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Historic Flooding Predicted for Missouri River Basin

June 2, 2011
By: Sara Schafer, Farm Journal Media Business and Crops Editor
North Dakota Flood
Overflowing rivers will likely be seen in many of the states surrounding the Missouri River Basin.  

Brothers Travis and Troy Milne could be labeled lucky. The Oregon, Mo., farmers checked corn and soybean planting off their to-do list in May. But now, some of their best-looking corn will likely get engulfed and ruined by the muddy Missouri River, which flows four miles from their farm headquarters.

Nearly a year’s worth of rainfall has pelted the upper Missouri River Basin, which has caused flooding of historic proportions. Combine that with snow pack runoff, and the river system is filled at 140% of its normal capacity.
 
To deal with the surge of water, the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers is increasing reservoir releases and sending record amounts of water downstream. Brig. Gen. John McMahon released that the Corps will soon be releasing 150,000 cubic feet per second from five of the six main stem dams, which will result in much higher levels on the river downstream.
 
On average, 4 million cubic feet of water flow over Niagara Falls each minute. The 150,000 cubic feet released each second will pack a heavy punch as it rushes through the Dakotas, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and other areas.
 
After the Corp’s controversial decision to blow the Birds Point levee in Mississippi County, Mo., and flood large amounts of farmland, one of the state’s lawmakers is asking for careful consideration.
 
According to a news release, U.S. Congressman Sam Graves has expressed his concern to Gen. McMahon that the water being released upstream will likely result in significant flooding in Missouri.
 
“Everyone understands that the Corps has to release water,” said Graves in a news release. “However, the volume set to come downstream right now will amount to a man-made natural disaster. I want to find out if there is any extra capacity that can be used upstream.”
 
Graves said he wants the Corps to take a second look at all their options. “The impact on farmers and landowners all along the Missouri is going to be tremendous if they carry out this plan. I am urging the Corps to hold as much water as possible upstream.”
 

Milnes Checking Corn
Around one-third of the acres that make up the Milne farms in Oregon, Mo., are located in the Missouri River bottoms. Here, brothers Troy (left) and Travis Milne, check a good-looking corn field that is safe from flooding threats.
Planning for the Worst

At their farm in northwest Missouri, the Milnes have been loading out and selling corn they had stored in a grain system near the river. “The top of the levee is the same elevation as the bottom of our grain system,” Travis says. From what they’ve heard, for their area, the river will reach its highest point around June 19. At least they’ve had time to prepare for the floodwaters.
 
Travis says even if the river doesn’t breach the levee, their crop may still not be safe. “The ditches are getting full of water,” Travis says. “So even if it just rains, the bottom ground will go under.” Around one-third of their farming operation lays in the river bottom.
 
Around their area, Travis says many farmers are working hard to protect their fields as much as possible. “Guys have been building levees up and making them thicker to keep water away,” he says.
 
It’s almost hard to believe too much rain will be a problem for this year’s crop, Troy says. “Not long ago we were begging for a rain.”  
 

QT Weather Flooding Threats
QT Meteorologist Allen Motew reports farmers are experiencing many agricultural hazards this week. More wet weather and field flooding will occur in parts of Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Montana, North Dakota, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio. Click to enlarge.
The Affected Areas

Here’s a collection of state-by-state impacts of flooding, with news impacts courtesy of the Associated Press and National Weather Service. (For more, read: Another "Great Flood": Missouri River)
 
Montana
  • A dike built in 1967 burst, sending up to 6 feet of water into parts of Roundup. National Guard troops were sent Sunday.
  • The small town has retained much of its flood water and the Musselshell River level was hardly declining, emergency officials said. Road closures have cut the town off from all directions but the north.
  • Record flood crests: Roundup, Harlowton, Big Horn, Hardin, Miles City
  • Emergencies have been declared in 51 Montana counties and Indian reservations.
 
North Dakota
  • Missouri River remains in major flood at Williston, N.D.
  • Estimated 1 million gallons per second to be released from Garrison Dam by mid-June. (Would cover a football field to depth of 10 feet every second!)
  • Seven miles of earthen levees should be built by end of this week in Bismarck/Mandan. Estimated 8 million sandbags will be needed.
  • More than 300 homes could be flooded in south side of Bismarck.
  • State of emergencies declared in 7 counties and the Standing Rock Reservation.
 
South Dakota & Downstream
  • 100-150 homes in Pierre and another 200 homes in Ft. Pierre may be affected by flood waters or underground water seeping through basement floors.
  • Rain Sunday soaked those working on levees in Pierre & Ft. Pierre. Emergency levees will be built another 2 feet higher.
  • Gov. Daugaard advised residents of Yankton and Dakota Dunes to be prepared to evacuate due to an increased flood threat from higher than expected dam releases. Flooding is expected to be significant in these communities which have a combined population of 17,000.
  • Elevated flood levels may persist into July.
  • Army Corps: River stages 3-6 feet above flood stage are expected from just below Sioux City, Iowa to just north of St. Louis later this summer.
  • Flood gates were raised Sunday in Omaha to help keep water from encroaching into the city’s downtown area.
  • Water already encroaching on Ft. Calhoun, Neb. and Sloan, Iowa.

 


 

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