Gavins Point Dam

Gavins Point Dam

(Omaha) -- Drought conditions persist in the Missouri River Basin despite a slightly higher runoff forecast.

That's according to the latest data released by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Thursday afternoon. Corps officials say July runoff in the basin above Sioux City is 3.2 million acre-feet, or 98% of average and 0.7 million acre-feet more than the forecast last month. Additionally, the annual runoff forecast now sits at 20.6 million acre-feet or 80% of average and 0.6 million acre-feet higher than the previous month's forecast. Ryan Larsen is the division's team leader of reservoir regulation. Larsen says the slight improvement is due to increased runoff primarily north of Sioux City.

"Pockets of near to above normal precipitation were observed in Montana, western North Dakota, eastern and central South Dakota, central Nebraska into northeastern Kansas, and northern Missouri," said Larsen. "Below normal precipitation was observed elsewhere in the basin."

However, he adds drier than normal soil moistures remain throughout the basin, except for near normal in North Dakota, South Dakota, eastern Kansas, and Missouri.

However, Larsen says conditions aren't as favorable in August as projections show higher than normal temperatures and below normal precipitation throughout the basin. But, conditions vary throughout the basin beyond August.

"The climate outlooks for September through November are indicating increased chances for above normal temperatures and below normal precipitation over the lower basin," Larsen explained. "And equal chances for above, below, and normal precipitation and temperatures across the upper basin."

John Remus, chief of the corps' Missouri River Basin Water Management Division, says water conservation measures will remain throughout 2022, including reduced flow support to navigation season and minimal winter releases.

Chuck McWilliams, the division's drought response coordinator, says multiple mitigation efforts have been made to combat the low runoff and exposed shorelines.

"To date we've executed work around several boat ramps along Fort Peck Lake and Lake Oahe, in order to make sure low water access remains at those locations, and we have some follow up work expected near Garrison in the coming months," said McWilliams. "Increased shoreline, unfortunately, also brings the threat of several invasive plant species or noxious weeds, and the team is implementing a strategy to defeat them built upon plans and lessons learned during the extended drought in the early 2000s."

Corps officials say 62% of the basin is currently experiencing abnormally dry or drought conditions, with 6% being extreme or exceptional drought. While the current release rate from Gavins Point Dam in Yankton, South Dakota is at 25,000 cubic feet per second, it will be adjusted by 500 cfs above minimum service to provide navigation flow support to the lower Missouri River.

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