The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has released its Missouri River management plan for the coming year. The Corps’ Paul Johnston says whether it rains or not, they’ll be dealing with the after-effects of at least four years of drought. The net effect, he says, is a shortened navigation season, low water flows, and if drought continues the reservoir levels will continue to decline. The river’s management depends not only on the amount of water in the river and lakes made by its dams, but also agreements with recreation, power, shipping and wildlife interests, and Johnston points out even if there’s plenty of snow and rain, it can’t bring the river’s level anywhere near normal levels.The reason reservoirs are down, river’s low and hydro-power is less, is that there have been 4-5 years of drought. The plan calls for keeping water high behind the dams next spring, something businesses in the Dakotas say is vital to the spring “hatch” of fish for the region’s recreation industry. Johnston says many will see it as not enough.There are people who’d like releases from the reservoirs be cut a lot, but even if they could it won’t refill the lakes, just slow their decline. The Draft Operating plan will be offered for public comment in meetings the next couple weeks including an October 29 meeting in Omaha at 5 p.m. at the Northwestern Division Office, 12565 West Center Road.
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