Drought Continues In Upper Missouri River Basin

September precipitation was once again below average in the Missouri River Basin, the Corps of Engineers reported October 12. September runoff in the Missouri River Basin above Sioux City, Iowa (upper basin) was 0.8 million acre-feet (maf.), just 67 percent of the long-term average.

Soil conditions in the upper basin continue to be very dry. According to the Drought Mitigation Center, approximately 88 percent of the Missouri River basin is currently experiencing some form of abnormally dry conditions or drought, which is a 6 percent increase from the end of August.

“Upper basin runoff was below average in September and is expected to stay low through the remainder of the calendar year. Lower basin runoff has been below average as well,” said John Remus, chief of the Corps’ Missouri River Basin Water Management Division.  “Releases from Gavins Point Dam will continue to be set to maintain navigation support at an intermediate service level.”

The navigation flow support season ends on December 1 at the mouth of the Missouri River.

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The 2021 calendar year runoff forecast for the upper basin, updated on October 1, is 14.8 maf., which is 57 percent of average. Average annual runoff for the upper basin is 25.8 maf. If realized, this runoff amount would be the 10th lowest runoff in 123 years of record-keeping.

Navigation Support

The July 1 System storage check indicated Gavins Point Dam releases will be set to provide flow support at an intermediate service level, 1,500 cubic feet per second (cfs.) less than full service flow support at all four target locations (Sioux City, Omaha, Nebraska City, and Kansas City). Full service flow support is designed to work in tandem with the Missouri River Bank Stabilization and Navigation Project to provide a 9-foot deep by 300-foot wide navigation channel from Sioux City, Iowa to the mouth of the river near St. Louis, Mo.

Gavins Point releases will be reduced to winter levels beginning around November 22. Winter releases from Gavins Point will be at least 12,000 cfs.

Operating Plan/Public Meetings

In mid-September, the Corps posted the draft 2021-2022 Annual Operating Plan (AOP) on its website at: The comment period on the draft AOP will close on November 24.

Fall public meetings will be held the week of October 25–28 to provide an update on the runoff and reservoir operations, as well as planned operations for next year.

The in-person meetings will adhere to COVID-19 meeting guidelines in accordance with the Department of Defense (but subject to change). Meeting attendance will be limited to 50 people, including presenters, and all attendees will be required to wear masks covering both the mouth and nose.

The meeting schedule is as follows:

• Fort Peck, Mont.—October 25, 10:30 a.m. Fort Peck Interpretative Center, Lower Yellowstone Road.

• Bismarck, N.D.—October 25, 6 p.m. Bismarck State College, NECE Building 15, Bavendick Stateroom, 1200 Schafer St.

• Fort Pierre, S.D.—October 26, 10 a.m. Casey Tibbs Conference Center 210 Verendrye Drive.

• Sioux City, Iowa—October 26, 4 p.m. Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center Betty Strong Encounter Center 900 Larsen Park Road.

• Smithville, Mo.—October 27, 11 a.m.  Jerry Litton Visitor Center 16311 DD Hwy

• Nebraska City, Neb.—October 27, 6 p.m. Steinhart Lodge 121 N Steinhart Park Road.

• St. Louis, Mo.—October 28, 1034 S. Brentwood Blvd., #1700