Below are two articles on the continuing drought in the Dakota's that is
resulting in extremely low river flows. Most power plants downstream get
enormous amounts of cooling water directly out of the river. The new
proposed by KCPL would get their water (7,000 gallons per minute!)from the
aquifer below the river.
I'm concerned that this would further drain our stressed drinking water
aquifers - we had to conserve water 2 years ago during our drought because
the aquifer was so low.
NPR News: Decreasing water levels in
February 7, 2005
Missouri River threaten
RENEE MONTAGNE, host: Governors from six Midwestern states meet today in
Sioux Falls, South Dakota, to try to reach consensus over the water levels
of the Missouri River. The upper basin is in the fifth year of a drought.
River levels are so low that hydroelectric plants are having trouble
generating enough electricity. South Dakota Governor Mike Rounds wants
held back before the river gets even lower. Without new measures, some
predict downstream states could encounter rolling electricity blackouts
year. Cara Hetland of Minnesota Public Radio reports.
CARA HETLAND reporting: Effects of the drought can be seen here at what
be the most important dam on the Missouri River, Gavin's Point. (Soundbite
of rushing water)
HETLAND: Gavin's Point manager Dave Becker points out water marks on a
concrete wall about 10 feet above the river.
Mr. DAVE BECKER (Manager, Gavin's Point Dam): That's probably when we're
maximum output here, and then those higher water years, like the late
we had some very, very wet years and were releasing, you know, on the
of 35,000 cubic feet per second.
HETLAND: The water that flows through the dam is half that now. Because of
low water, hydropower production is down more than a third from last year.
Since this is the last dam on the Missouri River, it's the one that
determines how much water flows to neighboring states, and it's the US
Corps of Engineers that makes that determination and controls the spigot.
Experts predict that by next year, the river will be so low the Corps will
be forced to turn the water down to a trickle. That's why Governor Mike
Rounds is asking governors in affected states to pressure the Corps to
change its operating procedure, detailed in what's called the Master
Army Corps spokesman Paul Johnston says the manual takes into account both
flooding and drought situations.
Mr. PAUL JOHNSTON (Spokesman, Army Corps of Engineers): We've made a
commitment to the people of the basin that we're not going to make a
to that Master Manual without a very public process. The last time we had
public process on a significant change, it took us 14 years, so we'll--I
think in the near term that we'll probably stick with the plan that's
already out there.
HETLAND: After all, Johnston says, it just might rain. But if it doesn't,
coal-fired power plants downstream are in trouble because they rely on the
river for cooling water. John Cruz(ph), professor at the University of
Missouri, says there may not be enough water in the river to cool the
plants and he predicts they have to shut down a third of the time.
Professor JOHN CRUZ (University of Missouri): You can't move enough power
around if you get significant demands all along the river, and you're
particularly talking about, you know, the big city areas. You've got, you
know, the Kansas City area there, you've got the Omaha area, you've got
St. Louis area.
HETLAND: Cruz says while many assume the utilities can just buy power off
the grid, that won't work if all the plants up and down the river are
to cut back production.
Prof. CRUZ: When you start to talk to them about, `Well, if you couldn't
power from another reliability region because it was already being sourced
for this purpose,' they'll look at you and say, `Well, you know, we always
assume that we can buy unlimited power from other regions.'
HETLAND: Cruz predicts a significant rise in electric bill rates in the
couple of years to cover the cost of buying what power off the grid they
find. South Dakota Governor Mike Rounds believes if all of the states
to his plan to hold back water before the river drops any further, then
Army Corps will have no choice. Rounds says reaching a consensus is a
option than taking the issue to court, but he isn't ruling that out.
This a report from the AP about the actual meeting...
Missouri River states can't
agree on water conservation
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - A suggestion to tinker with the downstream
a means of saving water in the drought-affected Missouri River
high and dry.
At a Monday meeting of Missouri River states, Gov. Mike Rounds proposed
and when water is released for the downstream barge industry in order to
in the reservoirs and avoid a "navigational preclude" that's part of the
of Engineers' master manual for operating the dams and reservoirs.
When storage in the six reservoirs drops to 31 million acre-feet (maf),
will be required to save water in the reservoirs. Discharges would be
float barges downriver.
The system now has a record low 35 million acre-feet of water, compared
normally. Based on current snowpack conditions and projected runoff, the
others acknowledge the 31 maf trigger is almost a certainty in the
and likely in 2007.
Rounds argued that holding back some water this year might be enough to
trigger next year.
With Missouri's representative voicing the most opposition to that,
only to get agreement that the governors would work on a resolution
corps to conserve water whenever possible.
Much of the day's discussion revealed familiar themes - upstream states
reservoirs want more water kept in the lakes for recreation and domestic
supplies, while downstream states want a steady flow for navigation, to
plants and for their municipal water systems.
The navigational preclude may be an advantage for upper basin states,
Dakota Gov. John Hoeven, who backed Rounds' proposal.
"We may build up (reservoir levels) faster by just following the manual
actually what Mike is proposing, although I think Mike is making a
to say, `Hey, let's learn from the past, let's conserve water, this
Nebraska Gov. Dave Heinemann and Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer also
governors of Missouri, Kansas and Iowa sent representatives.
Ron Kucera, of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, said
schedule now would interfere with contracts already signed to haul
asphalt and other products by barge this spring and summer.
"Our businesses, our farmers, need reliability and certainty (with water
thought when we got a new master manual - even if they didn't like it -
have some reliability and certainty," Kucera said.
There were presentations throughout the day illustrating how low water
levels in the
reservoir and low flows below Sioux City, Iowa affect fish reproduction,
and intakes that carry water to drinking water systems or power plant
Charles Murphy, chairman of the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in
South Dakota, said low water on Lake Oahe led to siltation clogging the
on a water system. Schools, hospitals, businesses and 10,000 people were
The tribe spent $3 million for a quick fix, to shuttle the elderly and
patients, and for temporary toilets.
"People suffered and they don't want this crisis again," Murphy said.
Emergency pumping systems for power plants and water systems can take
design and build at a cost that generally is passed on to the consumer,
Dorsey, of the Kansas City Board of Public Utilities.
Rounds and Hoeven frequently pointed out that low-water problems in
will spread to downstream states at the 31 maf trigger.
When downriver flows are low enough, power producers "will take it in
"I did not realize that the persuasion of the barge industry would be
perhaps the persuasive discussion or points made by the power producing
organizations or a whole lot of consumers in the lower basin," he told
He intimated later that this may be the only time for compromise.
"I will tell you that it will be our (South Dakota) position that should
we not find
compromise on this issue this year, when preclude occurs next year we
certainly ask that it be fully enforced in an effort to conserve water
following year," Rounds said.
Schweitzer said the worry in his state is that with two years of low
31 maf trigger, downstream states will argue they aren't getting their
water and will make it a political fight in Washington.
"We know preclude is not a good place to go politically," Schweitzer
there's a master manual and some highfaluting folks worked on this for a
and now it's all cast in concrete, but when folks don't have water to
drink in big
cities it becomes a big problem, not a little problem like it is when
people on an Indian reservation in North or South Dakota," Schweitzer
Earlier, Wayne Nelson-Stastny with the South Dakota Department of Game,
Parks said there is below-normal snowdepth in the mountains and plains,
below-normal moisture content in what snow is on the ground.
"The basin is really entrenched in a pretty significant drought right
now," he said.
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