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Army engineers: Increased Missouri runoff in June, but drought persists

The intake structure for the power plant on Lake Oahe.
The Oahe Dam near Pierre

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers saysit will continue water conservation efforts in the Missouri River Basin through 2022 amid continuing dry conditions.

Melting snow and thunderstorms over the Yellowstone River led to increased runoff in June. However, water levels in the Missouri River system are expected to remain low.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers manages several reservoirs along the Missouri river
Missouri River Water Management Division
U. S. Army Corps of Engineers
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers manages several reservoirs along the Missouri river.

“The remaining months in the calendar year are forecasted to be below average,” said Army Engineer Ryan Larson. “Drought conditions persist over portions of the basin, and the climate outlooks do not show strong indications for above-normal precipitation.”

If the corps’ predictions are accurate, Larson says, “This runoff amount will be near a lower quartile runoff, or the 35th driest in the historical record.”

The Army Corps manages reservoirs along the river. Engineers release water to control flooding, power hydroelectric dams and support boats navigating the river. To conserve water, the Corps has been minimizing the amount released for transportation. The increased June runoff means the Corps can slightly increase the amount above the required minimum.

John Remus oversees management of the Missouri River basin. He says there is no risk of a water shortage.

“There is presently, and will be, adequate water in the reservoirs,” Remus said.

This is the third year of drought in the Missouri River Basin. Remus says in addition to minimizing transportation support, the corps will also minimize releases this winter.

Slater Dixon is a junior at Augustana University studying Government and Data Science. He was born in Sioux Falls and is based out of SDPB's Sioux Falls studio.