Barge operators and recreational boaters will see a limited navigation season on the Missouri River this year. The US Army Corps of Engineers has just begun releasing water from Gavins Point Dam near Yankton, South Dakota. Because of an ongoing drought in the Missouri River Basin, Corps spokesman Paul Johnston says while the navigation season begins April 1st, it is likely to be shortened, by as much as two months. He says this year the Corps is releasing only enough water to meet the minimum navigation targets downstream. If there’s no navigation in some parts of the river, like near Sioux City, the Corps will not try to boost the water release in an effort to try to save water in the reservoirs. The Missouri River navigation season normally ends on December 1st, although it was cut back to early October last year. Johnston says the exact length of this year’s season will be determined by how much water is in the reservoir system in early July. Johnston says lower water levels will require barge operators to carry lighter shipments. In addition, because the river will be low, boaters on the river from Omaha to Sioux City are going to have to look out for obstacles that traditionally have been covered by water. Johnston says power plants along the river also will have to be especially careful to meet water quality standards limiting the temperature of the water they discharge.
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