The Corps of Engineers has decided it doesn’t have enough water in Missouri River reservoirs to release any extra for a spring rise. That’s part of a plan to send more water down the river briefly, mimicking nature’s spring thaw and a rise in the river, to help revitalize endangered species. But though the plan called for two big releases from the Gavins Point Dam in northeast Nebraska, Larry Murphy with the reservoir control center in Omaha, says the lake has to have a certain amount of water in it before they can release more from that dam.
Murphy says we’re short of that number so the first “pulse” won’t run as they’d planned, increasing the flow at the end of March just ahead of the opening of navigation season. Instead they’ll just gradually increase the flow to what’s normal for navigation season. Murphy says it doesn’t look too promising for the second planned rise in May either.
Navigation season on the river begins the end of March, but the level of the river will depend on rainfall, he says, unless warm weather far upriver melts some of the mountain snowpack. Climatologists have noted the snowpack far off in the Rockies, which affects the level of the river from its source in Montana downward, is heavier than normal.
Murphy says that’s nothing that’ll have an immediate impact, however. The snowpack’s okay, he says, but it normally begins to run off late in April and doesn’t begin to reach the reservoir until the first of May. So unless spring begins the snowmelt early this year, any increase in the river will depend on rainfall. The Missouri’s near record lows after years of drought. Some downstream groups have been opposed to the rises because of flooding concerns, while upstream users were worried about losing more water in reservoir storage.