Steve Harding

In a river community, you have river concerns. And during this very wet spring, I have been hearing about a lot of those concerns from our community members. Primarily, people are wondering about the high water in the Oahe Dam and the potential release rates.

I’m not a hydrologist nor does the city manage the Oahe Dam, but recently I have had many conversations with people who are experts in the subject. Here’s what they’re saying.

First and foremost, at this time the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is confident it can handle runoff and current water levels. They also tell us that we can expect high flows out of the Oahe Dam for the summer, and reservoir levels will remain high.

It’s important to understand that the USACE is responsible for managing all six dams along the Missouri River. What happens at the top of the system absolutely impacts what happens at the bottom of the system, as well as all the space in between. The northern three dams have the most capacity to hold water; the dams below Lake Oahe have very limited capacity.

With that said, the city is keeping a very close eye on the dam levels and what they mean for our community. City staff is in close contact with the USACE and receives regular updates on the status of the water levels and release rates. Earlier this spring, we also received updated impact maps from the USACE, as well as offers of additional preparedness and response resources.

As of today, USACE is anticipating Oahe Dam’s average flow rate next week to be 49,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) and 55,000 cfs in early July. With a flow of 55,000 cfs, we anticipate no impact to residential or commercial property in Pierre. We are analyzing updated data as it becomes available and positioning ourselves in case we need to take swift action.

If you have questions about river management, I encourage you to reach out to our local USACE office at 605-224-8531.

By Steve Harding, mayor of Pierre

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