Key Missouri River levees seen repaired by March

Reuters News
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Posted: Feb 22, 2012 10:38 PM
Key Missouri River levees seen repaired by March

OMAHA, Nebraska (Reuters) - Repairs to critical Missouri River levees damaged or destroyed by flooding last summer are on schedule to be completed before the traditional start of the runoff season on March 1.

The runoff in the current calendar year is forecast to be above normal but not nearly as heavy as last year - the highest amount in the 114 years of records kept by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Key repairs are wrapping up to Omaha's concrete flood wall and to earthen levees protecting the Iowa communities of Council Bluffs, Hamburg and Percival and the Missouri city of Rock Port.

Repairs to a severely eroded spillway at Fort Randall Dam near the South Dakota-Nebraska border and to the outlet tunnel channel at the Oahe Dam north of Pierre, South Dakota, also are winding down, the Corps said.

"We're on track everywhere with critical structures," said Colonel Bob Ruch, commander of the Omaha District for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Congress allocated the Corps $530 million for post-flood levee rehabilitation as well as repairs and maintenance to its six dams on the upper Missouri.

Last year's record spring runoff in the northern Plains and Rocky Mountains caused unprecedented flooding. The swirling flood waters left behind sinkholes in roads and parks, tore apart levees, submerged houses and forced repairs for rail lines, bridges and other infrastructure.

Corps officials see no immediate threat of Missouri River flooding this spring, due in part to far less snow on the Plains and in the Rockies.

The Corps also used the mild winter to make aggressive water releases from its dams and create additional flood storage.

The Corps released more water from the reservoir system, the nation's largest, in response to public concerns about the risk of flooding this year and because not all repairs to the levee system will be completed before the runoff season begins.

The Corps expects total run-off of 25.6 million acre-feet in 2012, compared with a normal runoff of 24.8 million acre-feet. Last year, the runoff totaled 61.2 million acre-feet or nearly 2-1/2 times normal.

(Editing by David Bailey and Paul Thomasch)