Leaders of the U-S Army Corps of Engineers will hold public meetings this week to cover water management plans for the Missouri River basin this spring and beyond. Jody Farhat, head of the Water Management Division for the Corps in Omaha, says it’s a chance to continue the dialogue with the public over how the river is being run during the drought. “The purpose of the April meetings is to let stakeholders in the basin know about the current hydrologic conditions, what the soil moisture and the snow pack looks like,” Farhat says, “and what we expect to do with regard to our operation of the reservoir system through the remainder of this calendar year.”
Farhat says they continue to see river reservoirs slowly dropping. So far, they’re down about eight-and-a-half million acre feet, or around 22-percent of the total storage available. “We are implementing drought conservation measures,” Farhat says. “We had low winter releases as a measure to conserve water and as we start the navigation season here in April, we’re providing what we call minimum service flows for navigation.”
Farhat says the Corps is in position to continue “near normal” operations for quite a while, several years, in fact. “Storage in the reservoirs is designed to serve the authorized purposes during a 12-year drought like that of the Dust Bowl era of the 1930s and early 1940s,” Farhat says. “As we get deeper and deeper into the drought, we conserve more and more water by providing reduced service to navigation and other uses.”
The region is just entering the second year of drought and she says, given the 12-year drought plan, they should be “good for another decade.” The meetings are being held this week in: Nebraska City, Nebraska; Fort Peck, Montana; Bismarck, North Dakota; Pierre, South Dakota and Smithville, Missouri.