Thanks to a wet winter, Fort Peck Reservoir rose by 2.9 feet in March and is 14.5 feet higher than it was a year ago at this time, according to a report from the Army Corps of Engineers.
Likewise, other dams along the Missouri River were flush with water, prompting the Corps to begin raising outflows to allow more room for spring runoff.
Fort Peck Reservoir ended March at an elevation of 2,239.7 feet above sea level. It is expected to rise by another foot in April. Unlike downstream reservoirs, releases from the dam at Fort Peck were lowered from 9,000 cfs to 7,000 cfs during March, and will remain at 7,000 cfs during April.
At dams downstream along the Missouri, though, the Corps is dumping water from reservoirs at a greater rate.
“We currently have more than 5.5 million acre-feet of floodwater stored in the reservoir system and more on its way due to the melt of the remainder of the plains snowpack and above-normal mountain snowpack,” said Jody Farhat, chief of the Water Management Division in Omaha. “We have started to evacuate floodwater by increasing releases as tributary flows decline. The increased releases will result in stages roughly 2 feet above normal in the lower Missouri River basin, but well within the channel.”
The releases are safeguards to reduce or eliminate the chance that spring runoff will cause flooding of agricultural land along the river.
Mountain snowpack is 116 percent above average for Fort Peck’s watershed and 112 percent in the reach between Fort Peck and Garrison Dam, which creates Lake Sakakawea, in North Dakota. Normally, mountain snowpack peaks by April 15.
Runoff for the Missouri River system in 2011 is forecast to total 33.8 million acre feet, 136 percent of normal. The 2010 total was 38.8 MAF, 156 percent of normal.
During any flood response activities throughout the basin, the Omaha District will provide regular updates via its Facebook (www.facebook.com/OmahaUSACE) and Twitter accounts (www.twitter.com/OmahaUSACE).