Add another season to the higher-than-normal levels on the Missouri River.
Flows on the Missouri River are likely to remain higher than normal into the winter, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The corps expects to continue releases from Gavins Point Dam at 70,000 cubic feet per second — about double normal — “for the foreseeable future,” said John Remus, chief of the Missouri River Basin Water Management Division for the corps.
And once the agency starts dropping down from that level, the decrease won’t be dramatic, he said.
“It’s fair to say we’re going to see very high flows through the end of November,” Remus said. “Very high” likely means more than 55,000 cubic feet per second “and quite possibly more,” Remus said.
Wintertime releases from Gavins Point might not drop below 20,000 cfs, and may be higher, Remus said. Normal wintertime releases are 17,000 cfs, he said.
Runoff from snow and rain is on pace to make this the second highest runoff year in 121 years of record-keeping, according to the corps. And even though all the snow has melted, not all of the melt had reached the reservoirs as of late last week, Remus said. As a result, the reservoir system was still climbing toward its peak storage amount, Remus said.
Until the system reaches its peak, the corps won’t know how much water it has to discharge from the dams, he said.
The corps has been under pressure to release more water from the reservoirs than normal, and Remus said the agency has studied whether it can do that this year. It did so following 2011’s flood year, which was also historic and devastating.
“We are considering that,” Remus said. “But considering the amount of water we have in (the reservoirs) right now and the discharges it would take to evacuate the flood pool, I don’t think that’s a real possibility. Until we see the system peak we can’t say one way or the other.”
So far, the peak amount of water being stored behind the six massive dams is hovering around 68.5 million acre-feet, Remus said.
In deciding whether to empty more water than normal from behind the dams, the corps has to consider the potential negative effects downstream, Remus said. Keeping river levels high could affect levee repairs, and, should autumn rains be higher than normal, then corps releases will compound any problems from heavy rain runoff. The levee system downstream of the dams has been severely compromised by this year’s flooding, and the system won’t be repaired to preflood condition for several years, the corps has said.
The last time the corps evacuated extra water, in 2011, Nebraska had its hottest, driest year on record in 2012.