Army Corps braces for possibility of renewed flooding

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Gavins Point Dam

By BRENT MARTIN

St. Joseph Post

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
officials acknowledge they are having trouble getting rid of all the excess
water in upstream Missouri River reservoirs, increasing the possibility of
renewed flooding this spring.

The Corps has increased water
releases from Gavins Point Dam to 30,000 cubic feet per second, far above
normal winter releases of 12-to-17,000 cfs, to lower the level of the six
upstream Missouri River reservoirs in preparation for anticipated runoff this
spring.

National Weather Service
hydrologist Kevin Low tells those listening on a Corps conference call that last
year the area experienced a near record runoff.

“Water year 2019, which ran
from October 2018 through September 2019, was the second wettest water year in
the 124 years of records, only outdone by 1993,” according to Low.

Abnormally high precipitation continued
through the end of the year, Low says, with above normal precipitation continued
across much of Montana and the Dakotas.

Missouri River levels in St.
Joseph reached record highs this year at 32.07 feet, just barely higher than
the historic flood of 1993. In late June of 2011, the Missouri River reached
29.97 feet at St. Joseph.

The Missouri River flooded over
a wide area of southeast Nebraska, southwest Iowa, and northwest Missouri in
mid-March of last year. Heavy rain in the upper Missouri River basin along with
local rains created further flooding in late May.

Low says there is a high
probability of renewed flooding this spring.

“Given the soil moisture
conditions, due to a very wet 2019, our latest 90-day river outlooks that were
issued the last week of December do indicate that there remains a high
probability for continued or renewed flooding along several of the tributaries
to the Missouri River during January, February, and March, the next 90 days,”
Low says, adding there is a 50-50 chance of at least minor flooding along the
Missouri River itself below Nebraska City this spring.

John Remus, Missouri River
Water Management office chief, says near-record runoff last year combined with
anticipated high runoff this year could lead to more flooding this spring.

“A large runoff does not
necessarily mean flooding,” Remus says. “As I mentioned earlier, the volume,
timing, and location in which runoff occurs is important. However, there is an
increased potential for high flows and higher than average releases and people
need to be aware of this.”

Even as the Corps keeps a close
eye on the potential risk for flooding along the Missouri River, it continues
to work with contractors to repair levees damaged by last year’s floods.