News Releases

Corps communicates basin conditions and flood response to key stakeholders

Northwestern Division
Published June 7, 2019
Oahe Dam and Reservoir on the Missouri River are located near Pierre, South Dakota.

Oahe Dam and Reservoir on the Missouri River are located near Pierre, South Dakota. Lake Oahe has played a pivotal role during the 2018 runoff season allowing releases to be reduced from reservoirs downstream following heavy rain events and capturing flood waters from upstream mountain snowmelt and heavy rainfall in the Yellowstone River basin, which fell in May and June.

As part of the ongoing commitment to communicate to Midwest Congressional representatives, Tribal, state and local government officials (including levee sponsors and emergency managers), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Northwestern Division hosted a call June 6 to provide an update of current runoff conditions, system storage and provide status updates from the Kansas City and Omaha Districts on flooding response and recovery.

A recording of that call can be accessed here:

All of the information provided on this call is accessible through the Missouri Basin “Web App.” The information at the links in the web app is the most up-to-date information from the National Weather Service and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

John Leighow, chief of Readiness and Contingency Operations, provided an overview of the response following the devastating flooding in March that damaged over 500-plus miles of levees on the Platte and Missouri rivers and continued or renewed flooding following heavy rains in the Missouri, Osage and Kansas river basins since early May.

“Sustained rains and subsequent runoff have prevented the Districts and local levee sponsors from accessing levees, and in most areas where we are conducting initial repairs or emergency breach closures, we were forced to suspend work until earlier this week. These new rains have caused further damage to an already weakened system, and they have caused additional overtopping and breaches to another 48 levees stretching across the State of Missouri,” said Leighow.

Field teams from the Omaha and Kansas City districts continue to assess the magnitude of damages and the associated repair requirements. These field investigations are used to estimate funding requirements and determine the economic feasibility of repairs.  The Corps will work with sponsors whose levees may be feasibly repaired, to design and construct repairs as rapidly as the law, funds, weather and resources allow.

The Corps provides recovery support under Public Law 84-99 authorities until all emergency repairs are complete and remain prepared to assist with additional flood fighting where needed.

Leighow noted that U.S. Congress had passed a disaster relief bill that would provide funds to support basinwide recovery efforts but noted that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Headquarters would be providing additional guidance before those funds become available for use. 

“We have already received and are employing more than $100 million in emergency funds to support the ongoing floodfight and recovery efforts,” said Leighow.

Lead Hydrologist Kevin Low from the Missouri Basin River Forecast Center, National Weather Service, provided an update on Missouri River tributaries throughout the basin that are in major or moderate flood status. These rivers include the James River, and Big Sioux River in South Dakota; the Big Sioux and Little Sioux rivers in Iowa; the Big Blue and Kansas rivers in Kansas; and the South Osage, Osage and Grand rivers in Missouri, as well as the Missouri River from Blair, Nebraska to St. Louis, Missouri.

This information is available at This website provides river observations and forecasts; weather observations and forecasts, and additional information including the spring flood outlook under items of seasonal interest. The National Weather Service provides official river stage and weather forecasts. The Missouri River Water Management team shares all release forecasts with the National Weather Service for incorporation into their forecast products.

The Missouri River Water Management Division provided an update on the May runoff and projected runoff and release forecasts for the remainder of the year. The full Monthly Study was provided in an email that was sent yesterday and is available here:

The Kansas City District provided an update on the status of their flood response efforts and levee conditions. They keep this information updated on their website at:

The Omaha District provided an update on the status of post flood levee inspections and rehabilitation. They keep this information updated on their website at:

The question and answer session following the updates provided additional insight into the status of levee repairs and runoff conditions and release plans in North Dakota and South Dakota.

Finally, we continue to receive questions about why releases are so high at Gavins Points and why we cannot hold back more water at the upper basin reservoirs.  The Associated Press published their interpretation of these and other questions recently.  Here is their article:

Q&A: Missouri River flood risk to continue for months; Josh Funk and Heather Hollingswoth Associated Press

Eileen Williamson

Release no. 19-043