Extremely high water flows on the Missouri River continue to cause near-historic flooding in prime Midwest river bottom farmland. Damage due to the flooding is unclear and difficult to estimate until waters recede later in the summer. Flooding along the river in South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa and Missouri thus far has covered over 440,000 acres of farmland.

The upper Missouri River basin received nearly a year`s worth of rainfall this spring alone, according to the National Weather Service. In addition, the estimated snow melt runoff was over 200 percent of normal across the upper portion of the river system. These conditions resulted in Missouri basin reservoirs across eastern Montana and the Dakotas nearing their maximum levels.

Record releases are ongoing at Gavin’s Point dam located to the west of Yankton, South Dakota. Current releases are at 160,000 cubic feet per second (cfs). The previous high release at Gavin’s Point was 70,000 cfs in 1997.

Complicating matters is the fact that releases of this magnitude are expected to continue well into August, adding pressure to the levees protecting farmland. Officials fear that some of the levees will fail due to the long-term exposure to high river levels. Some levees have already begun showing signs of stress.

South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard said maintenance is needed on some levees built to hold back floodwaters along the river. Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad said he will work closely with governors of Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska in coordinating the Midwest states’ flood response.

Missouri officials are optimistic about the levees there. Most levees in the state were rebuilt after the devastating 1993 flood. But that flood wasn't as bad in Nebraska and Iowa so fewer of the levees in those states were improved recently.

As a precaution, officials in Omaha and across the river in Council Bluffs, Iowa, have developed plans to evacuate roughly 40,000 people from areas near the river in case of a levee failure.

T-shirts to raise money for flood relief in South Dakota are offered. The shirts, offered by South Dakota State University, read: “Together: We Stand. We Fight. We Win.” They cost $20 each. See www.jackrabbitcentral.com for more information.

Source: National Weather Service, Associated Press, Omaha World-Herald