The fight over Missouri River water continues as downstream states battle drought conditions.
It's a fight that keeps North Dakota in the cross hairs.
Southern states want the corps to increase flows from the Missouri River to help barge traffic stay afloat on the Mississippi.
That river is nearing historic lows near St. Louis.
But yesterday a top Corps official said her agency will continue to decrease flows to help protect the Upper Missouri River Basin.
77 members of Congress and the governors of Missouri and Illinois are among those pushing for MORE Missouri River water to be released from upstream to increase flows into the Mississippi. Yesterday, southern states got some bad news from the Corps.
"The Missouri River was never planned for releases to support Mississippi navigation and so when the corps came out yesterday and said we do have the authority for that we fully support that they do not have the authority to do releases from our river system to support navigation on the Mississippi system," says Michelle Klose of the ND State Water Commission.
In fact the Corps plans to significantly reduce flows from the Missouri River at Gavins Point in South Dakota. Last week flows were at 37,500cfs. They'll drop to 12,000cfs by December 11th.
Klose says had the opposite happened--it could have create issues--specifically in the Bismarck-Mandan area.
"What happens if you're trying to increase releases this time when you are approaching freeze-in you can actually cause more problems or increase the chance of ice jams. And ice jams have been a very big concern in Bismarck-Mandan area the past few years and we track that very closely so if they try to do any additional releases in the winter time it would cause us problems in this reach,"
And that brings up anther related point. Klose says the river may appear especially low in the Bismarck-Mandan area right now--and that's because it is. She says the channel is deeper in places, but with that comes a lot of unknowns.
"So even if we are at the same flow now that we were a couple of years ago the water level is actually gonna be 2 1/2 feet lower. But that's just under normal conditions so if were under an ice jam condition or high flows it may act differently than that so we don't want to say its reduced the risk of flooding because things may change with ice conditions," says Klose.
It's expected southern states will keep pressing the corps--and have even asked President Obama to invetvene citing a pending economic emergency. But for now yesterdays ruling is good news for North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana.
Major dredging work was finished yesterday on the Heart River. The channel is now flowing freely into the Missouri. A major sandbar left by the flood had choked flows and increased the potential for ice jams.