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Noem, Rounds Request U.S Army Corps of Engineers Increase Missouri River Mainstem Dam Releases to Prepare for Spring Runoff





 

PRESS RELEASE

December 17, 2019

 

 

Contact: Kristin Wileman (Noem)   

Katie Douglas (Rounds)

Noem, Rounds Request U.S Army Corps of Engineers Increase Missouri River Mainstem Dam Releases to Prepare for Spring Runoff

 

PIERRE—Gov. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.) and U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) sent a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) requesting a marginal increase in releases from Gavins Point Dam. This would allow additional storage in the dam system to accommodate runoff this upcoming spring. Additionally, Noem and Rounds urged USACE to take measures to improve predictions in order to prevent significant flooding during wet years and to make sure water is available during a drought. 

 

“At this time, our primary concern is increasing the flows slightly from the mainstem system storage through next spring,” wrote Noem and Rounds in their letter. “We are not advocating the USACE increase releases to irresponsible levels, triggering ice jam formation and producing winter flooding. Instead, we request a marginal increase in system releases from Gavins Point.

 

“Moving forward, we would like to see the USACE take measures to improve predictions on runoff entering the mainstem system. Expanding the states’ existing mesonets would be one option to improve data accessibility. We believe several other technological and equipment modernization measures could be considered to have the most sophisticated predictive analysis reasonably possible. Additionally, we would like to see the USACE look into expanding their predictive algorithms so as to dynamically manage reservoir levels, reducing the potential for floods and increasing water availability during drought conditions.”

 

Full text of the letter:

Brigadier General D. Peter Helmlinger

Commander, US Army Corps of Engineers Northwestern Division

P.O. Box 2870

Portland, OR 97208-2870

 

Dear Brigadier General Helmlinger,

 

We are following up on your phone conversation with Senator Rounds and representatives of the State of South Dakota on November 21, 2019. We appreciate the discussion on current water levels and the United States Army Corps of Engineers’ (USACE) Missouri River operation plans moving forward, as well as your insights on the problems with anticipating river freeze-ups and the potential for ice jams.

 

At this time, our primary concern is increasing the flows slightly from the mainstem system storage through next spring. We are not advocating the USACE increase releases to irresponsible levels, triggering ice jam formation and producing winter flooding. Instead, we request a marginal increase in system releases from Gavins Point. For example, an increase of 7,500 cfs for 90 days would allow an additional 1.3 MAF of system storage to be evacuated prior to next spring’s runoff events. We would expect this extra water may be drafted from Oahe and Francis Case reservoirs, but naturally this is a management decision the USACE should make.

 

Moving forward, we would like to see the USACE take measures to improve predictions on runoff entering the mainstem system. Expanding the states’ existing mesonets would be one option to improve data accessibility. We believe several other technological and equipment modernization measures could be considered to have the most sophisticated predictive analysis reasonably possible. Additionally, we would like to see the USACE look into expanding their predictive algorithms so as to dynamically manage reservoir levels, reducing the potential for floods and increasing water availability during drought conditions.  

 

There are consistent trends in runoff levels into the Missouri River mainstem system, which transcend annual averages. Whether these trends are caused by accumulation, depletion of soil moisture or broader ecological effects, clearly the trends exist. While there have been limited instances of wide gaps between total runoff during consecutive years, such as incredibly wet years chased by droughts or droughts ended by sudden floods, these instances are rare. As such, further research into the capability and potential utility of earlier trending is warranted.

 

We appreciate the USACE’s communication updates; however, we request a specific response articulating the USACE’s current plan through March. Again, we encourage any effort to reasonably increase water evacuation in anticipation of a wetter-than-average 2020.

 

Sincerely,

Governor Kristi Noem                         U.S. Senator M. Michael Rounds

 

 

cc:        Major General Scott Spellmon

Deputy Commanding General for Civil Works and Emergency Operations

US Army Corps of Engineers Headquarters

441 G Street, NW Washington, DC 20314

 

Colonel John Hudson

Commander, US Army Corps of Engineers Omaha District

1616 Capitol Ave., Ste. 9000

Omaha, NE 68102

 

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