Officials with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are now offering more details about how high the Missouri River will rise over the next few months. Releases are being increased from the four lower dams on the Missouri following heavy rains in August in an effort to cut flood risks.
Jody Farhat is chief of the Water Management Division in the Omaha office of the Corps. “Our latest forecast indicates higher releases from the main stem reservoirs this fall in order to prepare the reservoir system for 2015, thus, reducing future flood risk potential,” Farhat says. “The higher releases will raise river levels along the lower river on average three to four feet above the level seen for most of the summer but will be well within the channel unless we experience a significant amount of rain.”
Farhat says they can cut back on those releases if there’s more heavy rain. “If that should occur, releases may be reduced temporarily as part of our normal flood risk reduction measures and the reservoir system remains well positioned for this type of operation,” Farhat says. “We’ll continue to monitor the conditions across the basin as we move through fall and we’ll continue to make any necessary release adjustments.”
Farhat says releases from Gavins Point Dam near Yankton will be stepped up from the current release rate of 38,000 cubic feet per second to beyond 45,000 during the next several days and they’ll remain near that level throughout the fall. “If you look back through our records, in about 25% of the years we’ve had releases above 40,000 in the fall,” she says. “It’s actually a very good time of year to evacuate flood water from the reservoir system. We do it routinely. We wait until the fall months and then we evacuate most of the water before the 1st of December.”
The excess water will also allow the Corps to extend the navigation season ten days and provide higher winter releases, which Farhat says will benefit winter hydropower generation and reduce risks to water intakes during periods of ice formation this winter.
(Reporting by Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton)