Mindful of the severe Mississippi River flooding in Arkansas and Tennessee, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is starting the process of releasing water stored in Missouri River reservoirs upriver in South Dakota. Officials say it will mean higher river levels in the waterway that divides Nebraska and Iowa, but it should cause no trouble downriver.
Jody Farhat, chief of the Corps’ water management division in the Omaha office, says the release starts about this time every year. Farhat says, “The purpose of that is to evacuate the flood water that’s already stored in the reservoir system and also to evacuate the mountain snowpack runoff which will begin to come into the system once temperatures warm up in the upper basin.”
Flows from Gavins Point Dam near Yankton will rise and Farhat says flows from Fort Randall Dam will also be increased. Those flows are already causing flooding along the Missouri River from Greenwood to Springfield, South Dakota. Farhat says they expect the high flows to last most of the year.
“The current storage is 65.5 million acre feet,” she says. “We peaked last summer at 65.9 million acre feet. Just with the snowpack we’ve gotten this year, we’re nearly as high as we were at the crest last year and the mountain snowpack is still yet to come.” Farhat says with all of that snow melting up in the mountains, there will be heavy water flowing for weeks and months to come.
“We’re anticipating much more runoff this year than last year,” she says, “potentially, the second-highest runoff year on record.” She says river stages could rise two to three feet downstream of Gavins Point Dam. The peak run off from the mountain snowpack is expected by mid-to-late June.
By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton