Ongoing rainy weather has added another unwelcome footnote to the 2019 records for the water-logged Missouri River.
As of midmonth, more runoff has flowed into the upper Missouri River than did in all of 2018, according to John Remus, chief of the water management division for the Missouri River basin in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
In the short term, that means flows coming out of Gavins Point Dam, the southernmost dam feeding water into the lower basin, aren’t going to drop anytime soon. Discharges out of the dam will remain at 70,000 cubic feet per second into August, according to the corps.
“(Discharges) will be running very high into the fall, we won’t see normal releases until we drop down (in the) winter,” Remus said.
Runoff above Sioux City reached 42.2 million acre-feet as of July 15, Remus said. Last year, the total was 42.1 million. An acre-foot is the amount of water it takes to cover an acre with a foot of water.
With a little more than five months left on the calendar, 2019 already has become the third highest runoff year in the 121 years of records for the upper basin of the Missouri River.
In another unwelcome bit of news, the corps has revised upward its estimate for total runoff for 2019. The latest estimate is that the year will end with about 52.4 million acre-feet of water, up 2.5 million acre-feet over the estimate released just three weeks ago. Overtaking first place, 2011, is unlikely given how extraordinary that year was — runoff reached 61 million acre-feet.
The U.S. is in the midst of prolonged, record wet weather. In June, the Lower 48 states again set a record for rainiest 12-month period, according to the National Centers for Environmental Information. It was third consecutive month that a record had been set, according to the centers, which keep the nation’s weather records. Most of the Missouri River basin is at record to near-record levels for the last 12 months. Only Montana has been noticeably drier than normal.
Rain isn’t the only problem, Remus said. The soil remains wetter than average, which means it is less able to soak up rainfall. The long-term outlook favors continued above-average rainfall.
The agency has closed nine breaches in levees, with 42 remaining. The breach repairs aren’t final, however, because more work remains to raise and armor the protection they provide.
So far, the corps has spent $103 million on repairs to levees and other expenses related to 2019 flooding in the Missouri River basin, said John Leighow, chief of readiness for the Northwestern Division of the Corps. The total will rise, and so far, the agency hasn’t had problems getting the money it needs, he said.
However, costs associated with hurricanes (peak season is approaching) will compete for dollars in the corps’ budget, he said.
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