PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — South Dakota’s rivers aren’t running as high this spring as had been feared heading into last winter, a state official said Wednesday.
The extremely wet conditions of last year haven’t been repeated this year, Mark Rath told South Dakota Water Management Board members.
“Winter hit, and we didn’t get the snows that were predicted,” said Rath, a staff engineer for the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers continues to forecast above-normal levels for the six Missouri River reservoirs, including four in South Dakota, but the projections each month have gradually decreased, Rath said.
“We’re definitely not in the situation we were a year ago,” he said, noting the reservoirs are “well below” the 2019 and 2011 levels.
The Missouri River in 2011 flooded areas at Pierre and Fort Pierre as well as a variety of spots farther downstream in South Dakota, including Dakota Dunes.
The James River and the Big Sioux River were both projected to flood this spring, according to Rath, but neither is running as high as some had predicted.
He said the James River has been in flood stage continuously since March 2019, with the river over its bank in the Ashton area, but the rest of the river is in minor to moderate flood stage.
The Big Sioux River had major events a year ago in March and September but right now is running at about normal level, Rath said. “It’s just getting to the point where it’s bank-full, so it’s not too bad there,” he said.
Various lakes continue to “definitely” experience issues related to high water from last year, Rath said.
He credited state Game, Fish and Parks Department regional staff with helping put “eyes on the ground” at various waters during the COVID-19 situation that has non-essential state government employees working from home.
Rath listed for the board lakes that are high in counties such as Brule, Campbell, Charles Mix, Clark, Codington, Day, Deuel, Hamlin, Kingsbury, Marshall, Roberts and Walworth.