Updated: US Corps of Engineers increase water releases at Gavins Point Dam

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Posted: Thursday, March 14, 2019 7:06 pm | Updated: 9:53 pm, Thu Mar 14, 2019.

Water releases from Gavins Point Dam will be increased to 90,000 cubic feet per second at 8 p.m. today as unregulated inflows from the Niobrara and other watersheds continue to spill into the reservoir, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reported today.

Operators at Gavins Point are using 12 of the 14 spillway bays and the powerhouse to pass the flows.  The remaining two spillway gates are partially open, but frozen in place due to ice buildup.  Operators are spilling water over those two gate in an effort to thaw them and return them to operating condition, which dam safety engineers believe presents no risk to the structure or the gates nor does it affect the Corps’ ability to safely pass water pass the structure.

The water being released from Gavins Point is exclusively from unregulated tributaries that bring water into the reservoir.  On Wednesday, the Corps stopped all releases from Fort Randall Dam, the next dam upstream on the Missouri River mainstem, to reduce the amount of water in the lower Missouri River.  However, because there is very little storage capacity behind Gavins Point, most of what is flowing into the reservoir must be released downstream.Despite these efforts, communities from Sioux City, Iowa to St. Louis continue to experience flooding, or the threat of flooding, due to runoff from the numerous rivers and creek through the lower section of the river.

Emergency managers and engineers from the Corps’ Omaha and Kansas City districts are supporting state and local authorities with levee monitoring and other flood response activities, to include technical advice and sand bag distribution.

Additionally, the Corps is working the National Weather Service to monitor conditions. The National Weather Service has issued flood warnings along the Missouri River and its tributaries from southeastern South Dakota to St. Louis.  More information on those warnings is available at https://www.weather.gov/mbrfc/

“Given the amount of water still expected to come out of the tributaries, we expect we will hold at 90,000 cfs through Saturday morning, provided the current inflow trend are maintained” said John Remus, chief of the Corps’ Missouri River Water Management Division in Omaha.  “As that unregulated runoff decreases, we will be able to decrease outflows from Gavins Point.”

Remus cautioned, however, that river levels could remain high in places for several days to a week as conditions in the different basins normalize.

Much of the Corps’ ability to capture and store runoff is in South Dakota, North Dakota and Montana, at the reservoirs impounded by Oahe, Garrison and Fort Peck dams.  Had this weather system tracked further north, the Corps may have been in a better position to reduce some of the flow in the lower Missouri River, Remus added.


Water releases from Gavins Point Dam near Yankton, S.D., have been increased to 50,000 cubic feet per second and will be increased to 60,000 cfs, the agency announced today.

The increased releases were necessary due to continued rising inflow into the Gavins Point reservoir. 

Gavins Point Dam releases were increased from 27,000 cfs to 32,000 cfs at midnight Wednesday.  A second increase from 32,000 cfs to 37,000 cfs was made earlier this morning.  Additional increases are likely to be made Friday, depending on the inflow.

The runoff in the drainage area between Fort Randall and Gavins Point Dam is very high, and continues to increase, due to rapid plains snowmelt and heavy rain on frozen, wet soils in the Niobrara River basin.  The area directly upstream Gavins Point continues to receive heavy rain.

"We know there are communities experiencing flooding, or nearing that condition, along the Missouri downstream of our dams,” said John Remus, chief of the Corps’ Missouri River Water Management Division in Omaha.  “We are managing releases from Gavins Point as judiciously as we can in order to lessen the impact downstream.”

There is very little storage capacity behind Gavins Point Dam, forcing the Corps to release much of the water that enters the reservoir, according to Remus.

Releases from Fort Randall Dam, the Missouri main stem dam immediately upstream of Gavins Point Dam, were reduced to 0 cfs Wednesday and are expected to remain at 0 cfs for the next several days.

"We strongly advise everyone along the Missouri River to maintain awareness of local conditions and changing river levels," said Remus. 

Corps districts in Omaha and Kansas City have activated their emergency operation centers to support local communities and emergency managers with local flood responses.  Impact to local infrastructure, to include levees, should be reported to local emergency officials.

The Corps is working the National Weather Service to monitor conditions. The National Weather Service has issued flood warnings along the Missouri River and its tributaries from southeastern South Dakota to St. Louis.  More information on those warnings is available at https://www.weather.gov/mbrfc/

© 2019 The Creighton News . All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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