July 28, 2014

Corps says Missouri River will be low, but navigable

Gavins Point Dam

Gavins Point Dam

Despite the threat of continued drought, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is planning on a “normal” navigation season for 2013 on the Missouri River. Bill Doan, a water engineer in the Corps’ Omaha office, says levels on the river will be low, but it will be navigable.

“On March 1st, which is typically near the start of the runoff season, the basic simulation shows system storage at 48.5 million acre feet, which means that the reservoir system would start the runoff season 8.3 million acre feet below the base of the annual flood control zone, or in other words, 8.3 million acre feet below the top of the carryover multiple use zone.”

Based on the water available now, Doan says the Corps expects an eight-month navigation season in the year ahead.

“We would be providing minimum service flow support to navigation for the first part of the navigation season,” Doan says. “Flows for this level of service are designed to provide an eight-feet deep by 200-feet wide navigation channel and would require Gavins Point monthly average releases ranging from 20,000 to 28,000 (cubic feet per second).”

Doan says the low water now in the up-river reservoirs will definitely have an impact on hydro-electric power production.

“The forecast for 2013 energy generation, with the basic simulation, is 7.9 billion kilowatt hours,” Doan says. “With normal reservoir levels and releases, we would expect about 10 billion kilowatt hours.”

River levels were exceptionally low all of last year due to the severe drought, which followed record flooding on the Missouri which lasted a large portion of 2011.

By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton