SAM HANANEL Associated Press Writer WASHINGTON
The Army Corps of Engineers has pushed back plans to release extra water into the Missouri River this week due to flooding concerns in central Missouri and larger than expected flows from tributary rivers upstream. Paul Johnston, a spokesman for the corps' district office in Omaha, Neb., said Tuesday the annual spring rise on the river probably would not take place before Saturday at the earliest or perhaps not at all, depending on the weather. "We're going to watch that very closely," Johnston said. "Our guidelines are that if the additional water could push some places over flood stage, we could reduce the size of the pulse or completely eliminate it." The corps' plans call for raising water levels in the Missouri River twice each spring to encourage spawning by the pallid sturgeon, a fish on the endangered species list. The rises in March and May are designed to mimic increased flows that used to occur naturally before dams were built above the river. But since the policy took effect in 2006, the corps has never fully implemented the plan because drought left too little water in upstream lakes and reservoirs in Montana and the Dakotas. The Army Corps has already decided it will not release extra water in May this year due to lingering effects of the drought. As for this month's spring rise, Johnston said it's going to be "day to day." "I'd really be surprised if we did it before Saturday," Johnston said. "We'll be watching the river conditions downstream and also the forecast for rain, especially in central Missouri." Plans earlier this year called for the release this month of about 20 percent more water than usual over a twoday period from Gavins Point Dam in South Dakota. The water then takes about 10 days to reach the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, north of St. Louis. Downstream communities along the river in Missouri would see a rise that is the equivalent of an extra half inch of rainfall. Missouri officials have protested the spring rise every year, arguing that the risk of flood outweighs any need to protect the pallid sturgeon.