Almost back to normal: Corps of Engineers releases draft Missouri River operating plan
WaterWebster.org Staff Report
September 30, 2009
After nearly 10 years of drought, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers anticipates a return to nearly normal water operations along the Missouri River, according to the proposed 2009-2010 annual plan.
A draft of the Annual Operating Plan for the Missouri River was released for public comment Sept. 28 with a series of public meetings scheduled for Nebraska, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Missouri. Oral and written comments will be accepted by the Corps until Nov. 20.
The plan for anticipated regulation of the river's main stem reservoir system is for the rest of 2009 and 2010.
"Steady to rising reservoir levels during the spring fish spawn are likely with normal or above normal runoff," according to a Corps news release. "However," it warned, "a return of drought conditions may not make that possible at all the upper three reservoirs. To the extent reasonably possible, the Fort Peck and Oahe reservoirs will be favored with releases adjusted at Fort Peck and Garrison dams to provide the desired conditions in April and May."
The release said the ability to provide such conditions depends on the volume, time and distribution of the runoff from melting snow on the plains and in the mountains of Montana and Wyoming.
The draft plan anticipates that with normal or above normal runoff, there will be a full service, full length 2010 navigation season. The final determination on season length will be made after the reservoir storage check on July 1, 2010.
The draft annual operating plan also proposes two “spring pulses” to meet Fish and Wildlife Service requirements to avoid harming the pallid sturgeon, an ancient fish protected by the Endangered Species Act. The pulses will be conducted in March and May.
In 2009, the March pulse was eliminated because of unexpectedly high water in the Missouri River. The May pulse essentially eliminated downstream from Kansas City by reducing flows from two Army Corps of Engineers dams on the Kansas River.
The carefully monitored pulses from Gavins Point Dam in the spring are intended to mimic the historic ebb and flow of the river to benefit the spawning of the pallid sturgeon.
Prior to implementing the May pulse, the Corps will coordinate with the affected Tribes and States to evaluate options to minimize adverse impacts.
The public meetings will open with presentations on this year’s runoff, reservoir storage, and the regulation of the six dams and reservoirs. According to the news release, the presentations will be followed by descriptions of the regulation for the remainder of 2009 and the year 2010 for flood control, hydropower, navigation, irrigation, recreation, water supply, water quality, fish and wildlife and endangered species for a wide variety of runoff and storage conditions.
The public meeting schedule is:
Oct 5 Nebraska City, Neb. 7 p.m. Lewis & Clark Center, 100 Valmont Drive
Download a pdf of the 2009-2010 draft Missouri River Annual Operating Plan
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