The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers came Thursday to the Holiday Inn to discuss what happened on the Missouri River in 2012 and what they plan to do in 2013.
The “possibility of a multi-year drought does exist,” said Kevin Grode, a corps reservoir water management official.
The corps likes to end each fiscal year with 56.8 million acre feet of water stored in the Missouri River dams. As of Oct. 25, the six dams were holding 50.6 million acre feet, Mr. Grode said. Drought conditions should continue at least through January, he said.
No one, including the corps, mentioned the possibility of making flood control the No. 1 responsibility of Missouri River water management. The issue had governors, Congressional delegations and levee boards pushing for a change in federal water regulations during 2011.
The corps’ forecast calls for starting the spring runoff with a deficiency of 8 million acre feet below the 56.8-million acre feet mark. But the corps also reminded people that below Gavins Point, even during a drought, there can be downstream flooding.
Starting on Nov. 21, the corps will reduce the Gavins Point Dam water releases. The corps will maintain a minimum release rate of 12.5 million acre feet, said Jody Farhat, chief of Missouri River basin water management.
With the possibility of low water, there is a concern that 12.5 million acre feet wouldn’t be enough flow for the Kansas City Water Services Department, said Michael Klender, the KC Water Services plant manager. The city’s intake pipes may need additional water, he said. He asked if the city should install its auxiliary pumps this winter to ensure water flow, even though it’s a costly method.
Mrs. Farhat recommended installing the auxiliary pumps.
The corps maintained a full 2012 navigation season, but if drought conditions continue in 2013, it will consider shortening the navigation season.
There was good news for area farmers and levee boards — there will be no 2013 spring or summer pulses on the Missouri River for endangered species. Area farmers have been fighting the issue. They got help in 2011 when an independent advisory panel said the pulses don’t accomplish their intended outcomes. The corps is seeking new recommendations.
Representatives from Senators Claire McCaskill and Roy Blunt were on hand to remind the corps that completing the design of the St. Joseph area levees, which haven’t been fixed since the 1993 flood, still needs funding.