOT, DOT, Renaissance, and Linc Energy.

Gauging stations were placed on rivers likely to be crossed by future oil and gas development, possibly within the next 10-15 years. These rivers include Fish, Judy, Seabee, Otuk and Prince Creeks, and the Ikpikpuk and Ublutuoch Rivers and assisting the USGS in the operation of the Colville and Meade River gauges. Data collected will be used as inputs for calculations of the expected stage and discharge for a 100-year flood and timing of breakup, freeze-up and zero flow. Climate data is collected at the Fish, Ikpikpuk, Meade, Otuk, and Colville river gauges. The first oilfield development, GMT1. will cross the the Ublutuoch River, about 7 river miles downstream of the present gauge at the Ublutuoch River.

Publications: Derry J, Kemnitz R, Yang D, Lilliy M. 2007. Summer Precipitation Data from Selected BLM and USGS Gaging Stations in the National Petroleum Reserve – Alaska, 2003-07. BLM.


Data and Resources

  • View report

    Report :: 2003-07 BLM Report


  • View website

    Website :: USGS Data Report 1998-2014


  • View website

    Website :: Data: UAF WERC


Status: Ongoing
Start Date: 2005/01/01
Type: Project
Primary Contacts
Name: Richard Kemnitz
Email: rkemnitz@blm.gov
Other Contacts
Name: Dragos Vas
Primary Organizations
US Bureau of Land Management

Other Organizations
US Geological Survey, University of Alaska Fairbanks

Alaska, North Slope

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