US Army Corps of Engineers
Kansas City District

High water in Kansas and Missouri reservoirs FAQ

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A.    Water has been held in our reservoirs to prevent worsening the already high water conditions in the Missouri River brought on by spring rains.  In accordance with each lake’s Water Control Manual, each reservoir is restricted in its releases according to the current flows at designated downstream river locations.  Every attempt is made to lessen downstream impacts through the controlled releases of water. 

A.    Precipitation in the watersheds above some of the lakes has caused them to fill all of their available flood storage capacity. Releases are being made at the minimum amounts to ensure safe project operation and to restore flood control capacity. High lake levels will continue to persist and effects on downstream locations will be closely monitored.

A.    All USACE-owned and managed dams and reservoirs are structurally sound and functioning as designed. We are monitoring them regularly to assure their integrity. As pools at these lakes rise, additional personnel including park rangers, maintenance personnel, and engineers from the Kansas City District Office routinely inspect the dam, the spillway, the outlet, and other important structures. These inspections are part of our procedure to ensure public safety and continued performance of the dam.

A.   Water is being held at reservoirs to reduce flood risk on the Missouri River due to high precipitation throughout the basin. Some water is being released because some reservoirs are at their full flood storage capacity. Releases will be managed according to inflows, but it is likely the lakes will remain higher than normal this summer. Once flows on the Missouri River lessen, USACE will release the water as quickly as possible.

A.    The outlet works are designed to operate at their full range of capacities and full range of reservoir pool elevations.

A.    Lake of the Ozarks is not a USACE-operated reservoir. Flood storage capacity is very limited, and releases usually match inflows. Bagnell Dam is operated by Ameren as a hydro-electric facility and all releases are coordinated by Ameren.

A.    Flood control storage begins at an elevation above the multipurpose pool at each reservoir. Most sedimentation occurs at the lower levels of the multipurpose pool, which do not impact flood control storage.

A.    Kanopolis Lake is currently at more than 50 percent of flood control pool occupied, and in order to maintain flexibility in pools that still have space to manage, modest releases have begun. There is a 10 -14 day travel time for any water to reach the Missouri River, so downstream impacts are minimal. There is also an uncontrolled weir at the lake that automatically releases water once the lake reaches a certain level.

Flood Fighting

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A.    Levee Safety and flood risk management are a shared responsibility.  USACE assistance is available but is always supplemental to Tribal, state and local flood fighting efforts. USACE will continue to provide emergency assistance (technical and direct) under Public Law 84-99 to prioritize human life and safety during and following a flood event.

A.    Levees do not eliminate risk, they can only reduce the probability of flooding. The amount of flood risk management provided by a levee is limited by its height and location along the river.  Flood events are dynamic and every event is unique.

A.   USACE maintains operation of all federal reservoirs in the district. The Kansas City District coordinates with local and state officials as necessary regarding releases.

A.    The Kansas City District operates 18 reservoirs independently of the six Missouri River mainstem reservoirs, which are managed by the Northwestern Division. Communication between districts is continuous, but decisions from Kansas City District lakes are made based on flow targets on the Kansas, Osage and Missouri Rivers.

Levee Rehabilitation, After-Flood Effects, and Looking Ahead

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A.           Public Law 84-99 provides USACE the authority to rehabilitate damaged levees to pre-flood condition, if requested by the local levee sponsor, within certain criteria for eligibility and cost-sharing. The goal is to repair eligible “Active” flood risk management projects damaged by flooding prior to the next flood season. Additional information and requests for damage assistance will be provided to local levee owners/sponsors after the end of the immediate flood response.

A.    For local communities, the best volunteer opportunities will be through those communities directly. At the USACE reservoirs, there are volunteer program managers at each project that can help organize public efforts. Those program managers can be contacted through the local lake offices.

A.    Much of the USACE interaction for recovery efforts will be with Levee Sponsors who are active in the Public Law 84-99 rehabilitation and inspection program. Most other recovery actions will be driven by local and state efforts.

A.    There is a process through the USACE Office of Counsel, which can be found here: https://www.nwk.usace.army.mil/About/Offices/Office-of-Counsel/Claims-Information/

A.    USACE will repair any erosion damage on USACEC-owned project lands. USACE does not have any existing authorities to repair any other damages independently of a local or state sponsor.

Public Outreach

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A.   The Kansas City District makes every effort to keep the public informed of operations at the reservoirs during a flood event. This is communicated by the lake staff and park rangers, through social media, press releases and media engagements, and to local and state officials. Weather conditions are dynamic, and messages are delivered as quickly as they can be. The public should remain vigilant and heed the warnings and updates from local emergency personnel. 

A.    USACE does not issue evacuation orders; they will be issued through local and state emergency management officials if needed. USACE is in regular communication with local emergency officials regarding the status of reservoir levels and releases. Please be vigilant and pay attention to your local news, emergency managers, and weather forecasts.

Rivers and Forecasting

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A.      River level forecasting is the responsibility of the National Weather Service (NWS).  The NWS uses all available information regarding observed river flows, precipitation, and levee breaks to model the expected river levels at specific locations. USACE staff are presently on location at the NWS forecast office to provide the latest up to date information on levee status and conditions.

A.      Human life & safety are our priority in reservoir operations and serving the Missouri River system's eight Congressionally-authorized purposes of Flood Control, Hydropower, Navigation, Water Supply, Irrigation, Water Quality, Recreation, and Fish and Wildlife in accordance with the Master Manual. 

The Missouri River System operates to serve all eight Congressionally authorized purposes. The system's operational priorities are determined by runoff conditions. Since March 2018 we have been operating for flood control as the runoff-driven purpose. During a more normal runoff year, releases are set to achieve downstream targets for system purposes such as navigation and water supply.

From an operational perspective, the authorized purpose of Fish and Wildlife allows various agencies to stock the reservoirs with fish and recreational access to water is available in reservoirs and along the river at boat ramps and beaches. As has been seen this year, numerous campground and boat ramp closures have resulted from high water levels.