Driving over Gavins Point Dam north of Crofton today, a little water was being released through one flood gate into the spillway below and down the Missouri River. That is a far cry from the raging waters that burst through the flood gates in all of the six major Missouri River flood control dams last summer, sending flood waters downstream, into homes and cities, and across farm fields on the path to the Mississippi River.
In January, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reported that their current water release plan should be fine for this year. There was only a 10% chance that snowmelt and rain events would offer more water than their plan could handle.
That may not be very reassuring to the folks who operate farms downstream. Yet, almost all climatologists in the region and Corps of Engineers officials as well, believe that this winter’s unprecedented mild weather and drier than normal precipitation pattern has relieved some of the concerns.
According to Jody Farhat with the Corps of Engineers, under the current forecast, reservoirs are expected to have slightly more space than normal available at the start of March.
According to Corps officials, if there are signs of heavy runoff, it will try to aggressively release water to free up space in the reservoirs. They will also work in improving communication with river residents, landowners, business owners and other interests through twice-monthly conference calls.
While we do not know what March and April will hold, we do know that the drier, warmer winter weather has allowed farmers and other landowners who were flooded last summer to repair and restore more of their property than a normal winter would most likely allow.
This is a gift for those folks, who have suffered through the summer of floods in 2011. Weary from water, they have been working furiously to bring as much of their precious crop ground and farm facilities back into production mode as possible.
With planting season not far in the future, I wonder about how much of the severely flooded farm land will be farmable this year. Mountains of sand and huge canyons that formed on flooded crop land have made reclamation a real task.
The only thing we know about the weather in this part of the country, is that it is unpredictable. So, as I drove across Gavins Point Dam today, I couldn’t help but reflect on the quietness of the dam compared to just a few short months ago. It was a firm reminder that conditions change pretty rapidly, and we need to be prepared for almost anything.