Corps says Missouri River floodwater reservoirs in good shape

Friday, April 6, 2012 | 1:30 p.m. CDT

OMAHA, Neb. — An unusually dry and warm March helped authorities keep space free for floodwaters in reservoirs along the Missouri River, the Army Corps of Engineers said Friday.

Nearly all of the 16.3 million acre-feet of the planned storage space for floodwater was available to help protect people and property downstream. The 2,341-mile-long river flows from Montana through North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa and Missouri.

The corps said runoff into the Missouri River should be about 94 percent of normal this year, but that could change.

"The lack of plains snowpack and lower-than-normal mountain snowpack indicates that we are likely to see below-normal runoff during the months of May, June and July," said Jody Farhat, chief of the corps' Missouri River Basin Water Management Division.

"But it's still early," Farhat added. "As we learned last year, conditions on the ground can change very quickly, so we will continue to monitor conditions in the basin and make any necessary release adjustments as the spring unfolds."

Last year, above-average snowpack, combined with May's unexpected heavy rains in the Northern Plains, caused the Missouri River to flood in June. With high waters continuing well into the fall in some areas, flooding caused at least $630 million in damage to flood-control structures and damaged hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland.

The National Weather Service has said minor flooding is expected along the Missouri River south of Omaha, Neb., and Council Bluffs, Iowa, and some flooding is also likely along the North Platte River near North Platte, Neb. Such flooding is common in lowland areas every spring.

Corps officials said Friday there appears to be enough water this year to provide for full navigation from Sioux City, Iowa, to St. Louis. In some drought years, the corps has shortened the downstream navigation season to build up water in the upstream reservoirs so sufficient flow is maintained to meet recreational, environmental and other demands on the water.

But too much water can be a problem too. Last year's flooding forced the U.S. Coast Guard to close the river between Glasgow, north of Boonville, and Gavins Point Dam near Yankton, S.D.

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