October 24, 2014

Drought forces Corps to conserve more Missouri River water

Gavins Point Dam

Gavins Point Dam

Drought conditions persist across the Midwest and Great Plains regions which translates to a lower runoff forecast for the Missouri River basin.

Kevin Stom, with the water control bureau of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, says the river’s runoff remains low, but there’s been a small pick-up in recent weeks.

“We are forecasting 20-million acre feet of runoff above Sioux City, which is 81% of normal,” Stom says. “This is a slight increase of 0.1-million acre feet from the February forecast.”

Jody Farhat, chief of the water bureau in Omaha, says the Corps will continue with water conservation measures this spring.

Farhat says, “We’re beginning this runoff season with the reservoirs drawn down significantly due to the drought and as a result, we’re implementing measures to conserve water in the reservoir system, including reduced service to navigation this year.”

If the drought continues as feared, Farhat said they may have to look at even more water-savings steps in future months.

Farhat says, “Other potential conservation measures that may be implemented this summer include not supporting navigation targets in reaches without commercial navigation, use of the Kansas basin reservoirs for navigation support and cycling Gavins Point releases during the endangered species nesting season.”

Missouri River levels were very low all of last year due to the drought, which followed a full year of record flooding on the waterway in 2011.

By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton