December 6, 2019

Corp of Engineers will keep dams flowing - Daily Leader Extra : Editorials

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Corp of Engineers will keep dams flowing

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Posted: Thursday, August 8, 2019 2:51 pm

We don't feel the impact in Madison, but many cities in South Dakota depend heavily on decisions made by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for its management of the Missouri River.

The Corps announced Tuesday that it plans to keep water releases into the lower Missouri River elevated, as runoff continues to keep upstream reservoirs full.

The Corps has the challenging responsibility of regulating waterflow through the Missouri River dams, trying to balance the needs of hydropower, irrigation, barge traffic, environmental concerns and flooding. It's a tough job, especially given that weather throughout the basin, which stretches up to Montana, is unpredictable.

Water releases from Gavins Point Dam on the Nebraska-South Dakota border will remain at current levels, which at 70,000 cubic feet per second, are more than double the average amount for this time of year.

The Corps says areas of Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota and Nebraska received two to three times the normal amount of rain in July. July runoff in the upper basin was seven million acre feet, more than twice the average.

The Corps says this year's upper basin total runoff is forecast at nearly 53 million acre feet, which would be the second highest total runoff in 121 years of record-keeping.

Only the 61 million acre feet seen in 2011 would be more. And we remember the damage caused that year, in Pierre, Yankton, Dakota Dunes and others.

Flood prevention seems to be rising in importance as a priority, as there was extreme damage downstream in 2019. If priorities change, the Master Operating Manual will need to be revised, a time-consuming task.

Despite our occasional questioning of Corps of Engineer action, we recognize how hard the task is, and we can appreciate the importance of their work.

-- Jon M. Hunter