The latest report from the Corps of Engineers finds low water in Missouri River reservoirs, and low expectations of run off. Paul Johnston in the Omaha office says the current outlook is pretty bleak. "We’re not very optimistic right now," Johnston says. " We had a good blast of winter come through but all it was was cold, not very much snow at all." The snowpack in the Rocky Mountains, which feeds into the Missouri upriver, is far less than normal, even though the previous winter it was close to average.
The cold has frozen up a lot of ice on the river, but we need moisture, which hasn’t shown up. Johnston says they still expect to have a barge season on the river. Engineers expect to open the barge season on its usual start date, the first of April. But there will be minimal water flows through the whole shipping season, he predicts, and they won’t know if the season’s another shortened one until around the first of July. Last year’s shipping season was cut off 44 days early.
Last year a small surge of water was released from the big dams upriver, to mimic a natural spring rise on the river. Johnston says that won’t be possible this year. In May of 2006 they arranged for a spring rise, but this year there isn’t enough water in the reservoirs, so there won’t be a spring rise in March or May of this year.