US Army Corps of Engineers
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Winter Gavins Point releases will be at minimum rates

Missouri River Water Management
Published Sept. 3, 2021
Updated: Sept. 7, 2021
Public Meetings are held each spring and fall across the Missouri River basin.

Public Meetings are held each spring and fall across the Missouri River basin. Fall public meetings provide an update on current year's runoff and reservoir operations as well as planned operations for the next year's runoff season. The Annual Operating Plan for the next year's runoff season is released for public comment in September, presented at the public meetings and finalized at the end of the calendar year. Spring public meetings provide a status of mountain snowpack, a runoff forecast for the year, and how operations during the runoff year will meet the authorized purposes for the Missouri River Mainstem System.

The Corps has established webpage at go.usa.gov/xE6fC (the URL is case sensitive) that can be saved to your mobile phone’s home screen which provides links to the most up-to-date information from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers including runoff and release schedules, links to the Omaha and Kansas City Districts, links to our social media accounts, and provides a link to the National Weather Service, Missouri Basin River Forecast Center.

The Corps has established webpage at go.usa.gov/xE6fC (the URL is case sensitive) that can be saved to your mobile phone’s home screen which provides links to the most up-to-date information from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers including runoff and release schedules, links to the Omaha and Kansas City Districts, links to our social media accounts, and provides a link to the National Weather Service, Missouri Basin River Forecast Center.

The six dams on the main stem of the Missouri River capture runoff from parts of Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, and northern Nebraska.

The six dams on the main stem of the Missouri River capture runoff from parts of Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, and northern Nebraska.

Updated: Fort Peck release reductions was incorrectly reported as Sept 6 and has been corrected to Sept. 16. 

Drought conditions, particularly in the Missouri River Basin above Sioux City, Iowa (upper Basin), are persisting. Per the Master Manual and the Sept. 1 System storage check, winter releases from Gavins Point Dam will be 12,000 cubic feet per second, as part of the overall water conservation measures.

“Reservoir inflows in August were much lower than average. We expect below-average inflows into the System through the rest of 2021,” said John Remus, chief of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Missouri River Basin Water Management Division.

“Several significant rainfall events occurred in August. In response, the Corps reduced Gavins Point releases 4,000 cfs as tributary flows downstream of the System increased. As the tributary runoff subsides, the Gavins Point releases will be adjusted to meet navigation flow targets,” added Remus.

Despite localized heavy rainfall events throughout the basin during August, drought conditions expanded across the basin due to the exceptionally dry soils. August runoff in the upper Basin was 54% of average. The 2021 calendar year forecast for the upper Basin, updated on Sept. 1, is 14.7 million acre-feet (MAF), 57% of average. Average annual runoff for the upper Basin is 25.8 MAF.

As of Sept. 2, the total volume of water stored in the System was 52.1 MAF, which is 4.0 MAF below the base of the System’s flood control zone. System storage is expected to continue to decline through the fall. Updated reservoir studies indicate that System storage is expected to be more than 8.0 MAF below the base of flood control at the start of the 2022 runoff season.

According to the National Drought Mitigation Center, drought degradation is occurring across much of the upper Basin. As of Sept. 2, approximately 83% of the Missouri River basin is experiencing some form of abnormally dry conditions or drought. The seasonal drought outlook, which extends through the end of November, shows drought conditions persisting across most of the upper Basin.

Navigation

The July 1 System storage check indicated navigation flow support for the second half of the season (July 1 to Dec. 1) would be at 1,500 cfs below the full-service level for a full 8-month-long season. Gavins Point releases will be reduced in a stair-step manner to winter release rates around Nov. 22.

Fort Peck and Garrison Fall Release Reduction

Fort Peck and Garrison releases will be reduced to their fall rates in mid-September. Beginning Sept. 16, Fort Peck release will be stepped down from 9,500 cfs to 5,000 cfs. The release reduction will result in a Missouri River stage reduction of about 2.5 feet at Wolf Point and Culbertson, Montana. The Garrison release will be reduced from 21,000 cfs to 20,000 cfs on Sept. 6 and then stepped down to 13,500 cfs in mid-September. The release reduction from 21,000 cfs to 13,500 cfs will result in a Missouri River stage reduction of about 2 feet at Bismarck, North Dakota.

Winter Release Rate

As per criteria in the Master Manual, the winter release rate is determined based on the Sept. 1 System storage. Per the Sept. 1 System storage, winter releases from Gavins Point Dam will be at the minimum rate of 12,000 cfs. In anticipation of the low winter releases, a letter was sent on Sept. 1 to all water users below Gavins Point dam making them aware of the planned releases and encouraging them to assess the risk to their facilities. A copy of that letter can be found here:

https://usace.contentdm.oclc.org/utils/getfile/collection/p266001coll1/id/10464

Monthly Water Management Conference Calls

The are no more scheduled monthly water management call for 2021. The monthly calls will resume in January 2022. Typically, water management calls include an update from the National Weather Service’s Missouri Basin River Forecast Center, and an update on the Missouri River mainstem reservoir system operations. The last call for 2021 was held on Thursday, August 5. All calls are recorded in their entirety and are available to the public on the Defense Video and Imagery Distribution System at www.dvidshub.net/unit/usace-nwd.

Fall Public Meetings

Fall public meetings will be held the week of October 25-28. Specific dates, times and locations are at the links below.

Locations include:

Website Access

Due to security issues, the URL to the Missouri River Basin Water Management Website has been updated. All previous bookmarks need to be updated to use https rather than http. The home page can be accessed at the following link: https://www.nwd-mr.usace.army.mil.

The Missouri Basin Web app  http://go.usa.gov/xE6fC and the NWD website https://www.nwd.usace.army.mil/MRWM/ keeps links to Missouri River information up to date as well.

Reservoir Forecasts:

  • Gavins Point Dam
    • Average releases past month – 31,300 cfs
    • Current release rate – 28,000 cfs (as of September 1)
    • Forecast release rate – 32,000 cfs (month of September)
    • End-of-August reservoir level – 1207.5 feet
    • Forecast end-of-September reservoir level – 1207.5 feet
    • Notes: Releases will be adjusted as necessary to meet all downstream navigation targets.
       
  • Fort Randall Dam
    • Average releases past month – 30,900 cfs
    • End-of-August reservoir level – 1355.6 feet
    • Forecast end-of-September reservoir level – 1353.6 feet
    • Notes: Releases will be adjusted as necessary to maintain the desired reservoir elevation at Gavins Point.
       
  • Big Bend Dam
    • Average releases past month – 32,000 cfs
    • Forecast average release rate – 27,000 cfs
    • Forecast reservoir level – 1421.0 feet
       
  • Oahe Dam
    • Average releases past month – 32,600 cfs
    • Forecast average release rate – 27,100 cfs
    • End-of-August reservoir level – 1600.5 feet
    • Forecast end-of-September reservoir level – 1598.2 feet
       
  • Garrison Dam
    • Average releases past month – 21,400 cfs
    • Current release rate – 21,000 cfs
    • Forecast average release rate – reduce to 13,500 cfs by mid-September
    • End-of-August reservoir level – 1832.4 feet
    • Forecast end-of-September reservoir level – 1831.1 feet
       
  • Fort Peck Dam
    • Average releases past month – 9,400 cfs
    • Current release rate – 9,500 cfs
    • Forecast average release rate – reduce to 5,000 cfs by mid-September
    • End-of-August reservoir level – 2229.0 feet
    • Forecast end-of-September reservoir level – 2227.8 feet

The forecast reservoir releases and elevations discussed above are not definitive. Additional precipitation, lack of precipitation or other circumstances could cause adjustments to the reservoir release rates.

Hydropower:

The six mainstem power plants generated 965 million kWh of electricity in August. Typical energy generation for August is 1,012 million kWh. The power plants are projected to generate 8.7 billion kWh of electricity this year, compared to the long-term average of 9.5 billion kWh.

To view the detailed three-week release forecast for the mainstem dams, go to http://go.usa.gov/xVgWr.

MISSOURI RIVER MAINSTEM RESERVOIR DATA

 

Pool Elevation
(feet above mean sea level)

Water in Storage
(1,000 acre-feet)

 

On August 31

Change in August

On August 31

% of 1967-2020 Average

Change in August

Fort Peck

2229.0

-1.8

13,773

95

-349

Garrison

1832.3

-2.4

16,221

91

-690

Oahe

1600.5

-2.9

16,611

93

-816

Big Bend

1420.8

+0.1

1,678

98

+11

Fort Randall

1355.6

+0.5

3,456

104

+40

Gavins Point

1207.5

+1.3

362

93

+29

 

 

Total

52,101

94

-1,775

 

WATER RELEASES AND ENERGY GENERATION FOR AUGUST

 

Average Release in 1,000 cfs

Releases in 1,000 acre-feet

Generation in Million kWh

Fort Peck

9.4

577

94

Garrison

21.4

1,317

197

Oahe

32.6

2,007

295

Big Bend

32.0

1,969

107

Fort Randall

30.9

1,898

199

Gavins Point

31.3

1,925

74

 

 

Total

966


Contact
Eileen Williamson
402-996-3802
eileen.l.williamson@usace.army.mil

Release no. 21-047