The Missouri River at Omaha.

Thanks to a wetter-than-normal year, water releases from the reservoir system which regulate the Missouri River are being cut back for winter, but not as drastically as normal.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is preparing the river for the season ahead. The Corps’ Mike Swenson, one of the Missouri River Water Management Office team leaders, says the overall goal is to prep reservoirs to handle runoff from rain and snowpack melting in the spring.

Swenson says, “The whole idea is just to continue to monitor throughout the year and make adjustments as necessary to make sure the reservoir system is in good shape to handle that runoff.” Releases at Gavins Point Dam will drop to 21,500 cubic feet per second. That is higher than the normal drop of between 12,000 and 17,000 cubic feet per second. Last year, the Corps dropped releases to 18,000 cubic feet per second at the beginning of winter, then lowered them to 17,000 CFS later during the winter months.

“It’s still a lower release than we have during other times of the year, but it’s just slightly higher for the winter,” he says. Swenson says the higher levels will have multiple impacts.

“With the higher winter release, that does provide some benefits to hydropower, a little bit more winter energy produced,” Swenson says. “It typically helps out the water intakes below the reservoir system.” He says the higher water should also help prevent ice jams this winter.

(Thanks to Brent Martin, Nebraska Radio Network)