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Gavins Point Dam

Water flows through Gavins Point Dam near Yankton, S.D., in this 2011 file photo. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is increasing water releases to 42,000 cubic feet per second on Wednesday and then incrementally increasing releases to 55,000 cfs by Sunday.

OMAHA -- Water releases from Gavins Point Dam were decreased Wednesday and will be reduced further by Thursday morning, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Wednesday.

The corps also will resume water releases from the upstream dam at Fort Randall on Friday.

"Our office will continue to monitor runoff conditions as the temperatures in the upper (Missouri River) basin warm and begin to melt the remaining plains snowpack," John Remus, chief of the corps' Missouri River Water Management Division in Omaha, said in a news release.

Gavins Point releases were dropped from 28,000 cubic feet per second to 24,000 cfs Wednesday morning and were to be lowered to 20,000 cfs Thursday morning and maintain that level as long as conditions allow, the corps said.

Releases were stopped upstream at Fort Randall last week and will be increased to 4,000 cfs on Friday. It takes about a day and a half for water to travel from Fort Randall, at Pickstown, South Dakota, to Gavins Point, near Yankton, South Dakota.

The lower releases will be welcome news for residents along the river in southwest Iowa and southeast Nebraska, where roads and communities have been inundated with floods from the Missouri and its tributaries. Gavins Point release changes take two to three days to reach Omaha and three to four days to reach Nebraska City.

The corps began increasing Gavins Point releases March 13 to make room in Lewis and Clark Lake for runoff from heavy rainfall and rapid snowmelt on frozen, wet ground in the drainage area between Fort Randall and Gavins Point. Releases were increased from 17,000 cfs on March 13 to 100,000 cfs for a brief time Thursday. The corps began decreasing releases on Saturday.

Releases from Fort Randall were shut off to keep the waters from rising at Lewis and Clark Lake, which has little flood storage capacity.

The corps said Wednesday that soil frost depths remain deep and soils are very wet and will cause most of the melting snow to run directly into the Missouri and its tributaries.

The National Weather Service is forecasting high flows from melting snow in the coming weeks on the Big Sioux, Vermillion and James rivers, all of which empty into the Missouri downstream of Gavins Point.

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