Data shows James River unlikely to flood this yearHURON — Data presented Thursday at a public meeting suggests the flood that poured down the James River in 2011 won’t be repeated this year, unless weather conditions drastically change to very wet very fast.
By: Bob Mercer, Republic Capitol Bureau
HURON — Data presented Thursday at a public meeting suggests the flood that poured down the James River in 2011 won’t be repeated this year, unless weather conditions drastically change to very wet very fast.
Brian Twombly, an Omaha-based official for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, met Thursday with the James River water development district’s board.
He said a medium, or even low, flow is expected this year.
In a nutshell, he said, the James will be “quite a lot lower than recent years.”
Among the reasons he gave:
The winter snowpack has melted and has already flowed into the Jamestown and Pipestem reservoirs in North Dakota, or is already moving downstream on the river in South Dakota;
The river basin’s precipitation in the past 180 days has been at or slightly below normal, and forecasts don’t indicate anything different for the months ahead;
Drought conditions are starting to form in parts of the general region; and
Pipestem reservoir is just starting to use its flood-storage capacity and Jamestown hasn’t yet. The measurement at Jamestown shows the river stage at 3.62 feet Thursday, well below the 12.97 feet where the river stood on Oct. 11. Releases from the North Dakota dams hit 1,800 cubic feet per second in 2011. Twombly said a maximum of 750 cfs is forecast for this year.
Total releases in 2011 from the two James River dams were 828,000 acre-feet, far surpassing the previous record of 530,000 acre-feet in 2009.
An acre foot of water is the amount needed to cover an acre of ground with a foot of water. The corps is considering possible revisions to its management plan for the James River, with a meeting planned for April 4 at Jamestown.
Twombly said the corps has been using a flexible-release approach in recent years, but the difficulty remains the slow travel times of water moving down the river.
He noted that the river also picks up a lot of water downstream from the reservoirs.
He said the river’s flow at Scotland in southern South Dakota often is four times as great the flow from the North Dakota reservoirs.