The United States Army Corps of Engineers is shifting its focus from drought conservation to flood risk control. Officials are slowing the amount of water that flows through a Yankton dam and keeping higher levels of storage in the state to try to prevent flooding downstream.
Recent thunderstorms have brought rain to states along the Missouri River, and it’s enough runoff for the US Army Corps of Engineers to increase attention to its purpose of managing flood risk. Jody Farhat is chief of the Missouri River Basin Water Management Division.
“The water flowing into the reservoirs has greatly increased during the past six weeks, so we’re seeing all of the mainstem reservoirs, including Oahe in South Dakota and Fort Randall, rise higher than we had previously forecasted," Farhat says. "The other particular reduced the releases from Gavins Point."
Farhat says the dam at Yankton was letting 28,000 cubic feet per second through. The Army Corps scaled back and cycled amounts through the dam to ease flood risk downstream and support bird habitats. Now authorities are releasing a flat 24,000 cubic feet of water per second through Gavins Point.
Farhat says storing more water in the upper basins through the summer does not pose a flood risk right now. She says the Missouri River will rise about two feet in those areas, but that’s roughly the water level seen last fall. Farhat says the Army Corps is monitoring conditions and plans to shift strategies again if circumstances change.