Missouri River at lowest level in recent memory | Special Sections

The Missouri River is at a historically low level around Atchison right now, with sandbars 3-4 feet high and about one-third the width of the river.

“The low water levels seen this year at Atchison have not been seen in several years, dating back at least to the drought of the early to mid-2000s,” said David S. Kolarik of the US Army Corps of Engineers. “This is due to both the drought in the upper basin and a general lowering of the stream bed which we observed particularly after the 2019 flood. Water conservation measures are in place, limiting minimum releases from Gavins Point Dam to 12,000 cubic feet per second from normal winter minimum releases of 17,000 cubic feet per second when more water is available in the reservoirs.

According to Kolarik, the District of Kansas City is set to receive about $278 million under the Infrastructure Jobs and Investments Act. Nearly $249 million is intended to repair 2019 flood damage to the Missouri River Riverbank Stabilization and Navigation Project (within district limits) from Rulo, Nebraska to St. Louis. In addition to the Missouri River repairs, several area lakes will benefit from Infrastructure and Investment Jobs Act funds.

Dredging of the Missouri River has not been performed by the Corps since the completion of construction of a 9-foot self-scouring navigation channel between Sioux City, Iowa and St. Louis in 1980. However, the Corps had to perform emergency dredging. over the past two years.

Kolarik said the Corps has channel inspectors who monitor the river and also gather input from the shipping industry to identify areas of concern primarily during the ice-free months of April through November when shipping flows are backed by dams on the Missouri River.

“This dredging was necessary in large part due to damage to the river formation structures used to create the self-cleaning channel caused by the 2019 flood, while the last emergency dredging was in 2003.” , said Kolarik. “We can deploy survey equipment to provide a detailed picture of what the bottom of the river looks like, and then our engineers can assess the flow conditions on site and the river conditions to help determine what the best way to deal with the shoal.

“The river is often dynamic enough that shoals can clear themselves between when they are identified and when a dredge might be deployed,” he said.

During the winter months, a typical Missouri riverboat can draw between 7.5 and 9 feet and have up to seven barges. The Corps regularly conducts river training structure inspections in smaller craft with a draft of less than four feet.

Larger craft may be able to operate in localized areas in winter, but would be expected to have difficulty navigating the entire river depending on the amount of flow from tributaries below the dams of the Missouri River, Kolarik said.

Kolarik also explained what would be needed if Atchison wanted to add a park or buildings along the river.

“It is possible to develop areas along the river, but there are steps to be taken to ensure this can be done without harming existing federal projects, infrastructure, private property and the environment. “, Kolarik said. “If the community is interested in building a flood wall, the Corps would be happy to discuss ways in which we could help examine the feasibility of this type of feature, whether built by the local community or in partnership with the Corps. ”

The Missouri River is crucial to many states, but it’s also very weather dependent. Widespread severe to exceptional drought continues to dominate the western half of the continental United States, the northern plains and the Missouri Basin, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

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