Drought means lower reservoir levels

Drought means lower reservoir levels Persistent drought throughout the Missouri River basin means lower reservoir levels and reduced flows this year as runoff remains low and snowpack accumulation continues below normal.

"The shortage of runoff this year will make it difficult to maintain steady to rising pools in the upper three reservoirs during the forage fish spawn this spring," said Brig. Gen. David Fastabend, Northwestern Division Engineer. "I have requested a recommendation from Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota on how we might best regulate the system during the spawn. If we cannot develop a coordinated position among those states, then I anticipate balancing the impact across the three big reservoirs," said General Fastabend.

Runoff above Sioux City in February was 700,000 acre feet, only 65 percent of normal. As of March 4, the mountain snowpack was 83 percent of normal in the reach above Fort Peck and 89 percent in the reach from Fort Peck to Garrison, essentially the Yellowstone River basin. Dry conditions persist in most of the Missouri basin with very little snow on the plains. Normally, 80 percent of the snow in the mountains is accumulated by early March.

With below normal mountain snow and normal precipitation the rest of the year, the forecasted annual runoff is 19.5 million acre feet (MAF). Normal is 25.2 MAF.

Support for the 2003 navigation season will begin April 1 at the mouth near St. Louis. River flows will be at minimum service levels. Under the most likely runoff scenario, the navigation season will be shortened six days to make up for the additional water released this winter for downstream water supply. The 2002-2003 Final Annual Operating Plan published in late January presented an estimated five day shortening based on Dec. 1, 2002 forecast data. The actual water data for March 1, 2002 thru Feb. 28 resulted in the six day shortening. A final determination of the navigation season length will be made after the water-in-storage check on July 1.

Opening dates are: Sioux City, IA, March 23; Omaha, NE, March 25; Nebraska City NE, March 26; Kansas City, MO, March 28; and Mouth at St. Louis, MO, April 1.

Three public meetings to review the 2003 Annual Operating Plan will be held next month. The first will be April 7 in Kansas City, MO at the Hilton Kansas City Airport, 8801 NW 112 Street. the second will be April 8 at the Best Western Kelley Inn, Yankton, 1607 E. Hwy. 50. The third will be April 10 in Nebraska City, NE, at Steinhart Lodge, Steinhart Park Road. All the meetings will start at 7 p.m.

System storage ended February at 42.4 MAF, up 100,000 acre-feet during the month. Last February it was 48.7 MAF. The amount of water stored in the reservoirs is currently 13 MAF below average.

Releases from Gavins Point averaged 13,300 cubic feet per second (cfs) in February, compared to an average of 18,300 cfs. They ranged from 13,000 cfs to 15,000 cfs based on weather and river ice conditions.

"We are setting releases as low as possible this winter to meet drinking water and powerplant needs while conserving water in the reservoirs. We will continue to monitor weather and river conditions to assure adequate water supply along the river," said Fastabend.

Lewis and Clark Lake will remain near its current elevation of 1206 feet msl during March.

Fort Randall releases averaged 11,000 cfs in February. They will range from 10,000 to 13,000 cfs as needed to maintain the level of Lewis and Clark Lake. Lake Francis Case ended the month at elevation 1349.8 feet msl. It will continue to refill in March, ending the month near 1355 feet msl.

Lake Oahe rose nearly two feet during February, ending the month at elevation 1587.2 feet msl. It will climb one foot during February, ending the month 18 feet below normal. The lake is 12 feet lower than last year at this time.

Garrison releases averaged 22,300 cfs during February. They were gradually increased from 20,000 cfs to 23,000 cfs during the month. In March, releases will be gradually reduced to 12,000 cfs as river conditions permit. Lake Sakakawea ended February at 1819.6 feet msl. It will drop less than a foot during March, ending the month 16 feet below normal. The lake is eight feet lower than last year at this time.

Fort Peck releases averaged 10,100 cfs during February. They will be gradually reduced to 4,000 cfs in March. The lake ended the month at elevation 2211 feet msl. It will remain near its current elevation in March, ending the month 21 feet below normal. Last year at this time it was eight feet higher.

The six main stem powerplants generated 506 million kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity in February, 76 percent of normal. The forecast for 2003 energy production is 7.5 billion kWh compared to a normal of 10 billion kWh.

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