Gavins Point Dam

After the massive Missouri River flooding of 2011, plans were made to install a better system for monitoring heavy rain and run-off from snowpack to more accurately predict pending floods.

Jody Farhat, Omaha division chief of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, says a better, real-time reporting system was designed — but still hasn’t been built.

“There was authorization in 2014 to install a monitoring system for those aspects, the soil moisture and the snowpack,” Farhat says. “That has not been funded at this time but we’re hoping to get started on the process this year.”

Farhat says other improvements have been made to the reporting system in the past six years. “We are working much more closely with the states and we also have set up a network of observers to give us snowpack measurements during the winter,” Farhat says. “We are getting better information this year that’s being fed into the NOAA products. I do think we have a better handle on it than we did in 2011.”

Farhat says despite above-normal snowpack this winter, it doesn’t compare to that of 2011. “Even though we have an area of high plains snowpack right now in North Dakota and in north-central South Dakota, it’s smaller in area and extent than it was in 2011 at the peak and it peaked in late February in 2011. Also, the mountain snowpack is tracking pretty close to normal.”

The Corps is predicting above-normal run-off into the Missouri River reservoir system for February through April. Farhat says they have “adequate” flood storage available behind the six mainstem dams.

(By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton)