Persistently dry conditions continue to indicate less-than-normal runoff in the upper Missouri River basin this year.
Runoff above Sioux City, Iowa, is forecast to be 19.9 million acre-feet, or 80 percent of normal, according to the Army Corps of Engineers in Omaha.
Mountain snowpack is 96 percent of normal above Fort Peck Dam in Montana and 89 percent in the stretch between Fort Peck and the Garrison Dam in North Dakota. Typically about two-thirds of the peak mountain snowpack accumulation has occurred by Feb. 1.
The corps has six big dams on the river from Nebraska to Montana. The total volume of water stored in the reservoir system at the start of this runoff season is expected to be 8.3 million acre-feet, less than the full pool designed to provide water downstream at reduced levels through a 12-year drought such as the one in the 1930s, the corps said.
To conserve water, releases from Gavins Point Dam in northeast Nebraska are being scheduled at the lowest level possible this winter while still serving municipal, industrial and power-plant water intakes at Omaha and other places along the lower river, said Jody Farhat, chief of the corps' Missouri River water management division.
Releases will be stepped up in mid-March for the navigation season, which will open April 1 at the mouth near St. Louis.
The reservoir behind Gavins Point will gradually be lowered 1.3 feet by the end of February to make room for potential spring runoff.
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