The Army Corps of Engineers will skip, for another year, the intermittent spring surges in Missouri River levels that have been done in the past to improve habitat for endangered species.
Jody Farhat, who manages releases from the six Missouri River dams, said a 2011 study showed the surges weren’t working as intended.
Since then, the corps has gone year-to-year evaluating whether to do them, she said. Among the species intended to benefit from the managed flows is the endangered pallid sturgeon.
The corps plans to manage the river this year from a drought perspective, due to the lingering effects of the 2012 drought. Because major reservoirs remain low, most of that effort will come in the form of curtailed releases.
So far this winter, the corps has been unable to curtail releases as much as desired because of the extreme cold. Ice dams caused by the cold have been a problem.
In the spring and summer, the corps plans to cut back the amount of water it releases for barge traffic. A final decision on navigation-related releases will be made closer to the start of the season, she said.
Even though reservoirs are low, the basin is in relatively good shape, with above-average plains and mountain snowpack, and high soil moisture levels in the upper watershed.