The Missouri River level at the St. Joseph port is lower than what has been seen for several years.
But that doesn’t mean the levels of the river here are not normal. Local water levels have been low because of minimal rainfall in Northwest Missouri. From a river standpoint, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is right on track for its targets for water released this year.
“It is not low water, it is more normal water,” said John Remus, chief of Missouri River basin water management for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. “I know in the late part of 2017, all 2018 and 2019 there was very high water. Now we are down to what would be no more than normal for this time of year.”
The river has been closed to traffic at the St. Joseph port for about a month with the current river level sitting at just higher than seven feet. The river needs to be higher than nine feet for the barges to be able to move through without trouble.
From a strictly water release standpoint, the water management offices are focusing on reaching their full-service navigation targets. There is no precipitation or business aspects that are considered for the amount of water released at Gavins Point Dam.
“We meet flow targets and we don’t release water ... for a business. We have flow targets that we meet,” Remus said. “We don’t really look at if there is a port having difficulty. We release to meet the targets. Access to the river is the local’s responsibility.”
Current release rates at Gavins Point is about 33,000 cubic feet per second. Adjustments are able to be made if there is a need, but right now the water that is released is just to keep the Missouri River at the same level it is at. It is difficult to adjust for heavy local runoff due to the amount of time water takes to get all the way to Kansas City, Missouri.
“The difficulty is basically the length of time it takes for a drop of water to get from Gavins Point to Kansas City is about five days,” Remus said.
The flow targets will change course on Dec. 1 when releases shift to winter levels.
As for the Rushville-Sugar Lake levee breach, Corps of Engineers officials were able to provide an update on the timeline for a fix.
“We’re waiting on Natural Resources Conservation Service approvals and the levee sponsors to work through real estate issues,” said Mike Dulin, Emergency Management Specialist for the Kansas City District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Seven feet of water is not great for the barge business in the St. Joseph port, but it also is keeping land in the South Side of Buchanan County dry.