The experts are keeping a close eye on Missouri River conditions as they try to predict whether water levels will be high or low in the coming months.
Jody Farhat, is chief of the Missouri River Water Management Office of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Farhat, who’s based in Omaha, says low river levels and above-normal runoff may balance each other out. “The drought situation in the basin is much improved from a year ago, however, the main stem reservoirs remain drawn down five to 11 feet as result of the 2012 drought,” Farhat says. “Soil moistures going into the winter were quite wet across much of the upper basin, which creates the potential for above-normal runoff this spring, even if precipitation is normal.”
From one point of view, it’s fortunate that river levels are still quite low since the drought, or else significant flooding might be in the forecast. Bill Doan, an engineer in the Corps’ water management office, says they expect higher-than-normal runoff along the upper end of the Missouri River basin. “The 2014 calendar year runoff forecast is 26.7-million acre feet above Sioux City. This is 106% of normal,” Doan says. “Above Gavins Point Dam, we’re forecasting 24.3-million acre feet. This is, again, 106% of normal.”
The figures represent an increase since the January forecast due to several factors: a greater than expected January runoff, a higher precipitation forecast for February and slight increases in the runoff forecast for May through July.