Sakakawea’s Slow Fall

Up and down the Missouri River, there is still a lot of water to be moved out to get ready for next year’s runoff season.
Jim Olson spoke with a Corps of Engineers today about the water flow outlook and joins us live now with the details.

(Eileen Williamson, Corps of Engeineers) 3915 “It’s probably one of our top five runoff years in the 120 years of record keeping on the Missouri River.”

That’s why – even though releases from the Garrison Dam will drop a bit in a week – you can expect to see flows a lot higher than normal through Bismarck right up until the river freezes over this coming winter.

(Eileen Williamson, Corps of Engeineers) 4210 “We have to move about 15 feet of water out of Lake Sakakawea and we have to be there by March First.”

That’s because the lake must be at 1837.5 feet by then – and it’s almost at 1853 still today – even after inflow to the lake dropped below outflow one week ago.

(Eileen Williamson, Corps of Engeineers) 4255 “The lake is dropping but we’re talking inches right now rather than feet and we’ve got 15 feet to go.”
(Brandy Spencer, Minot Resident) 3455 “The water’s so high – I’ve never seen it this high.”

Here at the East Tailrace, people who were doing some fishing say the high water of the past few months has changed things in catching fish.

(Brandy Spencer, Minot Resident) 3500 “I caught a 20 pound pike back in October off those cement things under four feet of water so can’t catch anything anymore.”

The lake level should start dropping more quickly as July turns to August – and Williamson is happy the Corps has been able to handle such a wet year without the river hitting flood level in Bismarck-Mandan. Still she says we all need to be careful with higher-than-normal flows lasting for months.

(Eileen Williamson, Corps of Engeineers) 4540 “With the high water on the river and high water in the reservoir just make sure people are safe and bear with us, we’re all in it together trying to get the water out.”

An interesting note for Garrison Dam watchers – Williamson says the Corps intends to open some of the gates on the spillway portion of the dam sometime in August, just to test-drive repairs and upgrades made there since 2011, the only time the spillway has had water flowing through it.
She says it will also drive home the point that the spillway can move water anytime – not just in an impending flood situation.

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