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Army Corps: More water stored in dam system than in 2011 and releases will remain high

Releases from Oahe Dam north of Pierre and Fort Pierre, and from Gavins Point Dam just west of Yankton on the Nebraska line which is the described as the bottom drain of the the Upper Missouri River Basin water storage system, will remain at the current high levels well into autumn to deal with historically high runoff.

That’s the latest news from the Omaha office of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers flood control managers.

A chief goal this time of year for the Army Corps is to get the reservoirs behind the big six dams on the Missouri — Garrison and Oahe being the biggest — lowered enough to handle next spring’s seasonal rush.

The high level of runoff this year — second only to the big flood year in 2011 in recorded history — in the Upper Missouri Basin has meant the system has been near — within maybe one big rain event — to maxing out its storage capacity.

The maximum listed is 72.4 million acre-feet (MAF), which was exceeded in mid-summer 2011, part of the floods that devastated the region, including in Pierre and Fort Pierre.

This year the system’s total storage peaked at 68.4 MAF on July 20 and has been falling since.

Barely. The decline has been much more gradual this year than it was in 2011.

It’s interesting that as of Tuesday, Aug. 27, the system’s storage level was at 66.1 MAF, higher than it was in 2011 on the same date and higher than last year on Aug. 27, when it also was higher than the 2011 level for the same day.

“We are storing more water than we were in 2011 and 2018,” Eileen Williamson, deputy director of public affairs for the Army Corps office in Omaha, told the Capital Journal on Friday. “Releases were much higher earlier in 2011 and in 2018 significant rain events in the Sioux city area meant lower releases to reduce flooding risk from unregulated runoff.”

It’s been a rainy summer across the region.

Precipitation in Pierre is running nearly 9 inches above the 30-year average through Aug. 29 at just under 24 inches which already is more than the normal average for an entire year. That includes including 3.54 inches in August, double the month’s normal rainfall, according to the National Weather Service. It’s been even wetter elsewhere in the state, much of it in the drainage system into the Missouri.

The Army Corps has kept the releases from the big dammed reservoirs at high levels all summer in response to the high runoffs and above normal rains to counter the above-normal inflows.

The release levels from Oahe have been set at daily averages of above 55,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) for weeks, and have been at 57,000 cfs in recent days, which is lowering the reservoir slowly.

But it also has kept the Missouri River high as it flows between Pierre and Fort Pierre than many residents are comfortable with.

City Utilities Director Brad Palmer in Pierre has cited the high river levels as exacerbating problems the city has had with faulty sanitary sewer pipes the past six weeks in Griffin Park near the river.

The City Commission declared an emergency on Aug. 27 to spend an estimated $600,000 to hire outside consultant and contractors to get the sewer pipe problem fixed before winter. Palmer said that knowing the release levels from Oahe Dam won’t be decreasing any time soon was part of the reason for the emergency declaration he asked the City Commission to approve.

That is the case, an Army Corps spokeswoman said Friday.

“(W)e anticipate releases from Gavins Point to remain at 70,000 cfs through September and into October to ensure much of the water stored in the flood control zones has left the system before ices sets in in the reaches between Oahe and Garrison and farther north,” Eileen Williamson said via email on Friday.

The Army Corps says the release levels from Oahe Dam will remain at a daily average of 57,000 cfs at least through Sept. 20.

The inflows, meanwhile, into Lake Oahe have been running at a daily average of 47,900 cfs. That math has the Army Corps projecting that by Sept. 20, Lake Oahe’s level will be down to 1614.3 feet above sea level.

It’s worth noting that for most of the five decades that Oahe Dam has been operating, the main concern has been having enough water behind it to handle the several uses the Army Corps is charged with protecting, including drinking water, irrigation supplies, recreation and wildlife, but the flood control issue has been dominant in public concerns in recent years.

The reservoir level behind Oahe Dam was at 1616 feet above sea level on Aug. 27, a foot below the “exclusive flood control” zone that begins at 1617 and goes to the “top” of the reservoir’s potential of 1620 feet.

System-wide, on Aug. 27 there were 66.1 MAF stored in the six reservoirs from Gavins Point to Fort Peck in Montana, leaving 39 percent of the flood-control storage available to handle runoff.

Of course the more critical problems along the Missouri River this year continue to be in the Lower Basin, below Sioux City, where levees are being fixed from the devastating floods this summer.

Most areas of the Missouri River Basin received rain the past week. More rain was expected through Saturday, Aug. 31, the Army Corps reported on Friday.

'Lunch & learn’ addresses childhood trauma

Teresa Thie’s presentation ”Understanding adverse childhood experiences — building self-healing communities” was the August 28 installment of The Right Turn’s monthly lunch & learn program.

Despite adverse childhood experiences, an individual’s resilience can be built. And, a community as a whole can be strengthened through its individual members going through this process, according to Thie. Thie is an education and public awareness specialist with the Children’s Home Society of South Dakota. The Society sponsors Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) training.

“We help explain the connection between brain development and adaptive behaviors in people who have experienced trauma. This training also covers resiliency and how to build these individuals,” said Thei. She and other trainers help participants at meetings like the Lunch & Learn program leave with a better understanding of their role in building a self-healing community.

“As master level ACE trainers, myself and other individuals go out across the state to share this information in about every platform.” said Thie.

“The main purpose of the training is to ensure that the community lay-person as well as professionals working with the community, understand the dynamics that trauma has on an individual and on the community level,” said Thie.

“We provide this training at no charge. It can be modified to fit the needs of any venue, and allows for activities and questions to ensure that the subject matter is absorbed by the attendees. We not only discuss the ACE study, but also dive into understanding the brain development and epigenetics of a person who has experienced trauma,” said Thei.

“We appreciate the resources that Teresa shared and look forward to an electronic version of them to share with our child care providers,” said Nancy Schlichenmayer of The Right Turn.

Each month, people can brown-bag it, and take in a different free presentation. The lunch and learn sessions at The Right Turn are usually held the last Wednesday of the month. The September 25 session’s feature guest will be Kristie Maher from the Discovery Center. “We are always looking for speakers. We welcome agencies or programs to contact us if they would like to share information with child care providers or community members,” said Schlichenmayer.

Make-A-Wish grants 88 state wishes this year

Make-A-Wish South Dakota granted 88 wishes to children with critical illnesses this fiscal year, September 1, 2018 – August 31, 2019.

This is the largest number of wishes ever granted in South Dakota. Fiscal Year 2018 saw 80 wishes granted, and 2017 saw 72. Local chapters also helped with five wishes of youth not from South Dakota who wanted to visit here.

“Research shows children who have wishes granted can build the physical and emotional strength they need to fight a critical illness,” said Sue Salter, president and CEO of Make-A-Wish South Dakota.

Make-A-Wish serves children between the ages of 2½ and 18 who are battling a critical illness.

A regional breakdown of the 88 wishes granted this fiscal year includes:

Black Hills area: 13 wishes

Central/Pierre area: two wishes

Aberdeen area: eight wishes

Watertown/northeast area: nine wishes

Mitchell/Huron area: 10 wishes

Vermillion/Yankton area: five wishes

Sioux Falls/Brookings area: 38 wishes

South central/southwest area: three wishes

“A wish experience creates an opportunity for hope and the ability to experience life beyond illness,” said Salter. “In the fight against a critical illness, each wish serves as a catalyst for renewed strength and encouragement for every child and family on their journey.”

Some of the wishes included:

Braydan, who has a brain tumor, is one of the three 2½-year-old children. He said, “I wish to have a shopping spree.”

Bennett, also 2½-years-old, has a genetic disorder; he wished to go to Captiva Island, FL.

“I wish to go see Paw Patrol live, said 2 ½ year old Tucker, who has cancer.

“I wish to have a bedroom makeover,” said Henry (2 ½), who has leukemia.

Fighting a congenital condition, Saige (2 ½) wanted to go to the Walt Disney World.

On the other end of the age spectrum, Justin (16), who had an end-stage kidney disease, wanted to go to the 9/11 Memorial in New York City.

To have an icehouse was the wish of 17-year-old Mason, who has an autoimmune disorder.

“I wish to be a Florida Gators softball player,” said Aryonna (17) who has a congenital heart disease.

More than 260 volunteers across the state play key roles in meeting with qualified children to determine their wish.

Gina Hopkins, chair of Make-A-Wish South Dakota Board of Directors, is also a wish-granting volunteer.

“Nothing is more powerful than being part of a wish experience,” said Hopkins, “for donors, volunteers, medical professionals and entire communities.”

“A child’s imagination is at the heart of everything we accomplish together,” said Hopkins. “Along with that imagination comes the strength to be resilient, the strength to unify a community, the strength to find hope. A wish-come-true empowers and transforms the lives of anyone who plays a part.”

Each granting process starts with a wish referral from someone close to the youth — someone on the medical care team, a parent or other relative. Make-A-Wish South Dakota strives to find and grant the wish of every eligible child in the state.

Since its founding in 1984, Make-A-Wish South Dakota has granted 1,472 wishes. For more information, visit southdakota.wish.org.

Cultural Heritage Center hosting traditional arts demo day on Sept. 14

The Museum of the South Dakota State Historical Society will host five American Indian traditional artists for Traditional Arts Demonstration Day from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. CDT on Saturday, Sept. 14, at the Cultural Heritage Center in Pierre.

The event is free, with free admission to the museum galleries as well. Refreshments will be served.

“Traditional Arts Demonstration Day is one of our favorite events at the museum,” said Jay Smith, museum director. “It is always a pleasure to have the artists here showing the visitors how they create their beautiful work and sharing their knowledge of traditional skills.”

The following South Dakota artists will be present on Sept. 14:

Alana Traversie of Pierre will demonstrate bead working. Traversie learned to bead earrings and do simple loom patterns at an early age. She taught herself to bead other objects, and today her specialty is making beaded moccasins.

Mike Marshall is a member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe who lives and works in Mission. He will share his extensive knowledge of traditional Lakota games and toys and make traditional game pieces. Visitors will be able to make games for themselves, with supplies provided. Marshall does painting, sculpture, metalwork, ledger art, batiks (an Indonesian cloth-dyeing technique), and parfleche (envelope-shaped) boxes.

Jennifer Carter of Fort Pierre will demonstrate traditional star quilting. The single star that dominates most star quilts is made of small diamond-shaped fabric patches pieced together into eight sections. The eight-sided star is formed when these sections are joined together.

Colleen Cordell is the sole proprietor of Colleen’s Gardens & Native American Products in Marvin. She is a member of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Sioux Tribe. Cordell learned her growing and crafting skills from her grandmother and great-grandmother. She will be making dreamcatchers.

Randilynn Boucher, a Dakota and Navajo beadwork and textile artist, lives in Pine Ridge. She does beadwork, quillwork, and ribbon work. Boucher won the Founder’s Award for the most innovative use of culturally specific methods or techniques at the 50th Red Cloud Indian Art Show in 2018.

The museum is open from 9 a.m.- 6:30 p.m. CDT Monday through Saturday and 1 — 4:30 p.m. on Sundays and most holidays through Labor Day.

Beginning Tuesday, Sept. 3, hours will be 9 a.m.- 4:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 1- 4:30 p.m. on Sundays and most holidays.

Call 605-773-3458 for more information about exhibits, special events, and upcoming activities.

Don't forget your recycling access card

The city of Pierre is reminding the public that as of Tuesday, Sept. 3, the city’s yard waste and recycling bins will be located behind a gate at Pierre’s Solid Waste Facility on East Park Street. Also on Sept. 3, the recycling bin located at the Dakotamart parking lot will be removed.

City of Pierre residential utility customers can get a city-issued card to access the bins anytime day or night. Residential utility customers can get their access card by visiting Pierre City Hall or the Solid Waste Facility during normal business hours.

People without an access card will need to pay $3 per load to use the yard waste and recycling bins.

This change is the result of increases in operational costs and the lack of adequate financial support from local governments in the area.