- Associated Press - Monday, June 22, 2015

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is taking steps to reduce flooding risks in the Missouri River Basin after recording higher than expected water levels at all of its mainstream reservoirs.

Corps officials said Monday they expect to hold more water back over the summer, using the storage capacity of reservoirs to limit downstream flooding when possible. Corps officials will gradually increase the amount of water released as the summer progresses, said Jody Farhat, chief of the Corps’ Missouri River Basin Water Management Division.

Corps officials were planning for drought conditions as recently as last month because of a dry winter and below-average mountain snowpack that feeds into the river.

But torrential rains in Midwestern and Plains states have increased the flow of water into the river’s tributaries and the Corps’ network of dams. Some states have seen 10 inches in the last 30 days.

“Things have taken quite a turn,” National Weather Service Hydrologist Kevin Low said in a conference call with government officials, Indian tribes and reporters.

Low said the lower third of the basin could experience minor to moderate flooding over the summer. Creeks and stream levels are likely to rise slightly higher than normal in southeastern Nebraska, eastern Kansas and Missouri due to the rain-saturated soil, he said.

The basin covers parts of Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, the Dakotas and all of Nebraska.

Most of the basin has experienced higher than average precipitation, and some parts of Colorado, Wyoming, the Dakotas and Kansas have seen two to four times their normal rainfall in the last month, said South Dakota State Climatologist Dennis Todey.

Todey said July is expected bring more chances for rain than average, but less overall precipitation.

Corps officials say the water flows aren’t as severe as they were during the historic 2011 Missouri River flood, which was caused by record snowfall in the Rocky Mountains and heavy rainfall in Montana. The 2011 flood forced major bridge closures and threatened towns that sit downstream along the river.

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