The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is holding a series of meetings this week to talk about its annual operating plan for the Missouri River reservoir system. Corps spokesman Paul Johnston, in Omaha, says circumstances are quite different for the system this year. For starters, there won’t be any talk about drought.
“The reservoirs are full,” Johnston says. “There should be easy access and we have rising pools that bode well for a successful fish spawn this year so it’s mostly good news.” Power production from the dams was only 34-percent of normal in March and is forecast to be 75-percent of normal for the season. Johnston says that’s directly connected to snow run off and downstream flows.
“If you have low releases, you can’t make electrons,” he says, meaning hydroelectric dams aren’t able to generate electricity. Johnston says flooding conditions downriver led to the higher-than-normal levels in the upstream reservoirs.
“We had most of the Missouri River from about Omaha to the Mississippi (River) above flood stage for a good piece of March and when that happens, we cut back on releases to not make the flooding downstream any worse,” Johnston says. “When you do that, you don’t generate power.” Meetings will be held today (Tuesday) in South Sioux City, Nebraska, and at Fort Peck, Montana; on Wednesday in Bismarck, North Dakota, and Mobridge, South Dakota, and Thursday in St. Joseph and Jefferson City, Missouri.