Burgum supports careful management of dam releases to minimize impacts, prevent flooding

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Gov. Doug Burgum today expressed his support for careful management of releases from Garrison Dam to prevent flooding and minimize impacts along the Missouri River to the fullest extent possible.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is currently releasing water from Garrison Dam at a rate of 15,000 cubic feet per second (cfs). In a conference call with state officials and others Thursday, Corps officials said they plan to start stepping up the release rate on Saturday, reaching 30,000 cfs by the end of next week. Their forecast calls for a peak release rate of 46,000 cfs by late June.

For comparison, releases peaked at about 60,000 cfs last summer, causing the Missouri River in Bismarck to rise to within about 1 foot of flood stage. At 46,000 cfs, Corps officials said the river should remain well below flood stage in Bismarck, but they acknowledged that their other runoff scenarios show higher releases.

Lake Sakakawea currently sits at an elevation of 1,848.7 feet. Corps officials said it’s expected to rise into the exclusive flood control zone, which is 1,850 to 1,854 feet, by early next week.

“While we understand the need to store additional water in the reservoir system to alleviate pressure on downstream states hit hard by rainfall and flooding, we also strongly urge the Corps to carefully manage and clearly communicate any increases in dam releases to prevent flooding and minimize impacts upstream and downstream along the Missouri River,” Burgum said.

Corps officials said while there are many comparisons being made to the record flows of 2011, the major difference this year is that the mountain snowpack that feeds the Missouri River was far above average in 2011 but is only about average this year. June 2019 inflows into Lake Sakakawea and Fort Peck Lake in Montana are forecast at 5.6 million acre-feet, which is about 6.6 million acre-feet below the record inflows in June 2011.

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