Dry conditions could affect navigation on Missouri River

The ongoing drought on the Missouri River basin shows no relief in sight, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is predicting runoff into the mainstream reservoir system will remain below normal.

This week Corps officials said dry soil conditions and well below normal precipitation continues across the entire Missouri River basin.

Currently, plains snowpack in the upper basin is essentially "non-existent" with only trace amounts in southern North Dakota and northern South Dakota remaining.

Water conservation measures, such as minimum winter releases and reduced flow support for navigation, are being implemented as the amount of water in the reservoir system declines.

Releases from Gavins Point Dam, the southern most of the Corps dams on the upper basin of the Missouri River in South Dakota, were increased in mid-March to begin flow support for Missouri River navigation.

While minimum service flow for navigation will be provided for the first half of the 2022 season, what happens in the second half of the season, as well as the navigation season length, will be based on the water storage in the river system as of July 1. The current forecast indicates minimum flow will be required throughout the navigation season and the season may be shortened by as much as three weeks.