A drought continues in parts of the west and Midwest, and the US Army Corps of Engineers, while working out a river management plan, meantime is under orders to manage the Missouri River for all users, in spite of the long dry spell. Low levels of water in the river have sparked arguments and lawsuits as upriver states demand more of the diminishing water supply for boating and fishing, downstream users say they should get more for power plants and shipping. The Corps’ Paul Johnston says this is the fifth or sixth year of drought, depending on where you are.The big reservoirs in South Dakota, North Dakota and Montana are down more than 30 feet, he says, and access is a real problem. The Corp has been maintaining minimum flows below the dams the last couple years, shortened the barge navigation season last year by 47 days, and expects to shorten it by 61 days this year. Some nice rain the last couple weeks in Iowa and Nebraska’s allowed the Corps to reduce flows through the dams or keep them minimal, and late-season snow in the mountains as well as rain upriver helped reservoirs like Oahe in South Dakota to rise about a foot during the spring fish-spawn, a good thing for fisheries. Johnston says there are a lot of people along the river and its reservoirs watching water levels very carefully.
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