The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is reducing releases from six dams on the Missouri River as the reservoirs behind them empty the runoff of record snowfall and record spring rains.
The reductions will slow the record flow that has sent the 2,341-mile river over its banks and strained levees in six states.
At Fort Peck Dam in Montana, the Corps started cutting back releases July 20 to 35,000 cubic feet per second from 40,000 cfs. On Aug. 1 the release will be cut to 30,000 cfs. Similarly, the Corps plans to cut the flow from Garrison Dam in North Dakota 5,000 cfs, to 115,000 cfs on July 25. On Aug. 1 the flow will be reduced to 95,000 cfs.
The Corps also plans to cut releases at four other dams in South Dakota and Nebraska. “We eventually will be dropping back faster, but I don't know if it will be August or early September,” says Jody Farhat, chief of Missouri River Basin water management at the Corps' Omaha office.
“Our criteria are to have releases around normal beginning in October so we can get in and inspect and make repairs,” she says.
The Corps says the snow melt runoff was “essentially complete” July 18, but the river continues to flood thousands of acres and put extra pressure on levees.
In Omaha, for example, the river is running about 6 ft above its 29-ft flood stage.
To protect the city, the Corps hired Navarro Enterprise Construction Inc., Omaha, to build three segments of a nine-mile-long seepage berm to provide extra flood protection at a large C-shaped curve. It also hired DPS Construction Inc. of Omaha to build a 400-ft-long temporary emergency seepage berm near Bellevue, Neb., to add protection for a wastewater treatment plant.
Corps officials say they are studying this year's record precipitation as they make plans for water storage and dam releases next year.