Gavins Point Dam (file photo)

A spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says they have increased outflows at the Gavins Point Dam in South Dakota.

Missouri River Water Management Division chief John Remus says releases jumped this week from 30,000 to 35,000 cubic feet per second. The Gavins Point Dam winter releases normally range between 12 to 17,000 cubic feet per second. Remus discussed the increased outflows during the corps’ monthly conference call.

“This action is intended to decrease flood risk. As the spring and summer runoff begins, we may have to make several release changes from all of our projects,” he says. Remus says the increased releases are in response to the higher-than-normal runoff forecast for the Upper Missouri River Basin — but denies that the action is related to comments at public meetings last fall calling for the corps to evacuate more water to make room for spring and summer runoff.

“We have levee systems in the lower river–particularly below Omaha–that are still damaged, not repaired,” he says, “and we wanted to give ourselves the greatest amount of flexibility to react to events either in the lower or upper basin to give us the greatest amount of flexibility there.”

National Weather Service forecast center hydrologist  Kevin Low says almost the entire basin has above-normal soil moisture–thereby increasing the risk for repeating flooding this year.

“Basically what that does is it gives us a much higher runoff efficiency for any snowmelt or any new rainfall event,” Low says. “What falls on the ground, more of it is going to run off. So that definitely gives us a higher risk for flooding.” The National Weather Service releases its first spring flood potential outlook next Thursday, with follow up reports scheduled February 27th and March 12th.

(By Mike Peterson, KMA, Shenandoah)