Corps updates water management

Full flood storage available

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says Missouri River reservoirs will have full flood storage available to handle runoff in 2018. That claim was made Tuesday by John Remus, chief of Missouri River Basin Water Management, in a conference call for congressional staff, tribal and local government officials and interested news media. The call was for the purpose of informing all participants of the latest information regarding current and future management of Missouri River Basin water.

Each of the five reservoirs on the Missouri, which includes Lake Sakakawea in North Dakota, have a designated “flood control zone” with a prescribed elevation to be reached by March 1. Storage above the targeted elevations constitutes room set aside for flood control.

Snowmelt runoff is expected to be slightly above normal throughout the Missouri River Basin this spring and summer. Of note is that the plains snowpack is minimal in North Dakota and Montana.

“There’s not a huge snowpack in the plains to worry about at this time,” said Doug Kluck, climatologist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Kansas City. “We still have a few drought problem areas in western Montana and the Dakotas. This is the time of year when the amounts of precipitation won’t remove the drought area.”

Kluck added that some forecasters are in agreement that there is a possibility of some of the drought designated areas to “go away” in the next few weeks. As for the upcoming weather, Kluck said the long-range forecast calls for a likelihood of continued cool temperatures over the northern reaches of the Missouri River Basin through April and that precipitation through the same period “leans wet” in the northern basin.

Kevin Low, hydrologist with the Missouri Basin River Forecast Center in Omaha, Nebraska, explained that mountain snowpack in Montana is “above average” and that plains snowpack is widespread but “shallow.” At this time runoff is forecast to be 104 percent of average.

“Plains snow is not a concern, yet,” said Low. “Significant flooding due to mountain snow runoff alone is not likely.”

Snowmelt runoff forecasts become more accurate as the mountain snowpack approaches its long-term peak date of mid-April. Another detailed update on Missouri River Basin conditions will be provided by the Corps on March 6.