Gavins Point Dam

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will be increasing Missouri River flows from Gavins Point Dam, near Yankton, South Dakota, instead of cutting back flows as planned.

Jody Farhat, chief of the Corps’ Missouri River Basin Water Management Division in Omaha, explains the change.

“We plan to increase our releases from Gavins from 14,000 (cubic feet per second) today to 16,000 on Wednesday and then 18,000 on Thursday,” Farhat says. “The reason we’re doing this is because we have several water intakes along the lower river that are within inches of their critical shutoff elevations. We know that with this colder weather moving into the basin, we’re going to be building ice which will reduce the stages downstream.”

Farhat says the increased releases should not have much impact on the upstream reservoirs, which are already in drought storage mode.

“It does take water out of the reservoirs but we plan on doing this every year,” she says. “This is part of our operation plan when we are on these low winter releases so, it shouldn’t result in much impact at all on the drought storage.”

Several governors and farm groups had been calling on the Corps to boost Missouri River levels to bring up the Mississippi River’s levels, too, as barge traffic may be impacted. This move today is coincidental.

Farhat says the releases into the Missouri won’t have any impact on the near-record low Mississippi River.

“We don’t expect this additional water to make its way to the Mississippi until the ice melts in the spring,” Farhat says. “It’s really to replace the water that is going to be lost to ice over the next couple of weeks.”

Farhat says when releases are reduced, possibly in early January, they will drop back only to 14,000 cubic feet per second, not the 12,000 as had been planned.

By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton