OMAHA, Nebraska --
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers emergency and water management officials held a call August 29 to communicate to Midwest Congressional representatives, Tribal, state and local government officials (including levee sponsors and emergency managers) an update of current runoff conditions, system storage and a status of flooding response and recovery activities.
The call recording mechanism failed and no recording of the call is available. This update will be more detailed to ensure the information covered on the call is provided.
Next week will mark the beginning of monthly calls. The first call will include a webinar in a format similar to the Monthly Update Webinars which are usually held from January until June or July and were an initiative launched in 2012. The most recent of these webinars was held March 7, 2019, and included a Spring Hydrologic Outlook from the National Weather Service, Missouri Basin River Forecast Center.
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. https://go.usa.gov/xmtYU.
Northwestern Division Update
Brig. Gen. Peter Helmlinger, commander of the Northwestern Division participated August 28 in a Senate Field Hearing hosted by South Dakota Senator Mike Rounds. The hearing provided an opportunity to discuss this year’s flooding in the lower Missouri River Basin.
Helmlinger acknowledged the widespread devastation and serious impacts this spring’s Missouri River flooding created for many people.
“The flooding has displaced people and whole communities, damaged infrastructure and shut down commerce. Since the flooding began in March, leaders from across the Corps and the Administration, to include the President, have visited the region to understand the scale of the damage and to assure everyone we will do everything within our authorities to help them recover from this tragedy,” said Helmlinger.
Helmlinger said the dam and levee system worked as it was designed and built but explained that the devastation was triggered by a very powerful storm that hit mostly downstream of the upper basin dams, which largely denied the ability to control the runoff, quickly overwhelming the design capacity of the levee system in the lower basin, and resulted in extensive overtopping and breaches along the entire system.
The running estimate of costs to repair damages is approximately $1.1 billion as reflected in 64 completed cost estimates, but is expected to change with 30 more cost estimates projected for approval in the coming months.
National Weather Service
Scott Dummer from the Missouri Basin River Forecast Center, National Weather Service, provided an update on river stages along the Missouri River and its tributaries.
Rivers and tributaries in flood stage include:
- Minor flooding on the Missouri River from Nebraska City, Nebraska to St. Joseph, Missouri and from Sibley, Missouri to Hermann, Missouri (excluding Jefferson City, Missouri)
- South Dakota: James River, Big Sioux River
- Kansas: Big Blue River above Tuttle Creek Reservoir (backwater flooding)
- Missouri: Osage River near Taberville, Missouri above Truman Lake (backwater flooding)
Dummer said over wet weather will continue through Sept. 1 with thunderstorms expected to set up in central Kansas and travel east spreading from one half to as much as 2 and a half inches of rainfall.
Thunderstorms are expected to persist Saturday into Sunday morning over the same area such that between Friday and Sunday morning a wide area of 1 to as much as 5 inches of rainfall possible over that 48 hour duration over east central Kansas and extreme western Missouri.
“This rainfall is expected to cause and aggravate existing flooding in the Kansas, Lower Smoky, Lower Republican, Marais Des Cygnes, Osage and Missouri Mainstem River Basins,” said Dummer.
A break in rain is expected from Sunday until Tuesday evening at which time scattered showers are expected over west central North Dakota and much of South Dakota producing 1/4 to 1/2 inch of rain.
The National Weather Service provides official river stage and weather forecasts. Its website -- www.weather.gov/mbrfc -- provides river observations and forecasts; weather observations and forecasts, and additional information including the spring flood outlook under items of seasonal interest. The Corps’ Missouri River Water Management Division shares all release forecasts with the National Weather Service for incorporation into their forecast products.
Upper Missouri River System (above Sioux City, Iowa)
The Missouri River Water Management Division provided an update on the three-week forecast issued on August 28. System storage is currently 65.9 million acre feet (MAF). https://go.usa.gov/xVgWr
Mike Swenson, from the Missouri River Water Management Division noted that system storage had declined by about 0.7 MAF in the past week with 9.8 MAF currently stored in the system’s flood control zones.
The updated three-week forecast shows Gavins Point releases will be held at 70,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) into late September to manage reservoir levels and continue evacuating water from the reservoirs.
[Due to recording issues the pool elevations reflect the data from August 28. Updated data is available here http://www.nwd-mr.usace.army.mil/rcc/reports/pdfs/MRBWM_Reservoir.pdf]
Fort Randall reservoir is at elevation 1360.4, down 1.3 feet since last week. The reservoir is about 5 feet above its normal summer operating level. Releases from Fort Randall are currently 66,000 cfs and are expected to range from 66,000 to 67,000 cfs over the next week.
Oahe reservoir is at elevation 1615.9, down 0.5 feet since last week. The reservoir is 8.4 feet above the base of the annual flood control zone. Releases from Oahe are currently about 57,000 cfs and are expected to remain near that rate through September.
Garrison reservoir is at elevation 1848.6, down 0.9 feet since last week. The reservoir is 11.1 feet above the base of the annual flood control zone. Releases are forecasted to remain at 46,000 cfs until about mid-September.
Fort Peck reservoir is at elevation 2244.4, down 0.5 feet since last week. The reservoir is 10.4 feet above the base of the annual flood control zone. Releases from Fort Peck are expected to remain at 15,000 cfs until about mid-September.
“We will continue to monitor conditions in the basin and make any necessary release adjustments late this summer and into the fall. Long-range monthly forecasts will be updated next week,” said Swenson.
Lower Missouri River Basin (Kansas and Osage River Reservoirs)
Chris Purzer, from the water management division in the Kansas City District provided an update on the status of the reservoirs on the Kansas River and the Osage River. This information is available on their website at: https://go.usa.gov/xmhrd.
KANSAS RIVER BASIN Conditions:
On average, the four reservoirs in the Lower Kansas River Basin remain at 50% of their flood control storage occupied, with Perry slightly elevated from recent rains at 60% and Clinton slightly below at 46%. Milford and Tuttle Creek are both at 51%.
Perry is releasing 5,000 cfs as it has phase II storage to evacuate, while Clinton has eliminated its phase II storage and is making only minimum releases.
Tuttle Creek and Milford have evacuated their phase II storage and are releasing 12,000 cfs and 3,000 cfs respectively to pass inflows.
Intermittent rains over the past four weeks have re-introduced phase II storage in the Kansas reservoirs and have maintained flows on the Missouri River at Waverly in excess of usable phase I release criteria.
“We anticipate maintaining these operations in the short term as the Corps’ finalizes a long term approach to emptying the approximately 2 Million acre-feet stored in the Kansas River Basin,” said Purzer.
OSAGE RIVER BASIN Conditions:
Recent rains over the past week temporarily slowed progress evacuating flood storage, but all the reservoirs are either cresting or declining again as releases exceed inflows. As a whole, the six reservoirs have approximately 16% of their flood control storage occupied.
Truman releases remain unchanged at 30 kcfs and will likely continue at this rate for the next few weeks as Truman elevation resumes its decline.
Kansas City District Emergency Response
Mike Dulin, an emergency manager from the Kansas City District provided an update on the status of flood response efforts and levee conditions. They keep this information updated on their website at: https://go.usa.gov/xmtYD.
Dunlin noted that the Kansas City District Emergency Operations Center remains activated at Level 2, Partial Activation.
“We continue to evaluate our posture and still believe that we will move to an Emergency Watch condition within the next several weeks or within the next month,” said Dulin.
The Kansas City District has received a total of 106 requests for levee rehabilitation assistance. It expected these requests will result in approximately 70 levee rehab projects after bundling multiple requests for segmented levee systems. Over 35 Project Information Reports have been submitted for approval by higher headquarters. Of those reports, 27 have been approved.
“Field conditions remain saturated in many locations however our survey teams continue to make progress on damage assessments. We anticipate boots on the ground damage assessments will be completed by mid to late September,” said Dulin.
Construction on the emergency measure to close the breaches at the Big Tarkio River is moving forward as planned. The contractor is working to close both banks of the Big Tarkio simultaneously.
“Efforts at Mill Creek are still being stalled due to inaccessibility issues related to flooding. We are currently working solutions to improve our accessibility to the site,” said Dulin.
The purpose of the work at Mill Creek is to close breaches on both the Mill Creek Levee and the Big Tarkio Levee to prevent water flowing unabated across the flood plain. The work will also help Mill Creek and the Big Tarkio River to re-establish their pre-flood flow patterns by re-establishing the stream banks.
“Rainfall continues to provide challenges in areas with damaged levee systems. Slight increases in river stage can result in additional flooding of areas that were first inundated in March. Please continue to pay attention to watches and warnings issued by the national weather service as conditions on the river can change quickly should heavy rainfall return to our region,” said Dulin.
Omaha District Emergency Response
Matt Krajewski, chief of the Readiness Branch for the Omaha District provided an update on the status of post flood levee inspections and rehabilitation.
To date, the corps has completed 11 initial breach closures within the Omaha District’s area of operations, with 22 remaining. The remaining number of breaches is lower than previously reported due because 16 of the remaining breaches are levee systems inactive in the PL84-99 program and the Corps does not have the authority to close these breaches.
On Saturday, August 24, the North Inlet Breach on Missouri River Levee L-550 was closed. This closure stopped water from flowing through the breach, but there is still much work to be done on this system to make it fully operational and able to perform as originally designed. The team has now transitioned to the southern inlet breach and is targeting breach closure by mid-September.
Last week, the Omaha District also advertised 6 tributary levee repair projects: Columbus, Scribner, Broken Bow, Cedar Creek, Western Sarpy County, Nebraska; and Ida Grove, Iowa. The solicitations were sent to the 27 contractors on the pre-qualified sources list and pre-bid site visits are underway. Bids are due for the first project on Sept. 3 with the rest to follow shortly thereafter.
For levee L611-614 initial breach closure, the final walk-through will be held next week. Following the completion of punch list items, the contractor will demobilize from the site.
“We are currently working on awarding a follow-on contract to continue repairs on this levee system,” said Krajewski.
For levee L601 near Bartlett, Iowa, the sand berm construction is complete and the design height level of protection is in place. The final walk-through and demobilization will occur mid-September.
“For levee L-575 near Hamburg, Iowa, we are continuing to work with project sponsors on finalizing cooperation agreements and Rights of Way so construction on interim and final repairs can commence,” said Krajewski.
For levee L-594 the team has finalized the engineering and design documents to conduct initial and interim repairs at the north inlet breach (Breach A). The official request for construction proposals was sent earlier this week.
For the Hamburg Ditch 6 levee, the Omaha District is working on engineering and design documents for the rehabilitation back to its authorized level of protection. It is anticipated that we request for proposals for the repair of the Ditch 6 Levee System by the end of the week.
Engineering and design is ongoing on several other levees on the Missouri River and tributaries. As these designs are completed, we will continue to move forward with contract awards.
Omaha District levee status information is updated on their website at: https://go.usa.gov/xmtYB.
“We continue to remain vigilant monitoring storms, runoff, and gage readings; and we can’t reiterate enough that life safety continues to be the primary focus of our efforts to repair the levee systems. We continue to work with federal, state, and local emergency management agencies to keep the public informed,” said Krajewski.