Frequently Asked Questions


  • Water Control Manuals, or WCMs, are operating manuals for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, or USACE, dams.
  • USACE makes day to day decisions about releasing water through its dams according to Water Control Plans, or WCPs, that are included in dam specific-WCMs.
  • All WCMs have the following objectives, in addition to the WCP guidelines:
  1. Operate the dam and reservoir for the purposes authorized by Congress and other applicable law;
  2. Maintain the structural integrity and operation integrity of the dam (sometimes called a “project” to include reservoir operations); and
  3. Avoid risk to public health and safety, life and property.
  • Congress provided direction and funding in Fiscal Year 2022 for USACE districts across the nation to update WCMs to:
  1. Evaluate and potentially update WCP’s as necessary.
  2. Assess existing drought contingency plan for managing water releases from dams when there is a drought.
  3. Meet new requirements for formatting and updating information.
  • Each WCM and its WCP was developed when each project was authorized. They are updated periodically to determine whether there are changes in the physical, environmental and social conditions that need to be accounted for in a dam’s operation.  
  • The Kansas City District is now working on twelve projects.
  • The Pomme de Terre WCM, the Harry S Truman WCM and four projects in the Lower Kansas River Basin - Clinton, Perry, Milford and Tuttle Creek Lakes – are currently underway.
  • In fall 2023, the team will begin work on Hillsdale, Melvern and Pomona Lakes, and will begin Kanopolis, Wilson and Harlan County Lakes at the start of 2024.
  • All twelve updates will be completed between 2026 and 2028.
  • The Kansas City District will:
    • Investigate whether any changes to environmental, physical and social conditions justify adjustments to the way USACE operates a dam and lake.  
    • Evaluate how the lakes work as a system so that USACE can decide how to control releases. By controlling releases, USACE can manage risks from floods and droughts downstream from the dams and support a lake’s authorized purposes.
    • Explore ways to recognize and respond to drought conditions in order to benefit project authorized purposes.
    • Identify disadvantaged communities and integrate them into planning for water resources in the Kansas River Basin.
  • The Kansas City District will not:
    • Change any releases regarding navigation.
    • Add or remove federally authorized purposes for a lake.
    • Increase or decrease existing lake project storage allocations.
    • Change the total volume of flood risk management reservoir discharges passing from the reservoirs to the river below.
    • Address specific issues such as lake sedimentation, recreation planning and fish stocking.
  • USACE will conduct “scoping” under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)*.  Scoping happens at the beginning of an environmental review. It helps identify the issues the environmental review should consider in detail.
  • USACE technical staff in the Kansas City District will collect engineering, environmental and demographic data to assess current conditions at each reservoir.
  • During scoping:
    • USACE will share the steps of the update process with the public, Tribes, local governments, states and other federal agencies.
    • USACE will describe what it has learned through assessment of current conditions at each dam and reservoir and summarize the steps forward. 
    • USACE will elicit public input at public meetings and through written comments.
    • USACE will use this input, along with information about any new physical, environmental, economic and social conditions, to develop a set of alternatives for lake operations.
  • Once the alternatives for reservoir operations are developed:
    • USACE will evaluate the potential impacts of the proposed updates in a draft environmental review under NEPA. 
    • The public will have the opportunity to review that draft and provide comments.
    • USACE will evaluate and incorporate responses to the public comments in the final environmental review along with the final decision about updates to the WCM and the WCP.