Drought plagues river basin

Drought plagues river basin Drought continues to plague the Missouri River basin. June's runoff above Sioux City, IA was only 4.4 million acre-feet (MAF), 82 percent normal.

"Although conditions are somewhat better than last year, our annual runoff forecast above Sioux City is still only 20 MAF, compared to a normal of 25.2 MAF," said Larry Cieslik, chief of the Missouri River Basin Water Management Division in Omaha. Through June, runoff totaled 12.9 MAF, compared to 9.9 MAF last year.

"Localized rains during June allowed releases from Gavins Point to remain at 26,000 cfs," said Cieslik. Releases were set at that rate in late April, as part of the plan agreed to by the Corps and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regarding operation of the reservoirs during the nesting season of the protected interior least terns and piping plovers.

"Under our agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, releases will remain steady until increases are needed to meet downstream flow targets. Without additional rainfall in the next two weeks, we may have to increase Gavins Point releases above 26,000 cfs to meet flow targets from Nebraska City to Kansas City due to falling tributary flows," said Cieslik.

Because the reservoirs are low, river flows remain at minimal service levels, in accordance with the current master manual. The navigation season will be shortened six days to make up for the additional water released last winter for the downstream water intakes.

Mountain snowpack is nearly melted and will continue to come into reservoirs over the next two weeks. "Runoff from the snowpack helped increase storage by 1.2 MAF during June," said Cieslik. System storage ended June at 45.1 MAF. Last year at this time it was 48.8 MAF. The amount of water currently stored in the reservoirs is nearly 16 MAF below average.

Lewis and Clark Lake will gradually drop to elevation 1206 feet msl during July.

Fort Randall releases averaged 24,400 cfs in June. In July, they will range from 24,000 to 26,000 cfs as needed to maintain the level of Lewis and Clark Lake. Lake Francis Case ended the month at 1352.8 feet msl, the lowest level ever recorded for the end of June. It will gradually rise, ending the month near elevation 1355 feet msl.

Lake Oahe dropped more than a foot during June, ending the month at elevation 1587.4 feet msl. Because of diminished inflow, it will drop more than two feet during July, ending the month 22 feet below normal. The reservoir is five feet lower than last year at this time.

Garrison releases averaged 21,300 cfs during June. They will be limited to 21,500 cfs during July and August to protect tern and plover nests below the dam. They will drop to 13,000 cfs in September. Lake Sakakawea climbed more than four feet during June, ending the month at 1827 feet msl. It will drop less than one foot during July, ending the month nearly 16 feet below normal. The lake is four feet lower than last year at this time.

Fort Peck releases were cut from 9,000 cfs to 8,500 cfs on June 18, and then to 8,000 cfs on July 3. They will remain at 8,000 cfs during the summer. The lake gained less than one foot in June, ending the month 25 feet below normal. Last year at this time it was six feet higher.

The six main stem powerplants generated 760 million kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity in June, 85 percent of normal. The forecast for 2003 energy production is 7.6 billion kWh compared to a normal of 10 billion kWh.

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