Corps ready to reveal long-term water plans

Gavins Point Dam near Yankton continues to pump out Missouri River floodwater at a historic 160,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) the old record was 70,000 cfs in 1997. However, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will announce its long-term plans Friday and start its drawdown of releases this weekend. (P&D FILE PHOTO)

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will reveal this week its strategy for moving flood water during the next two months.

The move was announced during a media briefing Monday by Jody Farhat, chief of the Missouri River Basin water management office in Omaha, NE.

On Friday, we plan an announcement for the reservoirs. That will include further releases for each dam, she said. We will extend that forecast and also talk about releases through the month of August and September.

The Corps has felt the need to maintain gradual drawdowns throughout the mainstem dam system, Farhat said.

The reservoirs are falling nicely, but theres still a very large volume of water to get rid of this year, she said. When that (water evacuation) plan comes out later this week, folks will have a good indication of how we will do that.

In the meantime, the Corps is proceeding with its previously announced drawdown at Gavins Point Dam near Yankton, which currently runs at 160,000 cubic feet per second (cfs), Farhat said.

We are cutting Gavins Point to 155,000 cfs on Saturday and Sunday and to 150,000 cfs on Monday, she said.

Fort Randall Dam near Pickstown has seen its releases increased in recent days from 156,000 cfs to 157,000 cfs and eventually to the current 159,000 cfs, Farhat said.

Fort Randalls gradual increase has produced results, she said, with the reservoir falling 3/10 to 4/10 foot per day.

The Corps has seen progress throughout the mainstem dams, as the elevations are dropping, Farhat said.

Fort Peck, MT, releases stood at 35,000 cfs on Monday, and the reservoir is falling a half-foot a day.

Garrison, ND, was reduced Monday morning from 120,000 cfs to 115,000 cfs. The reservoir is falling 1/10 to 2/10 foot per day.

Oahe and Big Bend releases remain at 140,000 cfs, with Oahes reservoir falling 1/10 foot per day.

The National Weather Service forecast for southeast South Dakota calls for a 30 percent chance of thunderstorms from Tuesday night through Thursday night, then a 20 percent chance on Friday night.

The forecast calls for temperatures in the low 90s Tuesday and Wednesday before falling to the mid-80s Thursday and Friday.

While the focus remains on a flood fight, South Dakota officials are gearing up for clean-up and other flood recovery action.

During last weeks visit to Yankton, Gov. Dennis Daugaard said the state needs to prepare for what awaits after the floodwaters recede and the Missouri River returns to its banks.

South Dakota has been subjected to long-term stress, with flooding expected to last four months, the governor said.

This is a very unusual kind of flood disaster, he said.

State agencies and county emergency managers need to pool resources in the ensuing clean-up, Daugaard said. The state will see not only flood-related damage but also need to clean up sandbags and levees, he said.

Some of the lessons learned at Pierre and Fort Pierre can be applied to other areas of the state, he said.

Daugaard also hopes that public entities receive some federal assistance before the flooding ends, so money stands available as the clean-up and other recovery efforts begin.

During Mondays media briefing, Col. Bob Ruch, commander of the Corps Omaha District, said he and Daugaard recently discussed recovery needs.

State officials asked the Corps to continue advising them on water flows so that recovery decisions can be made and so local property owners are advised accordingly, Ruch said.

During Mondays briefing, the Corps was asked about new information showing they should have acted sooner in anticipation of flooding.

Ruch responded that Farhat provides monthly reports, and the system remained in good condition for anticipated run-off. The problem came in May when upstream areas received record rainfall, with 5 to 8 inches at one time.

That caused the system to lose its flexibility, Ruch said. Nobody could see that amount of rain coming into the (upstream) in a two-state area.

Both Ruch and Farhat maintain the mainstem dams have been operated this year for flood control and evacuating water, not for other purposes such as endangered species and recreation.

In response to a Press & Dakotan question, Ruch said the ban remains for watercraft below Gavins Point Dam.

When asked about a boat seen Saturday in the vicinity of Riverside Park, Ruch said the craft may have been the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) conducting measurements and evaluations for the Corps.

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