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Corps says Missouri reservoirs have adequate room, but some officials want stepped-up releases

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BISMARCK, North Dakota — The Army Corps of Engineers says there is plenty of room in upper Missouri River reservoirs to handle spring runoff, but some groups are urging the agency to step up dam releases sooner rather than later.

Officials with North Dakota's State Water Commission and a county water board in the Bismarck-Mandan area both are pushing the corps to guard against flooding like the region experienced three years ago when hundreds of thousands of acres of mostly farmland were devastated in Missouri River states.

"Constant vigilance must be maintained," Water Commission engineer Bruce Engelhardt said.

PHOTO: FILE - In this June 15, 2011 file photo, an aerial view shows homes flooded on Hoge Island north of Bismarck, N.D., along the Missouri River flood plain. The Army Corps of Engineers says there's plenty of room in upper Missouri River reservoirs to handle spring runoff. But some groups are urging the corps to step up dam releases sooner rather than later, to guard against devastating flooding like the region experienced three years ago. The corps held a series of public meetings Wednesday. April 9, 2014 on its plans for managing the river this year. (AP Photo/The Bismarck Tribune, Tom Stromme, File)
FILE - In this June 15, 2011 file photo, an aerial view shows homes flooded on Hoge Island north of Bismarck, N.D., along the Missouri River flood plain. The Army Corps of Engineers says there's plenty of room in upper Missouri River reservoirs to handle spring runoff. But some groups are urging the corps to step up dam releases sooner rather than later, to guard against devastating flooding like the region experienced three years ago. The corps held a series of public meetings Wednesday. April 9, 2014 on its plans for managing the river this year. (AP Photo/The Bismarck Tribune, Tom Stromme, File)

The corps is holding a series of public meetings in Missouri River states on its plans for managing the river this year. Meetings were held in Bismarck, North Dakota, and Pierre, South Dakota, on Wednesday. Corps officials reassured those in attendance that while mountain snowpack is about a third higher than normal, there is plenty of room for the water.

Officials forecast spring runoff at 32 million acre feet — 27 percent above average but well below the 61 million acre feet recorded in 2011. Available storage in river reservoirs is at about 53 million acre feet.

Lake Sakakawea in North Dakota and Lake Oahe in South Dakota are expected to rise only a few feet through June, and both reservoirs are much lower than they were at this time in 2011.

"It's going to be kind of a quiet year, thank God," said Oahe Project Manager Eric Stasch.

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