March 09–Beginning in mid-March, people living in and around the Missouri River basin below Gavins Point Dam can expect to see more water flowing downstream.
Initially, the increased amount of water will be releases from Gavins Point Dam designed to provide flow support for the 2017 navigation season, which could bring tow boats and barges up river to St. Joseph, Omaha and other communities.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has promised flow support for Missouri River navigation will be at full service levels for the first half of the 2017 season ending July 1. Full-service navigation support generally provides a 9-foot-deep-by-300-feet-wide channel for river commerce.
The warm February temperatures have had an early impact on water storage.
“Warm temperatures melted much of the plains snowpack that had accumulated throughout the winter in the upper Missouri River basin, resulting in above average runoff during February,” said Jody Farhat, chief of the Corps of Engineers’ Missouri River Basin Water Management Division. “Additionally, warm temperatures released water that had been locked up in river ice, contributing to higher-than-average February runoff.”
But the six dams still have 15.2 million acre feet of the 16.3 million acre feet flood control storage to deal with spring rains and the mountain snowpack.
The mountain snowpack already is near or above 100 percent, and the mountains should continue to accumulate more snow until mid-April, Farhat said.
The Corps will be issuing weekly updates to keep people apprised of water storage and dam releases.
Once the mountain snowpack begins to melt, people living near the Platte River in Nebraska can expect to see increased water flows, which could impact the Missouri River. As a Missouri River basin tributary, the Platte drains a large portion of the central Great Plains and the eastern Rocky Mountains area in Colorado and Wyoming.
The Corps should have sufficient available storage to be able to respond below Gavins Point as runoff from the Platte River rises due to snowmelt, Farhat said.
It takes several days for reduced flow from Gavins Point to impact St. Joseph, but reduced flows will assist in speeding the decline if tributaries like the Platte River cause the Missouri River to rise.
The Corps will determine flow support for the second half of the navigation season and the season length in early July.
To see the Corps weekly updates, go to www.nwd-mr.usace.army.mil/rcc/reports/pdfs/weeklyupdate.pdf.