OMAHA -- Stored runoff from 2018 has been evacuated from Missouri River reservoirs, leaving the system with all of its flood control zone to capture this spring's runoff.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced Thursday that releases from Gavins Point Dam near Yankton, South Dakota, will be reduced from 20,000 cubic feet per second to 17,000 cfs by mid February.
"The system stands ready to capture spring runoff, reducing flood risk while providing support to other authorized project purposes," John Remus, chief of the corps' Missouri River Basin Water Management Division, said in a news release.
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Gavins Point releases had been at increased levels for months while the corps evacuated above-normal runoff from 2018. Runoff for 2018 was 41.9 million acre-feet, the third-highest total since record keeping began in 1898. The record is 61 MAF in 2011.
Remus said the 2018 runoff was evacuated as of Jan. 29, and storage in the river's six reservoirs was 56.1 MAF, leaving the full 16.3 MAF flood control zone available when the 2019 runoff season begins.
Early predictions place 2019 runoff at 25.6 MAF above Sioux City, slightly above the 25.3 MAF average. Runoff over the next few months is expected to be below average because of lighter-than-average plains snowpack. Mountain snowpack that feeds the Missouri River also is 88-89 percent of average. Mountain snowpack will continue to accumulate and normally peaks in mid April, the corps said.