Yarmouth resident and semi-retired geologist Ann Thayer played a key role in getting this new stream gauge installed on the Royal River near the Route 88 bridge. Kate Irish Collins / The Forecaster

YARMOUTH — Every 15 minutes, key data – including the volume of water and the rate of flow – is now being collected by a new gauge installed on the banks of the Royal River in Yarmouth near the Route 88 bridge.

The data will be used by the town, the Maine Department of Transportation, the United States Geological Survey and conservation and environmental groups, said Ann Thayer, a semi-retired scientist and Yarmouth resident who played a crucial role in getting a new gauge installed after an absence of 15 years.

Thayer said the information uploaded by satellite to the USGS will be important to everything from flood control and improving water quality to designing and installing bridges and culverts. And while 15-minute increments seems like a short time between data bursts, Thayer said conditions on the river can change dramatically from day-to-day, especially with a big rain event.

This standpipe monitors water pressure and more on the Royal River in Yarmouth. Kate Irish Collins / The Forecaster

The gauge is important because there’s not a lot of data on free-flowing rivers in southern Maine. And, Thayer said, data from the Royal River is seen as particularly essential because while it’s not a large river, it has a densely populated watershed. In addition, it’s second only to the Presumpscot as the largest contributor of freshwater in Casco Bay, flowing from  Sabbathday Lake in New Gloucester to the ocean and encompassing communities from Auburn to North Yarmouth.

Thayer said she and other locally-based scientists worked to get the solar-powered instrument restored because they felt strongly it’s an important tool to guiding future management of the watershed.

The instrument, Thayer said, will provide “quality data collection for fact-based decision making.” The stream flow data is posted in real-time and is also publicly available through the USGS website, she added.

Those interested in learning more about the Royal River are invited to attend a guided walk planned for 4 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 20, at Royal River Park off East Elm Street.

Funding for the project came from the USGS, MDOT, the town of Yarmouth and the Casco Bay Estuary Partnership. Thayer said operation and maintenance costs will be about $14,000 annually and all the contributors committed to supporting the project for at least 10 years.

Yarmouth Town Manager Nat Tupper said the gauge “provides valuable flow information” that’s of “practical and immediate” use to the town, especially when it comes to managing the sewer treatment plant.

Curtis Bohlen, director of the Casco Bay Estuary Partnership, said the flow of the Royal River “largely reflects natural conditions,” which means the data collected is “especially valuable for understanding hydrologic conditions across the region.”

In addition, he said, “the data on river flow is of great use to us at CBEP as we try to understand drivers of coastal water quality, including nutrient pollution and coastal acidification.”

“From a community perspective, the most important information is probably about extremes of river flow, both floods and low flows,” Bohlen said. “Knowing the probability of high flows can help minimize risks by limiting new building in high-risk areas … (and) low flows are important for managing drinking water supplies and minimizing the effects of pollution.”

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