Sunday, May 29, 2011

Corps updates reservoir release forecast to unprecedented levels

On Saturday evening, May 28, the Corps of Engineers updated reservoir release projections again. The previous record release from Gavin's Point Dam was 70,000 cfs in 1997. Projected releases by mid-June have been increased to 150,000 cfs.

Press Releases from the US Army Corps Omaha District can be accessed on their website here:

Here's the Corps release:

Omaha, Neb. – Rapidly changing weather conditions in Montana, northern Wyoming and the western Dakotas have prompted the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to make adjustments to previously announced releases. Future releases will reach record levels considerably higher than those previously announced.

Releases from the Missouri River reservoirs, already at historic levels, will be increased again due to higher than forecast rains in North Dakota yesterday. Record flows and flooding are the result of above-normal snowpack and extraordinary rain events during the last several weeks. Significant flooding in cities, towns and agricultural land is expected in North and South Dakota with many areas from Sioux City, Iowa, to the Mississippi rising above flood stage.

Flows from five of the six dams are expected to reach a record 150,000 cfs by no later than mid-June. The previous record releases took place in the fall of 1997 at Gavins Point Dam in Yankton, S.D.

“Protecting lives is our number one priority right now,” said Brig. Gen. John McMahon, Commander of the Northwestern Division of the Army Corps of Engineers. “We are working closely with state and local emergency management teams to identify potential flood areas, provide residents with the most current information and help protect vital public infrastructure.”

People living along the river are encouraged to make evacuation plans to protect their possessions and property. Maps for potential flood areas can be found at: Residents in communities along the river are encouraged to contact their local emergency management offices for additional details.

Flooded areas are expected to be inundated for several months.

“Moving water out of the reservoirs is essential,” said General McMahon. “Our release plan is based on the rain we’ve already received and that which is forecast for this weekend and the snow melt forecast. More heavy rain storms could cause major revisions.”

“Due to our vigilant dam safety program, all dams are well prepared to handle the onslaught of floodwaters,” said McMahon. “This is what these reservoirs were designed to do. They are inspected and maintained on rigid schedules. Our dams are sound.”

In the last month, portions of the upper basin have received a year’s worth of rain. “The amount of rain has nearly filled the reservoirs, doing away with the flexibility we had built into our operations for this year,” said Jody Farhat, Chief of the Water Management Division here. “With the arrival of the 140 percent-of-normal snowpack runoff, all the reservoirs will reach their maximum levels, and two will use surcharge storage requiring the operation of the spillways.” Surcharge storage is storage in excess of the exclusive flood control pool. The exclusive flood control pool is the area of the reservoir designed exclusively for the storage of floodwaters.

“Our initial release plans were based on rains already received as well as what’s in the forecast for snowmelt,” said Farhat. “The continuous heavy rains we’re experiencing throughout the basin have dramatically altered our release plans and if we continue to receive heavy rains like this, major revisions in the plan will be necessary.”

Releases out of Fort Peck, Mont., will start to step up next week and are expected to reach 50,000 cfs by June 6. The reservoir will use several feet of surcharge storage above the exclusive flood control pool as the spillway gates are raised.

Garrison releases will increase from the current 80,000 cfs to 85,000 cfs on Monday and Tuesday, and will quickly be stepped up to 120,000 in early June. Releases are scheduled to reach 150,000 cfs no later than mid-June. The reservoir will utilize several feet of surcharge storage above the exclusive flood control pool as the spillway gates are raised. For the first time in history, the spillway gates will be used to pass floodwaters at Garrison Reservoir.

Oahe releases will be maintained at the 85,000 cfs rate through June 2 and then quickly stepped up to 130,000 cfs during the first week of June. Releases are scheduled to peak at 150,000 cfs no later than mid-June. The reservoir will peak within a foot of the top of the spillway gates at 1619 feet.

Big Bend releases will mirror those from Oahe, with its reservoir remaining essentially level at 1420 feet.

Releases from Fort Randall will gradually increase from the current 67,000 cfs to 100,000 cfs during the first week of June. Releases are scheduled to peak at 148,000 cfs no later than mid-June.

Releases from Gavins Point will gradually increase from the current 69,000 cfs to 100,000 cfs during the first week of June. Releases are scheduled to peak at 150,000 cfs no later than mid-June.

“State and local emergency management teams will be the point of contact for residents needing information about flooding in their area,” said Kim Thomas, Chief of the Emergency Management Office here. Below are contact Web sites and phone numbers.

State Emergency Contact Numbers

These Web sites and phone numbers are also available on Corps Facebook page ( under the State, County and Local agencies tab.

* Iowa


* 515.725.3231

* Montana


* 406.324.4777

* Nebraska


* 24-hour operations - 402. 471.7421

* 24-hour emergency - 402.499.1219

* 24-hour emergency - 402.499.1227

* State EOC - 877.297.2368
* North Dakota


* 701.328.8100

* 800.773.3259

* South Dakota


* 605.773.3231

* 877.579.0015

* Wyoming


* 307.777.4663 (HOME)

More Montana flooding means larger dam releases downstream

Major rainfall on Saturday, May 28 in Montana has worsened statewide flooding. As many people are saying, some areas of the state have received a years worth of rain in just a few weeks.

Saturday evening, the Corps of Engineers released revised reservoir release projections, and levels continue to press higher.

In short, lower reservoirs, including Gavin's Point Dam which releases into the freeflowing Lower Missouri River, will be releasing 150,000 cubic feet per second (cfs)by mid-June. This is much higher and faster than predicted just a few days ago.

It is beginning to appear that, as the Corps tries to spread the most accurate up to date information so affected communities can plan, each significant storm or rain event will cause predictions to jump again.

Emergency management agencies from the local to federal level are scrambling to keep informed of changing conditions and trying to understand their impact.

What is clear - many communities will see unprecedented flood heights, and the flooding will last for months to come as water is moved out of the reservoir system.

The flow of flood related news has become a flood of its own, and I won't attempt to keep up with the daily flood news in this blog. We're changing the focus of the blog to posting the latest predictions relevant to the whole basin and stories that help understand the scale of the event.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Latest Press Release: 110,000 cfs by end of June

The Corps of Engineers Omaha District has just released the latest projection that releases from Gavin's Point Dam will increase to 110,000 cfs by the end of June.

Here's the link to the press release on their facebook page:

Here's the link to Omaha District Press Releases:

Here's the press release. Predictions for all mainstem Corps dams are included:

Dam Releases to Reach Historic Levels
May 26, 2011
Omaha, Neb. – Releases from the Missouri River reservoirs will reach historic levels in the coming weeks, the result of above-normal snow in the mountains and extraordinary rain over the last several weeks.  Significant flooding in cities, towns and agricultural land is expected in North and South Dakota with many areas from Sioux City, Iowa, to the Mississippi rising above flood stage.

Missouri River basin flooding updates

commentary by Steve Schnarr

Unprecedented releases of water from upper river dams are due to massive snowpack melting combined with heavy rains. That water is combining with recent heavy rains in the lower river to cause flooding throughout the basin. Looking into the future, things don't look good. This year, snowpack accumulation above Garrison Dam in North Dakota was 141 percent of "normal" this year. Of that snowpack, 132 percent remains unmelted. With a long, cool spring, the danger of flooding remains for months to come.

Releases at Garrison Dam, the current hotspot along the mainstem, will be ramped up to 85,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) by Monday. This is 20,000 more than the previous record and is expected to remain at this level throughout the summer. This level will cause major flooding in Bismark/Mandan. According to a KX TV story linked below, the maximum release from the dam is 140,000 cfs. The emergency spillway can be opened releasing a total of an amazing 660,000 cfs (There's NO reason to believe, at this point, that either of these levels would be reached).

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

News Reports on flooding throughout the basin

As snow melts mixes with rain in the upper basin and spring storms parade across the Great Plains and into Missouri and Iowa, the Missouri River is beginning to approach flood stage throughout the basin. Because of the dams, this is a pretty rare and serious event. As always, it is additional spring/summer rain that will make the difference in major flooding.

The Corps of Engineers bases their flood storage capacity in the reservoirs on predicted snowpack in the mountains (along with estimated rainfall in late spring). Both of these numbers are much larger than predicted so we are currently facing a situation where the dam releases are increasing at the same time spring rains are happening. In Bismark, ND, for example, the Corps just announced they will be ramping releases of Garrison Dam to 85,000 cfs and city officials are expecting a record flood there (since the dams were built). Gavin's Point Dam near Yankton, SD has remained steady for over a week at 55,000 cfs, but releases began increasing yesterday and are expected to bump up to above 70,000.

Below Gavin's Point Dam, communities in Nebraska and Iowa on down to St. Joseph have been facing high water due to the dam releases for over a month. While other parts of the country were getting hammered by rain, the Missouri River was spared. That's changed, and new predictions for the river have most gages from Omaha down approaching or well into flood stage.

Here's a link where you can see the hydrological predictions for gages you select in the Missouri River basin. Click here. Check the gage you want to see on the left and the information you want on the right then click "Make My River Page" You can bookmark your selected page for reference as the flood season progresses.

There are links to other great river stage products and flooding maps on the Missouri River Relief "River Links" page:

Here's a string of stories related to flooding across the basin, for a taste of how different communities are being affected.Click the article title to read it.So much is happening right now, you can really get a feel for it by checking out the home page of each news source for updates in that local area.

Great Falls Tribune - May 22, 2011: "Snowmelt and rain close roads, flood buildings around region"
Great Falls Tribune - May 24, 2011: "Much of Montana under flood warning or watch status" 
Great Falls Tribune - Photo Gallery

North Dakota
Bismark Tribune - May 24, 2011: "Ready for 75,000 cfs? Bismark braces for bigger Missouri River" 
Bismark Tribune - May 24, 2011: "Water System Driving Corps' control of Missouri River"
Bismark Tribune - May 25, 2011: "Rising Missouri Challenges Us" 
Associated Press - May 25, 2011: "North Dakota National Guard returns to flood duty to help Bismarck and Minot areas"
KFYR TV - May 25, 2011: "Bismark Flooding to be worse than expected"
Bismark Tribune - May 25, 2011: "For some, it's time to seek higher ground"

South Dakota
Yankton Press-Dakotan - May 24, 2011: "Rising Water to force aggressive dam releases"

Omaha World Herald - May 25, 2011: "Flooding Coming...but how much?"

St. Joseph News-Press - May 24, 2011: "‘No flexibility left and no relief in sight' - Continuing rains putting pressure on river"

It appears that other Missouri communities haven't caught on to the impending flood yet. I wasn't able to find much else on the web yet.

Friday, May 20, 2011

High River Levels Not Helping Boating Businesses

 Originally broadcast on KCAU Channel 9 (Sioux City, IA) on May 16, 2011
Click here for original link

The high water level on the Missouri River is causing problems for some local businesses.

With all of this beautiful weather its finally boating season but on the contrary it's also flooding season where all the rivers in our area are above average which isn't savvy for some boating businesses.

Boating season is finally here for most of us. But for the Missouri River Boat Club the docks are still ashore and the boats are dry.

Homeowners Urged to Protect Septic Systems

Originally broadcast on Channel 5 KFYR (Bismark, ND) on May 16, 2011
Click here for original link

The Missouri River is on the rise, and while not much can be done to control the rising water, homeowners are urged to protect their septic systems.

If drains in the house run slowly or are backing up, pumping the septic tank will provide, at best, three or four days of reprieve, but the problem will return. Keep in mind that pumping will make the tank lighter, increasing the possibility that it could float out of saturated ground. Wait until the water recedes before pumping the tank.

The best solution is to plug all drains in the basement and drastically reduce water use in the house. Here are some ways to do that:

Bottomland battle over development brewing in Maryland Heights

Originally published in St. Louis Post Dispatch on May 18, 2011
Click here for original link
by Stephen Deere

MARYLAND HEIGHTS • Amid corn and soy fields sit bulldozers, backhoes and orange barrels to keep traffic off new pavement.

Wind whips through rows of lettuce and scatters freshly dug dirt across the Maryland Heights Expressway near Creve Coeur Lake Memorial Park.

Over the years, the roads through the Howard Bend Levee area have grown wider — the harbinger of developers' dreams to transform some of the last remaining farmland in St. Louis County into another large-scale shopping center.

For those who live and work here in the Missouri River bottoms, a $22.5 million levee completed more than five years ago seemed to make development a foregone conclusion.

Boonville Council approves Katy Bridge Ownership

Originally broadcast on KRCG Channel 13 (Columbia - on May 17, 2011
Click here for original link
By Mark Slavit

BOONVILLE, MO. -- By a vote of 7 to 1, Boonville City Council Members approved a transfer of ownership of the historic Katy Railroad Bridge from Union Pacific to the City of Boonville.

An amendment to the ownership agreement will not allow any city tax dollars to pay for the restoration of the 79-year-old Boonville Bridge over the Missouri River.

A non-profit organization called the “Save the Katy Bridge Coalition” has been raising money to preserve the bridge and make it a part of the Katy Trail State Park.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Missouri Stream Team newsletter: Channels - May & June

The latest issue of Channels, the Missouri Stream Team newsletter, is out on the web for May - June.

There's a really great story about the Arnold Stream Team "Mighty 211". These folks help us on Missouri River cleanups whenever they can. Chop saws, tire trailers and cleanup know-how - they bring it all and make it happen across the state.

There's also a great story about Pat Jones. She's a one-woman force for conservation funding in the state, and helps Missouri Stream Team as well as Missouri River Relief.

Thanks Pat!

Click here to check out the Channels e-newsletter:


Click here to download the whole issue:

Saturday, May 14, 2011

High water creating a variety of problems

Originally published in Bismark Tribune on May 13, 2011
Click here for original link. 
by Brian Gehring and Leanne Eckroth

With the latest forecast for the Missouri River to rise another 2 feet and remain there for the summer, some are planning to do what they can to lessen the impact. Some have already felt it.

Tracy Potter, executive director of Fort Lincoln Foundation, operators of the Lewis and Clark riverboat, said the group is already down about $8,000 from lost charters even before the unofficial Memorial Day weekend opener.

Potter said the month of May is normally a busy time with school groups and other charters, but with the weather and the river conditions, most have canceled.

As for the rest of the season, "It's scary," Potter said. "As a non-profit organization, we already live on the edge of the break-even point."

The riverboat attracts about 15,000 passengers a season, Potter said.

Big Muddy/Clean Water awarded $5,000 grant

Originally published in Associated Baptist Press on May 13, 2001
Click here for original link
by Bob Allen.

LIBERTY, Mo. (ABP) -- Big Muddy/Clean Water, a campaign to raise money for clean water in Ethiopia connected to the Missouri River 340 race, recently received a $5,000 grant by the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Missouri. The grant will be used to promote the effort as well as adding to the project’s fundraising goal of $20,000.

Josh Arnone and Jason Nazario, both from Columbia, Mo., are competing in the July 22-25 race to raise awareness of the need for sustainable and healthy water sources in Ethiopia, as well as to raise money to build water wells through Water is Life International, a 501(c)3 dedicated to providing access to clean water. More than 59 million people in that country do not have access to safe water and live on less than $2 a day.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Volunteers Cleanup River Trash

This article was originally published in the Omaha World-Herald on May 1, 2011
By Rick Ruggles
Click here to view article.

Siouxland Students Learn Importance of Missouri River

(blogmaster's note: This story includes a really great video clip. Although this story was run in Sioux City, it covers the Yankton Missouri River Watershed Festival, an annual event drawing Yankton area students to the river to learn from experts. Missouri River Relief's Vicki Richmond was the keynote speaker and talked to students at her booth. Oddly enough, the story mentions the Yankton clean-up on May 7 but didn't mention the clean-up we were doing in Sioux City that same day. )

Originally broadcast May 6, 2011 on KMEG Channel 14 in Sioux City, IA
Click here for original link and to view video. 
Click here to view video on YouTube.
reported by Jacob Heller

(YANKTON, SD) It's one of Siouxland's sources of life, and Friday hundreds of hometown students were learning all about it.

It's something we may take for granted, but the Missouri River impacts nearly every aspect of life, from the water we drink to the food we eat.

Nearly 400 students swarmed Riverside Park in Yankton, South Dakota, Friday, for the 3rd annual "Missouri River Watershed School Festival."

It's a chance for Siouxland students to get a new perspective on a major part of the landscape that may not be quite as "mighty" as the name suggests.

Dept. of Emergency Services Meeting Closed to Public

 (blogmaster's note - this story published in the Bismark Tribune is referring to planning meetings regarded anticipated increases in dam releases due to a revised forecast of mountain runoff by the Corps of Engineers)

Originally published on May 12, 2011 in the Bismark Tribune
Click here for original link
By Brian Gehring

A meeting with seven national, state and local agencies Thursday to discuss high flows on the Missouri River and future projections for the river was structured in way that it was closed to the public.

A Bismarck Tribune reporter and photographer as well as a representative from Sen. Kent Conrad's office were denied access to the meeting that took place at the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services office at Fraine Barracks.

Greg Wilz, director of the division of homeland security for the department of emergency services, told the Tribune the meeting was for planning purposes only and not an "emergency meeting."

Lament of a River Town

(blogmaster's note: This great piece from the Yankton Press-Dakotan imagines what Yankton would be like in a year like this if there was no dam just upstream. We can all imagine what the Mississippi River flood might be like if there were no dams as well.)

Originally published on May 13, 2011 in the Yankton Press-Dakotan
Click here for original link
By Kelly Hertz

At least the kids were having a good time.

That’s what the man thought as he watched his young daughter and her friends, who had walked with him down to the river and now decided to stomp merrily through the mire covering Yankton’s Riverside Park on this gray spring day. The river had receded enough to let the kids play on the old vacant grounds. He kept close watch to be sure the youngsters never, ever got close to the rim of the water, which was still lapping across part of the park. He knew if they got into the clutches of that dark, swirling river, there was no telling what might happen.

He was sitting on a small hill of filled, dirty sandbags. They had been placed around Levee Street near Douglas earlier in the spring when the Missouri River waters were rising fast. The bags held, mostly. Fortunately, the river didn’t jam up with ice downstream; if it had, the bags might not have done the job.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

High River Levels Not Helping Local Boating Businesses

Originally published on May 10, 2011 in the Sioux City Journal
The high water level on the Missouri River is causing problems for some local businesses.

With all of this beautiful weather its finally boating season but on the contrary it's also flooding season where all the rivers in our area are above average which isn't savvy for some boating businesses.

Boating season is finally here for most of us. But for the Missouri River Boat Club the docks are still ashore and the boats are dry.

2011 Siouxland Clean-up News Articles and Video

(blogmaster's note: Following are news articles and video clips about our May 7, 2011 Missouri River Clean-up in the tri-state Siouxland area. For more info on this clean-up event, visit: 
River clean-up yields kilo of cocaine, police believe

Originally published on May 8, 2011, in the Sioux City Journal
Click here for original link. 
by Michelle Linck

SOUTH SIOUX CITY - A block of white powder that appears to be cocaine or another illicit drug was no doubt the most unusual item found Saturday by volunteers pulling junk out of the Missouri River and off of its banks.

Sally Reinert, local coordinator of the annual Missouri River Clean-Up, said the South Sioux City police told her they believe the white "brick" discovered near the old Floyd River channel, is cocaine.

Sgt. Chris Chernock said a couple hours later that officers took the brick to the department's evidence room where they field-tested it for heroine, cocaine, methamphetamine - anything they could - but it didn't test positive for any of them. He said it could have been out in the weather too long for field testing, which isn't very sophisticated.

"We definitely believe it's some kind of illicit substance," Chernock said. "It's 2.9 pounds, and is wrapped repeatedly in layers of silver duct tape."

Chernock said a kilo, the usual way large quantities of illegal drugs are packaged, is 2.2 pounds and is typically wrapped in a clear membrane, as this brick was. The difference could be the weight of the duct tape, he said.

Chernock said South Sioux City police were called because the event was staged on that side of the river, but the brick was found near the old Floyd River channel in Sioux City. Sioux City police directed South Sioux to keep custody and continue their investigation. Police could only speculate that it may have been jettisoned from a vehicle going over the channel, fleeing police.

That "junk" was found at about 2:30 p.m. Unfortunately for the volunteer who found it, the "Most Unusual Find" contest had already closed, Reinert joked.

The winning "Most Unusual Find" was not something found every year, either. Reinert said a young man had found the full skeletal remains of a dog, complete with collar and tags.

"I'm going to call the owners," she said, "as soon as I can figure out what to say."

Reinert said about 85 volunteers showed up for the annual river clean-up event. She figured they had pulled about five tons of old tires and other junk from the river. "That's more than they got in Omaha," she said of that area's recent river clean-up.

Reinert said the amount of garbage pulled from the river is indicative of the number of volunteers.

State Steel will take all the metal and the rest of the items will go to L.P. Gill Landfill in Jackson, Neb., including the dozens of tires, which will be shredded and recycled.

Mighty Mo Gets a Spring Cleaning
Originally run on KTIV Channel 4 Sioux City, IA on May 7, 2011
Click here for original link.

Siouxland Missouri River Cleanup
Originally run on KMEG Channel 14 - Sioux City, IA
Click here for original link

‘Sensational’ runoff

Hydrologist: Runoff should be record-setting
Originally published on May 10, 2011 in the Minot Daily News

Click here for original link. 
by Kim Fundingsland

(blogmaster's note: for a more downstream perspective, check out this link from the Omaha World-Herald:

RIVERDALE - The numbers are nothing short of staggering. In a spring where there seems to be too much water in virtually every drainage system, why should the largest reservoir in the Missouri River system be left out? The answer is, it won't be.

The volume of water expected to enter the Yellowstone and Missouri Rivers and, eventually Lake Sakakawea, will almost certainly flow right through the record books. Even with a record amount of snowfall still sitting in the mountains of Montana, and Lake Sakakawea sitting several feet higher than it was a year ago, another major storm is poised to impact Montana and further influence a massive runoff.

Friday, May 6, 2011

City panel considers Katy Bridge liability, agreement

 Originally published in Boonville Daily News on May 3, 2011
Click here for original link. 
by Sananda Sahoo

Boonville, MO - City Council members and a panel of legal and insurance experts discussed potential liabilities for the city if it acquired the Katy Bridge, in a work session Monday night.

Increase in barge traffic on the Missouri River since last year, and a navigable waterway meant the city needed to look closely at legal aspects of operating a park on the bridge.

The council members and the experts discussed legal, contractual and criminal liabilities, as well as ways to minimize the risks. They also deliberated on earthquake insurance and on a councilman's recommendation to have a second attorney besides city counselor Megan McGuire look into the liabilities of the bridge.

High Missouri Dam Releases Could Hurt Fisheries

Originally published in the Dickinson Press on May 6, 2011
Click here for original link
by Associated Press

Fishery managers in North Dakota and South Dakota are nervous about anticipated high water releases from upstream dams on the Missouri River this summer.

The Army Corps of Engineers has said this could be a year of record runoff into the river system that stretches from the mountains in Montana to Missouri, where it empties into the Mississippi River. The Fort Peck, Lake Sakakawea and Lake Oahe upper basin reservoirs are all but full, and dam releases this summer are expected to be higher than they have been in 14 years, The Bismarck Tribune reported.

Fisheries officials in the Dakotas are worried about the effect on rainbow smelt, a main food for game fish such as walleye, when summer releases hit the projected range of 49,000-54,000 cubic feet per second.