OMAHA, Neb. (KCAU) — Officials are saying that though we saw improvements in runoff from January 2023, they expect the year to have below-average runoffs.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said that releases at Gavin Point are a target of 12,000 cubic feet per second (cfs), it was increased to 14,000 cfs in late January into early February because of below average temperatures across the lower basin. On February 7, it was reduced back to 12,000 cfs.

The 2023 runoff forecast was also released above Sioux City and is at 21.1 million acre-feet, approximately 82% of the average. The January runoff was approximately 1.1 MAF, which is 134% of average. The start of the runoff season typically starts around March 1st.

“The total volume of water expected to be stored is about 46.0 MAF, which is 10.1 MAF below the top of the carryover multiple-use zone”, said John Remus, chief of the USACE, Missouri River Basin Water Management Division.

January was an above-average month for runoff due to having few big snow systems around the area. Precipitation was below average for the month of January for most of the basin, with the exception of southern South Dakota which saw above-average precipitation.

At the end of the month, most of the upper basin saw warmer temperatures, which led to plenty of runoff. While this is above average for January, it is forecasted that we are still going to have below-average precipitation, meaning that there will likely be the continuation of below-average runoff after the snowfall is melted away. Remus also said that “drought conditions currently exist across most of the basin.”

Regarding hydropower, the six mainstem power plants generated 556 million kWh of electricity in January, more than 100 million kWh less than the 709 million kWh average for January. The forecast for 2023 is 7.6 billion kWh, lower than the long-term average of 9.4 billion kWh.

As of February 7, the Missouri River gauge in Omaha was listed as being 8.7 feet, well below the 10-foot low water level.