The Missouri River, fed by record runoffs from a massive snowpack and heavier-than-normal spring rains in seven states, is in overflow mode and will continue that way through most of August.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is managing the river with releases from six mainstream dams, five of them discharging or ramping up to discharge 150,000 cubic feet per second and the sixth churning through 65,000 cfs.
The Corps is watching its own levees and working with state and local sponsors on other levees to repair three breaches in Iowa and prevent others.
The challenge now and the next two months: making sure the levees can withstand the pressure from higher water levels over such a long period of time.
“Our dams are structurally sound,” Col. Bob Ruch, the Corps’ Omaha District commander, said a briefing June 11.
“They are fully functional and operating as designed.”
Many of the non-federal levees have been “virtually reconstructed” since the 1993 flood and the federal levees have had “significant improvements” since then, said spokeswoman Sarah Gross.
“As such, the levee system as a whole is more reliable.”
Jody Farhat, chief of Missouri River Basin water management at the Corps’ Omaha office, described the amount of water involved: 10.5 million acre-feet, almost 50% more than the previous record 7.2 million acre-feet.
The Corps is monitoring inflow and adjusting outflows.
At Fort Peck Dam, for example, the planned discharge was 60,000 cfs by June 10.
That changed June 11 when the water level rose to 2,251.6 ft, tying a record set in 1975, so outflow increased to 65,000 cfs, Farhat said at a briefing that day.