In 1976 the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh District placed the first two Data Collection Platforms (DCPs) on the Ohio River at Martins Ferry, W.V., and Shadyside, Ohio. These DCPs were, and remain, vital to river operations as they provide information on parameters such as river level and precipitation.
From 1976 to 2008 the DCPs would transmit river information once every four hours. Now, DCPs across the district have been upgraded and modernized to transmit information once every hour.
The upgrade modernized all river gages at the district's 23 navigation dams and also converted all remaining DCPs to the most recent technology. The upgrade was possible with the use of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds.
"We're excited because we were scheduled to replace one DCP every year, but we were actually able to update all of them in two years," said Pittsburgh District Water Management Chief Werner Loehlein.
When the district began installing the DCPs in the mid-1970s, they were among the leaders in river monitoring technology. With the recent update, Pittsburgh remains a leader, as the technology has allowed a more sustainable system, broader distribution of information and a much more timely report of river conditions.
"The new technology improves forecasts that would affect property or life on a much more localized level," said Michael Janiszewski, hydrological technician for the Pittsburgh District. "The National Weather Service is even using the Corps models for forecasting on the Ohio River."
Loehlein explained this technology is especially beneficial for lock and dam operators. The improved DCPs allow the operators more time for preparations in a weather event, which is vital because of reduced staffing at some facilities.
"The technology also has redundant systems, so if one part is not working another part of the system will still be able to provide the needed information," said Janiszewski.
In addition to the technology, Loehlein said there are few regions in the country more interwoven with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the United States Geological Survey (USGS) as the Pittsburgh District.
"This upgrade was a tri-agency effort," Loelein said. "We meet with NOAA and USGS three times a year to form an integrated government network to serve the region."
All of the agencies work in conjunction by fulfilling their individualized missions: NOAA forecasts; USGS maintains equipment; and the Corps runs the projects.