Water levels on the Missouri River below Gavins Point Dam have been falling in recent days and the levels will continue to fall as releases from the dam are further cut back. Dave Becker, operations manager for the U-S Army Corps of Engineers at the dam, says they are headed into their winter flow pattern which will be lower this year as the region is still recovering from the drought of 2012. Becker says, “We have been stepping down our releases at 3,000 cubic feet per second per day, starting on (November) 23rd, hoping to get down to about 15,000 CFS.” Once that level is reached, he says it’s typical to hold up on any further cuts in the flow rate.
“They’ll run 15,000 for a few days and see if we’re still meeting the water needs downstream and if we are, they’ll probably inch us down to 12,000,” he says. Not only is navigation an issue, but some communities along the Missouri River have intakes for their water systems at certain heights. Flows coming from the dam are well below what would be normal for winter levels, as the reservoir system upstream is still rebounding from the effects of last year’s drought.
“On a normal situation, when the reservoir system is at a level where we can support that, we have a winter flow of 17,000,” Becker says. “Because we’re a little low in the reservoir system yet, they’re conserving water.” Even though 2013 has been a little wetter than normal, the system is still recovering from the severe drought of 2012. With the changes following the months-long flood of 2011, Becker says 12,000 cubic feet per second today is equivalent to a flow of 8,000 cubic feet several years ago.