OMAHA -- Boating on the Missouri River in the Sioux City area has been prohibited until water levels decrease.
The U.S. Coast Guard earlier this week closed the river to all vessels, including recreational boating, from St. Louis to river mile marker 750, about 18 miles north of Sioux City, because of existing hazards such as drifting and high water. Vessel traffic also may cause damage to or overtopping of flood control levees.
The closure will remain in effect until river levels decrease.
The Coast Guard's action does not affect boating at Ponca State Park near Ponca, Nebraska, which is above the area of the river that has been closed. Park superintendent Scott Oligmueller said park workers have pulled up boat ramps because of the high water, but the permanent boat ramp remains open.
"There are still people using the boat ramp," Oligmueller said.
Runoff due to above-average rainfall this spring in the Midwest, coupled with high releases from Gavins Point Dam near Yankton, South Dakota, has pushed the Missouri River out of its banks in several locations in Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri. Flooding in the Sioux City area has been minor, but heavier flooding has occurred to the south, forcing the closure of Interstate 29 north and south of Council Bluffs and Interstate 680 east from Omaha to Iowa.
Gavins Point releases have been at more than twice the normal level for weeks as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers continues to evacuate near-record amounts of runoff from heavy rainfall into the river's six reservoirs. Releases Friday held steady at 75,000 cubic feet per second. The normal level is 30,000 cfs.
Widespread and heavy rainfall in Nebraska and South Dakota led to the second-highest runoff in the upper Missouri River basin above Sioux City in 121 years of record keeping. May runoff was 8.9 million acre-feet, second only to 9.2 MAF in 2011. Average May runoff is 3.3 MAF.
The corps has forecast 2019 runoff in the river's upper basin at 50 MAF, which would be second only to 61 MAF in 2011.