Corps: Prepare for high water

Clay County officials are alerting residents along the Missouri River to prepare for significantly higher water levels as the Corps of Engineers increases releases from the dams.

This map from the U.S. Corps of Engineers shows the estimated flood depths of the Missouri River in the immediate Vermillion area after water releases from Gavins Point Dam in Yankton are increased to 150,000 cubic feet per second. Inundation estimates are represented by color: Brown is over 10 feet, light brown is 8 to 10 feet, yellow is 6 to 8 feet, green is 4 to 6 feet, blue is two to four feet and purple is up to 2 feet. Vermillions airport, Harold Davidson Field, is located in the upper right. (Graphic by U.S. Corps of Engineers)

The Clay County Commission has issued a state of emergency and has opened the county Emergency Operations Center (EOC) effective Sunday, May 29, to assure a coordinated response to the increased flows on the river.

Winter snowmelt and spring rains have raised some of the Missouri River reservoirs to record levels. Releases from Gavins Point Dam in Yankton will reach record levels by mid-June.

The release will be at 85,000 cfs on June 2, 130,000 on June 7 and 150,000 by mid-June.

The Clay County Office of Emergency Management is coordinating preparation and response to the higher water levels with local, state agencies and the Corps of Engineers.

Residents along the river are urged to take basic precautions to protect themselves and their property from flooding and bank erosion, which will cause large portions of property including homes to fall into the river.

Those steps include:

Safeguard your possessions. Put copies of insurance policies, financial records and other critical documents in a waterproof container, along with an inventory of major household items.

Make sure the sump pump is working and consider a battery-operated backup. Consider adding a sewer plug to your system.

If possible, move furniture and valuable items such as photo albums and family keepsakes to a safe place.

Be prepared to evacuate your residence if the situation worsens.

For more information, visit

Last weekend, Gov. Daugaard warned residents along the downstream areas of the Missouri River in South Dakota to be prepared for rising water levels over the next few days, weeks and possibly months.

Record flows into the river from Montana through South Dakota are forcing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to increase releases from the mainstem dams. Those increased releases will raise water levels not only below the Oahe Dam, but also below the Big Bend Dam, Ft. Randall Dam, and Gavins Point Dam.

This flood we are in is affecting people along the Missouri River from border to border, Daugaard said. While the public attention is focused on the intense efforts in the Pierre and Fort Pierre areas, the record flows will cause the same kinds of problems downstream. This isnt a case of whether downstream residents will be hit with this. They will be, and the better informed and better prepared they are to protect themselves and their communities, the better all of us will get through this.

The governor is urging residents to check maps to see if they are in the affected areas and begin making preparations immediately to protect lives and property from the anticipated flooding, which will exceed the 100-year flood limits. Maps showing the 100-year flood line are available on

The states response this week has included the construction of emergency levees in Pierre and Fort Pierre, and the transport of 350,000 sandbags each to Yankton and Union County.

Department of Corrections inmates were sent to Yankton and Dakota Dunes areas to help with sandbagging operations on Sunday, May 29, and 500 South Dakota National Guard members have been activated, and all available SDNG units in the state have been put on alert.

Federal assistance

Governor Dennis Daugaard announced Tuesday that Clay County and three other South Dakota counties dealing with Missouri River flooding will receive direct federal assistance for emergency protective measures.

Stanley, Yankton, Clay and Union counties face serious flooding because of record high flows on the Missouri River through South Dakota. The direct federal assistance approved on Tuesday will allow FEMA to provide federal resources that might not otherwise be available to the counties.

We appreciate the quick action on our request to help these four counties as their communities fight to protect their citizens and property from this record river flooding, Gov. Daugaard said. These counties will be able to receive from FEMA essential resources in this flood fight.

Guardsmen pitch in

The South Dakota National Guard mobilized approximately 200 airmen and soldiers to the Dakota Dunes community Tuesday to supplement efforts in thwarting rising floodwaters.

They will be heavily involved in sandbagging operations much like they remain in the Pierre/Fort Pierre communities.

We will be showing up at the locations where the communities and volunteers have already been working, said Maj. Gen. Timothy Reisch, adjutant general of the South Dakota National Guard. Much the same as Pierre and Fort Pierre the community has already been sandbagging for a number of days.

Gov. Daugaard advised residents to have their possessions moved, homes secured and be out of those homes by late Thursday, June 2. They should expect to be away from their homes for as much as two months because elevated releases of water from the mainstem dams will continue for several weeks.

Every property owner in Dakota Dunes should assume the worst that protective measures will be impossible or will fail and should act now to remove their possessions and secure their homes, said Daugaard.

Over the past several days, the Corps of Engineers dramatically increased its calculation of water releases required from the mainstem dams on the Missouri River. The Corps believes that this increased water release is necessary to avoid overtopping of the spillways.

The South Dakota National Guard continues to work flooding operations in the Pierre/Fort Pierre area.

We had a great day yesterday (Monday), said Reisch in a press release issued by the South Dakota National Guard. The output of the Guard has been noticeably increased to its highest level. The influx of more than 200 airmen has an impact on what we are able to accomplish in Pierre and Fort Pierre.

The Guard continues filling sandbags for the community to utilize in protecting their property. Construction of a levee near the Ramkota in Pierre began Monday and was completed Wednesday.

I am very proud of the way the National Guard has responded to this emergency and particularly happy with the way the Air Guard and Army Guard have been working shoulder to shoulder, Reisch said. Thats what the people of South Dakota expect.

Flooding impacts recreation

Record releases of water from Oahe Dam have impacted boating and other outdoor recreation in several areas along the Missouri River.

The following portions of the Missouri River within South Dakota have been declared as No Wake Zones:

From the Bad River to Oahe Dam, near Pierre.

Below Gavins Point Dam, from Paddlewheel Point upstream to a line stretching from the electronic sign placed near the boat ramp in at the Nebraska Tailwaters Recreation Area to a similar sign on the Training Dike Recreation Area. At the point of the electronic signs, the river is closed to boating.

A 15-mile portion of the lower reach of the Missouri River near Dakota Dunes, beginning at the confluence of Big Sioux River (River Mile Marker 734) then upstream to the Rosenbaum Boat Landing (River Mile Marker 749).

The No Wake Zone orders will be in effect until rescinded by the governor.

Boaters are being asked to use extreme caution when out on the water. Even if a posted no wake zone area is not present, boaters need to operate their vessels in a manner that is reasonable for the time, place and rapidly changing conditions. Even if debris is not visible, other dangers may be present.

Boaters, campers and others who plan to use the Missouri River for recreation are advised to call ahead to check the status of campgrounds, boat ramps and other facilities at their planned destination.

Information on individual parks can be found on each park's webpage on

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