Dry conditions force reservoir conservation

Dry conditions force reservoir conservation Dry conditions persist across much of the Missouri River basin. Releases from the reservoirs continue to be reduced as part of water conservation measures.

"Gavins Point releases averaged a record low of 14,100 cubic feet per second (cfs) in October. They were reduced from 23,500 to 12,000 cfs early in the month as the navigation season ended," said Larry Cieslik, chief of the Missouri River Water Management Division. "We are proceeding with caution as we further reduce releases," he said. They are being cut 500 cfs every five or six days, and will reach 9,000 cfs on Nov. 15.

Gavins Point releases of 9,000 cfs will be maintained as long as weather conditions permit. "They will likely be increased to 12,000 cfs in December as cold temperatures move in, which can increase ice formation on the river," said Cieslik. The initial formation of ice cover on the Missouri or its tributaries can reduce the amount of water flowing in the river and creates a temporarily reduction in river stages. If the ice cover restricts or even blocks river flow, more severe reductions in stages can occur. Conversely, if temperatures moderate for extended periods this winter, and ice formation is not actively taking place, releases may be set lower than 12,000 cfs to conserve water in the reservoirs. Gavins Point releases averaged 16,100 and 13,700 cfs last January and February, respectively.

The current runoff forecast for 2004 is 16.5 million acre feet (MAF), compared to a normal of 25.2 MAF. Runoff above Sioux City, IA, in October was 1.1 MAF.

System storage ended October at 35.7 MAF, down only 100,000 acre feet for the month. Last year at this time it was 40 MAF. The amount of water currently stored in the reservoirs is nearly 21 MAF below average.

Gavins Point reservoir will remain near elevation 1207 feet msl during November.

For Randall releases averaged a record low 12,000 cfs in October. They will range from 7,000 to 8,000 cfs during November as necessary to maintain the level of Gavins Point reservoir. Fort Randall ended October at 1339 feet msl. The reservoir continues its annual drawdown in November, ending the month near elevation 1338 feet msl. The drawdown occurred sooner than in previous years due to the shortening of the navigation season. It will begin to refill in December, ending the month near 1341 feet msl.

Oahe reservoir rose more than one foot in October ending the month at elevation 1574.8 feet msl. It will rise two feet in November, ending the month 24 feet below average. The reservoir is three feet lower than last year at this time.

Garrison releases averaged 11,500 cfs during October. They will remain at that rate until mid-November and then gradually increase to 15,000 cfs by the end of the month. Garrison fell slightly during October, ending the month at elevation 1813.1 feet msl. It will drop nearly a foot in November, ending the month 25 feet below average. The reservoir is seven feet lower than last year at this time.

Fort Peck releases averaged 4,100 cfs in October. They will remain near that rate until late November and then be increased to 5,500 cfs. The reservoir remained nearly steady during October, ending the month at elevation 2199.8 feet msl. It will drop slightly during November, ending the month 34 feet below average. Last year at this time it was 10 feet higher.

The six main stem power plants generated a record low 310 million kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity in October, 36 percent of normal. The forecast for 2004 energy production is 6.5 billion kWh, compared to a normal of 10 billion kWh.

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