The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to take advantage of the lack of barge traffic on the Missouri River to begin early adjustments to water flows. Corps spokesman Paul Johnston says they had already planned for an early end to commercial traffic on the waterway.
Johnston says the industry and the public had been told this would happen, just as it did last year, once the commercial barge traffic stopped from Kansas City to Sioux City, that the Corps would not try to meet its flow targets at places like Omaha. Johnston says they do expect to keep enough water in the river for barge traffic further downstream.
Water is still being released to allow for "minimum navigation flows" between Kansas City and St. Louis, which is where he says the bulk of the traffic is located. The normal end of the barge season is November 30th. Johnston says they will begin dropping levels on some of the upstream reservoirs, like the big one in South Dakota, sooner to get ready for winter flows.
He says the water level at Fort Randall Dam is dropped about 15 feet every year in the fall to prepare it to accept releases from further up river for power generation during the wintertime. Flows from Gavins Point Dam near Yankton will be reduced to about nine-thousand cubic feet per second by the end of October.