Burgum urges Corps officials to prevent Missouri River flooding, clearly communicate increases in dam releases
BISMARCK, N.D. (June 21, 2018) – Gov. Doug Burgum today urged the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to clearly and promptly communicate changes in the amount of water being released from Garrison Dam, and to take the necessary steps to prevent flooding as much as possible, as the Corps announced it will step up releases to 60,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) by Saturday, raising the river in Bismarck to within 1.5 feet of flood stage.
Burgum stressed the critical importance of strong communication and river management during a phone call this morning with Col. John L. Hudson, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Omaha District, and in a separate call Wednesday evening with Garrison Dam Operations Manager Todd Lindquist.
Today’s announcement from the Corps comes just a few days after the agency said it would increase flows from Garrison Dam from 44,000 cfs to 52,000 cfs by Friday, raising the river level in Bismarck to 12 feet. Now, releases from the dam will be stepped up to 60,000 cfs by Saturday and are expected to remain at that level through mid-July, raising the river to 13 feet in Bismarck. Flood stage is 14.5 feet, and the 2011 flood saw a crest of 19.25 feet.
“With memories of the historic 2011 flood still fresh in the minds of many residents, it’s crucial that the Army Corps of Engineers carefully manage Missouri River flows up and down the system and promptly inform residents of changes in Garrison Dam releases and forecasted river levels so citizens can plan accordingly,” said Burgum, who chairs the State Water Commission.
Col. Hudson assured the governor and Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford that the Corps is working to keep river levels below flood stage throughout the system while maintaining enough capacity in reservoirs to absorb rainfall. Hudson said that barring a significant, sustained rain event, the Corps is reasonably confident that the 60,000 cfs release rate should be sufficient to maintain Lake Sakakawea levels within the reservoir’s Exclusive Flood Control Zone, which extends from elevation 1,850 to 1,854 feet. The reservoir is currently at 1,851.4 feet and is expected to peak near 1,852.4 feet in the next two weeks as runoff from mountain snowpack tapers off, the Corps said. The Corps is increasing Garrison Dam releases because of persistent rains in the reach from Fort Peck, Mont., to Garrison.
A 13-foot river level in Bismarck is expected to have minimal impact on homes and infrastructure but will likely cause additional shoreline erosion and could create issues with drain fields and wet basements for some homeowners, officials said. If requested by Burleigh and Morton counties, the North Dakota Game and Fish Department is ready to implement idle-speed-only restrictions for watercraft to prevent erosion along the Missouri River.
As chair of the State Water Commission, Burgum offered Hudson assistance from the agency to aide in the Corps’ decision making.