Gov. Jack Dalrymple told other Missouri River governors today that the U.S. Corps of Engineers should lower Lake Sakakawea's targeted elevation to prepare for another year of expected heavy precipitation.
The majority of governors and officials from eight states along the Missouri River supported Dalrymple's request for the Corps to lower Lake Sakakawea and make room for greater water storage during spring runoff.
"We are asking the Corps to provide additional flood control storage in 2012 based on current conditions in the river basin and the National Weather Service's outlook for another year of above-average precipitation," Dalrymple said. "At this time the Corps has not indicated any intentions to deviate from its standard operating plan despite the extended weather outlook."
Today's meeting in Omaha, Neb., was the second held by Missouri River governors who formed a working group after this year's major flooding along the river system. The governors, who first met in August, have jointly told the U.S. Corps of Engineers that they want more input into the river system's management. They have also asked Congress to conduct a high-level, independent review of the Corps' actions surrounding this year's Missouri River flooding.
"It's unlikely we will face a flood event similar to what we've seen this year, but the current conditions in the basin and the National Weather Service's outlook for another year of above-average precipitation justify altering the operating plan," Dalrymple said.
The Corps plans to draw down Lake Sakakawea to a surface elevation of 1,837.5 feet. State Engineer Todd Sando has asked Corps officials Brig. Gen. John McMahon and Col. Robert Ruch to lower the lake's level to 1,835 feet, or 2.5 feet lower than the Corp's plan.
Lowering the lake an additional 2.5 feet would create 750,000 acre-feet of additional storage space, without causing downstream damages. The additional storage space is equivalent to releases of 10,000 cubic feet of water per second for 38 days, Sando said.
Gen. John McMahon, who oversees the Corps' Northwest Division, and other Corps officials attended the meeting to answer questions and discuss emergency programs and Missouri River management.
Dalrymple said Missouri River states need more say in the river system's management.
"By providing greater input to the Corps and by making adjustments that allow for greater flexibility, it is my hope that we can prevent any potential future damages," he said.
During Monday's meeting, the governors signed a letter to Congress, stating that the states, through the Governors' Working Group, are committed to having more direct involvement in the river system's management.
Attending today's meeting in Omaha were: Gov. Dalrymple, Gov. Dave Heineman of Nebraska, Gov. Terry Branstad of Iowa, Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas, Gov. Jay Nixon of Missouri, Gov. Brian Schweitzer of Montana, Gov. Dennis Daugaard of South Dakota and Kari Gray, Chief of Staff for Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead