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Drought a bigger threat than flooding along Missouri River
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Drought a bigger threat than flooding along Missouri River

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Releases from Gavins Point Dam will remain at 17,000 cubic feet per second this winter, said John Remus of the Missouri River Basin Water Management Division.

Drought continues to loom as a larger ongoing threat than flooding along the Missouri River.

The river’s six reservoirs have already dropped to the level considered necessary to be ready for the spring flood season.

John Remus, chief of the Missouri River Basin Water Management Division of the Army Corps of Engineers, said the reservoirs reached that flood control level on Dec. 21.

In recent years of excessive runoff, the corps hasn’t been able to get reservoirs down to that level until a much later date.

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Releases from Gavins Point Dam will remain at 17,000 cubic feet per second this winter, Remus said, absent problems with ice. Gavins Point is the farthest downstream of the six dams. It sits along the Nebraska-South Dakota border.

The corps is forecasting that runoff this year will be about 90% of average. That forecast is based on soil moisture and snowpack being below average. As of Sunday, mountain snowpack was about 80% of average for this time of year.

Conditions can change in the basin, and levees remain weakened after the 2019 flood, so the corps is reminding people to be prepared should flooding develop.

If drought worsens, the corps will pull water from the three large reservoirs, rather than the three smaller ones.

In 2020, runoff upstream of Sioux City was 31.1 million acre feet, or 121% of average. Much of that above-average runoff occurred early in the year before drought took effect.

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