Published March 6, 2024

Sakakawea Outlook Sinks Again

Written by
Kim Fundingsland
| The Dakotan

Peak for 2024 Reached in January

RIVERDALE – The Missouri River Basin runoff forecast has dropped considerably from one month ago. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers latest projections for snowmelt runoff into the system is now just 66% of normal. A month ago, that number was 73%.

According to the Corps’ March outlook, 17.0-million-acre feet of water is expected to enter the Missouri River Basin this year. That compares to a long-term average of 25.7 maf and 18.8 maf contained in the February outlook. The January forecast was for 20.1 maf. Snowfall over the drainage continues to track below average.

The latest Snow Water Equivalent evaluations in the “above Fort Peck” reach is 73% of normal. The “Fort Peck to Garrison” reach is 78%. Those percentages are higher than they were the February outlook. Nevertheless, the amount of runoff that enters the system is expected to be less due to factors including dry soil conditions and precipitation forecasts.

According to the latest runoff outlook, Sakakawea’s peak elevation for 2024 occurred in January at 1,836.9 feet and the state’s largest body of water will rise only half a foot over its current elevation to a high of 1,835.7 feet by the end of June.

No major complications are anticipated with water supplies, lake access, or recreation due to the expected low runoff and declining water level but, if the forecast holds, it places the reservoir in a precarious position for 2025. Peak snowfall accumulation throughout the drainage occurs near April 17.

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