Corps claims reservoirs ready

Snowpack in the Missouri and Yellowstone River basins is slightly greater than it was at this time during the historic runoff year of 2011, but the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says Missouri River reservoirs are well-positioned to contain expected spring runoff.

The latest runoff forecast for the Missouri River basin calls for an estimated 30.6 million acre feet of water. Average is 25.2 million. This year’s runoff, if the most recent projection holds true, is considered a one in four event.

The level of Lake Sakakawea was recorded at 1,837.5 feet Monday. The latest runoff forecast issued by the Corps projects the reservoir to peak later this summer at approximately 1,845 feet. Overflow for Lake Sakakawea, which was reached for the first time in 2011, is 1,854 feet.

“Mountain snowpack is at about the same level it was at this time in 2011, but still far below where it peaked in 2011,” said Jody Farhat, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Omaha. “Light plains snowpack has accumulated in the eastern Dakotas and parts of Montana, but the remainder of the basin has little or no plains snowpack.”

Over 60 maf of water entered the Missouri River system in 2011, about double what is currently projected for 2014. According to March 7 mountain snowpack water content surveys, the “total above Fort Peck” reservoir in Montana is 127 percent of normal. The “total Fort Peck to Garrison” reach is rated 135 percent of normal.

Historical data says 87 percent of peak snowpack is reached by March 15. While the Corps will continue to monitor snowpack and water content, the next public issuance of a runoff forecast is scheduled to be released the first week of April.