Drought won’t let up over Missouri basin

Drought won't let up over Missouri basin Drought conditions persist over much of the Missouri River basin, resulting in lower than normal winter releases from the reservoirs.

"November's runoff above Sioux City, IA was only 76 percent of normal," said Larry Cieslik, chief of the Missouri River Basin Water Management Division in Omaha, NE. "We are forecasting this year's runoff at 16 million acre-feet (MAF)," he said. "This would be the 10th lowest runoff since 1898." Normal is 25.2 MAF.

System storage ended November at 43.2 MAF, down 900,000 acre feet during the month. Last year at this time it was 49.3 MAF. "Drought has cut the amount of water stored in the reservoirs to nearly 13 MAF below average," said Cieslik.

Gavins Point releases were cut from 26,500 cubic feet per second (cfs) starting late in November, signaling the end of the navigation season. They reached 13,000 cfs on Nov. 28.

"We'll maintain that rate this winter as part of continued drought conservation measures," said Cieslik. "We will increase releases if severe cold weather creates ice build-ups on the river, just as we did the last two winters."

Moderate temperatures could allow releases lower than 13,000 cfs, without causing water supply problems to municipal and powerplant intakes. Gavins Point releases averaged 13,400 and 13,600 cfs last January and February, respectively.

As of Dec. 2, the mountain snowpack was 61 percent of normal in the reach above Fort Peck and 79 percent in the reach from Fort Peck to Garrison.

Lewis and Clark Lake, which is near elevation 1208 feet above mean sea level (msl), will gradually lower to elevation 1207.5 feet msl during December. It will remain at that level through the winter.

Fort Randall releases averaged 22,900 cfs in October. They will range from 11,000 to 13,000 cfs as needed to maintain the level of Lewis and Clark Lake. Lake Francis Case ended the month at elevation 1339 feet msl. It will begin to refill in December, ending the month near elevation 1341 feet msl.

Lake Oahe dropped nearly two feet during November, ending the month at elevation 1583.4 feet msl. It will climb nearly two feet during December, ending the month 17 feet below normal. The lake is 16 feet lower than last year at this time.

Garrison releases averaged 18,000 cfs during November. In early November, releases were increased from 14,000 cfs to 18,000 cfs. Near the end of the month they were increased to 20,000 cfs where they will remain through December. Lake Sakakawea ended November at 1824.6 feet msl. It will drop nearly two feet in December, ending the month 14 feet below normal. The lake is six feet lower than last year at this time.

Fort Peck releases averaged 5,600 cfs during November. They were increased to 9,000 cfs in late November, and then to 10,000 cfs on Dec. 4. The lake ended the month at elevation 2216.8 feet msl. It will drop nearly two feet during December. Last year at this time it was three feet higher.

The six main stem powerplants generated 643 million kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity in November, 73 percent of normal. The forecast for 2002 energy production is 7.5 billion kWh compared to a normal of 10.2 billion kWh.

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