Shutting off the Missouri River
By Danielle Abbott, BHG News Service
The U.S. Corps of Engineers made history on March 24 when they made the decision to close the Garrison Dam and allow no water to be released into the Missouri River. The recent risk of flooding in the Bismarck Mandan area drove the Corps to make its decision. The water in the Missouri had risen near Bismarck to an estimated 15.5 feet, less than half a foot from the 16-foot flood stage. The Corps had been carefully watching the river flow, ice dams and other factors that contributed to the area’s flooding. Paul Johnston, spokesman for the Corps of Engineers, said that on March 21, the Garrison Dam, which usually releases up to 19,000 cubic feet per second, was taken down to a 6,000 cfs release, a near record for the dam. On Tuesday the Corps matched its lowest point ever, when the dam was taken down to a 4,000 cfs output, and they made history several hours later when the dam was closed completely, with zero release. Corps officials note that from time to time throughout the year, releases from power generating units are reduced to zero, but only for short periods of time. The reasons very, including maintenance and load schedules, but this was the first time that no water was released for this extent of time.