County readies for record river flows

Throughout history, the Missouri River has proven to be unpredictable in the Vermillion area.

With record releases scheduled to begin soon from Gavins Point Dam at Yankton, Layne Stewart, Clay County�s emergency management director, knows one thing for certain: the river will be covering new ground in Clay County.

An inundation map released this week by the U.S. Corps of Engineers shows that it is estimated that flood levels in the river channel will exceed 10 feet once 150,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) is released from Gavins Point Dam.

That means water will flow beyond the river�s banks. The Corps� map shows water covering areas of cropland, grassland and wooded areas along the Missouri south of Vermillion.

Releases at Gavins Point Dam reached 78,000 cfs Tuesday, sending torrents of water downstream as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers work to create storage room in the upstream dams. Record flooding in the upper basin is creating flooding problems in the Dakotas, Nebraska and Iowa. The releases at Gavins Point Dam are expected to hit 150,000 cfs by mid-June.

�They (the Corps) are expecting, in the channel, greater than 10-foot of flood depth. That would be compared to a normal year. It does not mean that the river is going to be 10 feet higher than it is today,� Stewart said.

As of 2 p.m. Wednesday, the river depth near the Newcastle-Vermillion Bridge was 27.4 feet. Flood stage in that area is 30 feet.

�Our stance is that every residence along the river may be affected in one way or the other � whether it�s the Ponderosa, the mouth, the Boat Club, High Lines � there is an opportunity, a chance, that everyone will be affected to some degree,� Stewart said.

Much of the focus this week has been on the communities of Pierre, Fort Pierre and Dakota Dunes, which early on have been experiencing the most flooding.

Assistance is available locally in the form of a stockpile of sand and sandbags which has been available at the Clay County Public Safety Center, located near the courthouse in Vermillion. Stewart said individual property owners affected by flooding may eventually be able to receive some relief from FEMA. �Right now, things still aren�t at that point for our county,� he said.

Volunteers from the University of South Dakota have been busy this week filling sandbags at the safety center. �This afternoon (Wednesday) university employees have begun to fill mass amounts of sandbags, and we�re hoping to have a stockpile of them,� he said. �If there�s isn�t a stockpile, at least the supplies will be here and people will be able to fill them on their own.�

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