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Officials: Rain, high reservoir releases to mean wet summer

By MARGERY A. BECKJune 20, 2019

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — The continued threat of rain and higher-than-normal reservoir releases into the Missouri River will hamper the draining of floodwaters in fields and plans to repair more than 100 levee breaks after devastating spring floods.

Officials with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the National Weather Service said Thursday during a news conference that while water levels on the river have dropped below flood stage in most places, rain over the next week could lead to some parts of the river rising as much as 2 feet (0.61 meters) from Rulo, Nebraska, to where it meets the Mississippi River in St. Louis.

Increased reservoir releases are also keeping swamped land from drying out. The Corps reiterated Thursday that releases from Gavins Point Dam on the Nebraska-South Dakota border will remain at 75,000 cubic feet (2,124 cubic meters) per second until next Thursday, when officials plan to drop that amount to 70,000 cubic feet (1,982 cubic meters) per second. That’s still about twice the normal amount for this time of year.

Normal releases from Gavins Dam might not be seen again until November, officials have said.

Officials with the Corps’ Omaha and Kansas City, Missouri, divisions acknowledged that the increased reservoir releases were hampering efforts to close scores of levees broken in March during historic flooding in the Missouri River Basin that caused significant damage in Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri and Kansas.

“It has made things more difficult, yes,” said Matthew Krajewski with the Omaha division.

Of the 47 levee breaks seen in Nebraska and Iowa, only seven have been closed, Krajewski said. In Kansas and Missouri, none of the 64 levee breaks have been repaired, Mike Dulin with the Corps’ Kansas City division said.

“We have not been able to access those areas yet due to continued high water,” Dulin said.

He said it will likely be “well into the summer” before crews can even access breached levees along the river in far northwestern Missouri. Other breaks further downstream in Kansas and Missouri north of Kansas City should be accessible sooner, he said.

“But there’s no guarantees on that as long as the water is high,” Dulin said.

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