2023 Missouri River Basin Runoff Still Projected To Be Below Average, Corps Says

The updated 2023 calendar year runoff forecast for the Missouri River Basin above Sioux City, Iowa, continues to be below average, the Corps of Engineers reports.

“Despite some improvement in basin conditions, we expect 2023 runoff to remain below average,” said John Remus, chief of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Missouri River Basin Water Management Division.  “Soil moisture has improved slightly in some areas, but drought conditions still exist across most of the basin.”

The 2023 calendar year runoff forecast above Sioux City is 21.5 million acre feet (maf.), 84 percent of average. The runoff forecast is based on current soil moisture conditions, plains snowpack, mountain snowpack, and long-term precipitation and temperature outlooks.  February runoff in the Missouri River Basin above Sioux City was 1.0 maf., 86 percent of average.

System storage is currently 46.0 maf., 10.1 maf. below the top of the carryover multiple use zone.

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“The system will continue to serve all congressionally authorized purposes during 2023,” Remus said.

Navigation flow support for the Missouri River is expected to be at minimum service for the first half of the 2023 season, which begins April 1 at the mouth of the river near St. Louis, Mo. The actual service level will be based on the total volume of water stored within the system on March 15, in accordance with the guidelines in the Master Manual. Flow support for the second half of the navigation season, as well as navigation season length, will be based on the storage in the system on July 1.

Mountain snowpack in the upper Missouri River Basin is accumulating at near-average rates. The March 1, mountain snowpack in the Fort Peck reach was 104 percent of average, while the mountain snowpack in the Fort Peck to Garrison reach was 101 percent of average.  By March 1, about 80 percent of the total mountain snowfall has typically accumulated.  Mountain snow normally peaks near April 17.

The plains snowpack, which typically melts from mid-February into April, has widespread areas of 1 to 6 inches of snow water equivalent (SWE) across North Dakota and eastern South Dakota. The remainder of the basin has little or no snow.

Spring Public Meetings

The Corps’ Missouri River Basin Water Management Division will host a series of pubic meetings the week of April 3. The schedule is as follows:

April 3

10 a.m.—Fort Peck Community College, 605 Indian Ave., Poplar, Mont.

5 p.m.—Bismarck State College, National Energy Center of Excellence (NECE), Bldg. 15, Bavendick Stateroom, 1200 Schafer St., Bismarck, N.D.

April 4

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

1:30 p.m.—Golden Buffalo Convention Center, 307 Crazy Horse St., Lower Brule, S.D.

April 5

11 a.m.—Jerry Litton Visitor Center, Smithville Dam, 16311 DD Hwy., Smithville, Mo.

5 p.m.—Bellevue University, Hitchcock Humanities Center, 1040 Bruin Blvd., Bellevue, Neb.

April 6

10:30 a.m.—VUE 17, 1034 S. Brentwood Blvd, #1700, St. Louis, Mo.