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Dry conditions forecast to continue in Missouri River Basin

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Courtesy of National Park Service / nps.gov
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Last year's runoff in the upper Missouri River basin above Sioux City was at just 59 percent of the average volume.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is predicting dry conditions will continue in the Missouri River Basin this year.

Last year, the runoff in the upper basin above Sioux City was at just 59 percent of the average volume, making it the 10th lowest annual runoff in 123 years of record-keeping. The Army Corps of Engineers forecast the river’s run-off levels will remain below average and dry conditions will persist throughout 2022.

National Weather Service officials said they see no end to the drought-like conditions that are pervading much of the basin. The latest drought monitor shows 84 percent of the area being classified as abnormally dry or worse, including Woodbury and Plymouth counties in Iowa.

The Army Corps of Engineers forecasts a below-average amount of run-off from the Missouri River.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
The Army Corps of Engineers forecasts a below-average amount of run-off from the Missouri River.

“The entire basin looks to be above normal in terms of temperature. And quite a bit above,” said Kevin Low, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service. “We do need some major snowstorms. Whether we like them or not, we need that snow moisture out there if we can get it. This is a major contributor, if not to the river, to the soil moisture that’s hurting for sure.”

A 90-day forecast shows much of the Missouri River Basin is not under threat of flooding, with the exception of south central Missouri and eastern Kansas. However, the possibility for ice jam-related flooding will continue for the remainder of winter, Low said.

The Corps said it will monitor the river’s levels in the coming months and may take actions to conserve water. The organization will conduct low-level water releases from Gavins Point Dam in the winter, adjusting for cold weather.

“The Corps is aware of the importance of our operations to water supply,” said John Remus, Chief of the Missouri River Basin Water Management. “There is and will be enough water in the river to serve the water supply needs.”

Kendall is Iowa Public Radio’s western Iowa reporter based in Sioux City, IA.