Missouri River at flood level, might cause cancellation of Canoe for Clean Water race

Tuesday, June 15, 2010 | 6:02 p.m. CDT; updated 9:24 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, June 16, 2010

COLUMBIA — Hydrologists predict the Missouri River in Boonville will rise to 29.7 feet in the early morning hours Saturday. The flood level might cancel Saturday’s Canoe for Clean Water race.

Steve Johnson is the executive director of the Missouri River Communities Network, which hosts the Canoe for Clean Water race, float and festival. He said the group would make an official decision at noon Thursday about whether to have the race.

Johnson spoke with members of the U.S. Coast Guard on Tuesday morning. Johnson said the Coast Guard monitored the river and saw mile-long collections of debris. The Coast Guard encouraged organizers to cancel the race, and Johnson said they “were already pretty much doing that.”

“I wouldn’t want to be out on the river in flood stage,” Johnson said. “It’s not a good place to be.”

Mark Fuchs, hydrologist for the National Weather Service in St. Louis, said the Missouri River was at minor flood levels in Boonville as of Tuesday morning. The river was at 27.5 feet, 6.5 feet above flood level. Fuchs said the river is expected to rise to 29.7 feet.

In Jefferson City, the river was at 25.4 feet Tuesday morning. Fuchs said the river should reach 28.7 feet by Saturday, putting it close to the major flooding level of 30 feet.

Although Fuchs does not anticipate the river reaching the major flood level of 35 feet at Boonville, he said “the river is certainly high, and it is certainly dangerous at these levels for inexperienced canoeists or kayakers.”

Paddlers who have never been on the river before are able to participate in the Canoe for Clean Water race. Johnson said the race would not occur if the river is in flood stage — meaning anywhere above 21 feet in Boonville.

“It would be unusual for the river to come down 9 feet in three days,” Johnson said.

The Missouri River Communities Network told people traveling from out of town for the race that “it doesn’t look good.”

Fuchs said the Missouri river is also flowing well above average in Boonville and Jefferson City. Johnson noticed the river’s speed when he and his wife finished a three-hour kayak trip in only an hour and a half.

Wayne Hilgedick, owner of Hilgedick Irrigation, said river levels are the highest he has seen in 15 years. His levies are built to withstand 32 feet of water, but the 29.7 feet forecast for Boonville makes Hilgedick nervous.

Saturday’s river fest will continue as planned, Johnson said. People can come to Katfish Katy’s Campground in Huntsdale from noon to 7 p.m. for local food, a live auction and live music by Chump Change and the Hennessy Brothers with Henry Clay.

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