- Associated Press - Friday, September 25, 2015

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - As the water levels drop in the Missouri River, boaters are becoming frustrated with the Corps of Engineers’ decision to decrease the release of water from the Garrison Dam.

Cody Strothman, a resident of Bismarck at Whispering Bay and a long-time boater, said she’s seen the river drop about 2 feet since the releases decreased.

“Every year, they drop it, but not in such a short period of time,” she said. “It looks like they really went after it.”

Boats can barely get in and out of the marinas because of the low water and silt that’s built up, according to Strothman, and some boat ramps in town are unusable, including the one at Captain Freddy’s in Mandan.

The river levels began decreasing about two weeks ago after the Corps of Engineers decreased releases to 13,000 cubic feet per second.

Berdee Ivesdal, a resident of Morton County north of Mandan, said bigger boats and pontoons from Square Butte Creek to the mouth of the river can’t go anywhere.

“Nobody can get out right now because it’s a sandbar,” she told The Bismarck Tribune (https://bit.ly/1R5lxAx ).

According to Tim Moritz, a partner at Moritz Marine, the drop has closed a number of private and public ramps.

“It’s caused a degree of problems,” Moritz said. “I’d like to know why because it seems pretty low.”

Bob Frohlich, fisheries development supervisor at the Game and Fish Department, said boaters can still go out on the river, but it will be more difficult.

“It won’t be as convenient,” he said. “We’ve seen about a 1.75 foot drop. It’s going to restrict access.”

The area that will be most affected by the lower levels will be the immediate Bismarck-Mandan area, as south of the cities will be easier to navigate, according to Frohlich.

That’s good news for anglers, because that’s where the decent bites will be, he said.

Ivesdal says her concern goes beyond recreational boating. Her worry is that the low river levels could lead to another flood if the corps is holding back too much water.

“To see the water going down is really heartbreaking. They’ve hardly released anything. A lot of neighbors are afraid this (flooding) is going to happen again,” said Ivesdal, whose house sustained $70,000 of damage during the 2011 flood. “It’s a very big concern. What are they holding for?”

Todd Lindquist, Garrison project manager for the corps, said the lake has reached its target level and that the decrease to 13,000 cfs is similar to the decrease in 2013.

“Based on the current storage in the system, we need to decrease releases now,” he said. “It’s balancing the releases between all six reservoirs.”

The decreases are seasonal and typically happen during early autumn because power and navigation demands decrease as the corps seeks to balance the reservoir demands, according to Lindquist.

“It’s a lot more complicated than people realize,” he said. “The system is designed to meet eight authorized purposes.”

Allen Schlag, hydrologist for the National Weather Service, said that he agreed the water supply is about normal.

“They’re pretty much right at that normal range,” he said. “It signifies the end of the common use of the river.”

The average gauge height for the river, according to Schlag, is 3.49 feet in September, and the measurement at 3 p.m. Thursday was 3.29 feet, which would put it within the normal range, according to Schlag.

The nice weather this autumn may be playing with people’s expectation, he said.

“We’ve been really nice weather-wise and a little bit further into fall than normal. That’s playing on people’s psyches, said Schlag, reporting that temperature highs the past few weeks have ranged from 70s to 90s, while the average range is from 66 to 67 degrees.

“People are a little bit deceived, because it’s been nice out,” he said.

The other deceiver he said is the river itself. The 2011 flood changed the river permanently, Schlag said.

The flood scoured the bottom of the river, making it deeper so the water no longer reaches as far up the banks, permanently changing the levels, he said.

Recreational boating is also not a responsibility of the corps this late in the season, according to Schlag.

“They will constantly release enough water to keep the intakes watered up, but not for the recreational boating this time of year,” he said.


Information from: Bismarck Tribune, https://www.bismarcktribune.com

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