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Army Corps shifts river management focus from flood to drought

Nebraska City News-Press

The Army Corps of Engineers has had to shift its focus from evacuating floodwaters from upstream dams to meeting downstream flow targets.

So said John Remus, chief of the Missouri River Water Management Division, during the Corps annual fall meeting, which was presented as an online forum on Nov. 2.

Representatives of the Corps and the National Weather Service updated the public along the river about winter forecasts and current water levels during the two-hour-long meeting.

Doug Kluck of the National Weather Service told the audience there is currently a deficit of soil moisture across the basin.

He said the winter forecast calls for a La Niña weather pattern, which looks to mean a warmer and drier winter across Nebraska and Iowa, but a colder and wetter winter to the north.

Kevin Low of the Missouri River Basin Forecast Center said two good things may come out of the La Niña forecast: going into winter with dry ground and a lower chance of ice jams later in the winter because of decreased stream flow now.

Low said the forecast could also bring a bit of bad with it in that the cold temperatures in the mountains of Wyoming and Montana could delay the melt of the mountain snowpack.

Low said the spring flood forecast will be available in late February or early March 2021 at  https://www.weather.gov/mbrfc/.

Kevin Grode, who is part of the Corps’ Missouri River Water Management Division, said that currently 57.3 million acre feet (MAF) of water is stored at Gavins Point, which will switch to its winter release rate of 17,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) on Nov. 22.

Plans call for next year’s runoff season to start with the storage capacity at or below 56.1 MAF, said Mike Swenson of the Missouri River Water Management Division.

The Corps anticipates a full navigation season next year, with the possibility of up to 10 days being added to the season, depending on water levels next fall.

The Corps hosted an afternoon and an evening virtual meeting. A recording of the event will be made available on the Defense Video and Imagery Distribution System at www.dvidshub. net/unit/usace-nwd.