As water releases from Missouri River dams begin to drop, Gov. Dennis Daugaard is reminding residents to respect the still-record flows and stay away from levees protecting communities.
"This is not the time to become complacent," Gov. Daugaard said. "We've come this far by putting safety first. As the releases begin to decline, the river level will gradually fall. However, the river will remain above its banks through the month of August and perhaps longer."
The Governor said levees will continue to be essential protective measures for riverside communities, and he urges citizens to stay away from the levees as river levels drop.
"If there's going to be a catastrophic failure of the levees, it probably would occur during this rapid draw down in water levels," Gov. Daugaard said. "I know people are anxious to return home and begin the cleanup process that will get things back to normal. There is an end in sight, but I urge patience for a while longer."
Releases from Oahe Dam north of Pierre recently had been at 130,000 cubic feet per second for several days. That rate is more than twice the previous record rate from 1997. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Friday, Aug. 19, began a slow reduction of the release rates. The current schedule calls for releases from Oahe to be at 85,000 cfs by Aug. 27. The Corps says that's the flow rate at which the Missouri River should return to its banks.
At Gavins Point Dam near Yankton, a similar gradual reduction in release rates started Friday. The current schedule calls for a reduction in releases of 5,000 cfs per day through the month of August, when the releases should be at 90,000 cfs.
Officials have enforced no-trespassing restrictions on and near the levees since they were constructed nearly three months ago. As the river water against the temporary earthen structures recedes, there could be shifting and sloughing, creating conditions dangerous to public safety.