Will 2013 have enough moisture to grow crops and fill rivers?
Mississippi and Missouri Rivers
Meteorologist Steve Buan of NOAA’ North Central River forecast Center recently reported to Congress there were reduced chances for spring snowmelt flooding, and there was a reduced chance for overall significant spring rise in river levels. He also said there is a 40% chance to have fall 2013 flows as low or lower than last year.
During the past 3 months the mid-Mississippi was kept open without added flow of water from the Missouri River, which many farm groups and grain exporters pleaded for last fall. High level Corps decisions kept the Missouri flow reduced as reservoirs in that watershed are replenished. However, that may not be a quick process, based on the Drought Monitor and drought projections by NOAA and the National Weather Service.
The center of the drought is focused in the Missouri River watershed. This implies that the Missouri may be unable to provide water to the Mississippi River during 2013 because of the need to manage reservoirs and any rains will be more likely to be absorbed into the soil, rather than fill streams and ultimately the Missouri River.
OK for now
Although dredging has ended on the mid-Mississippi River between St. Louis and Cairo, work continues by contractors to remove rocks in the barge channel as conditions permit. But higher water levels have prevented daily work, while barges and tows benefit from deeper drafts. The Army Corps of Engineers says there were no reported groundings of barges during the extensive effort to keep the barge traffic flowing despite the rocky shoals.
Farmers who may have been upset with the Corps’ 2011 decision to blow up the Birds Point Levee and flood 120,000 acres of farmland, can thank the same folks who responded to the low water and expedited the rock removal to keep grain barges moving southward to Gulf export terminals. That was accomplished with no additional funds added to the budget. Agriculture has likely gained a greater respect for those who job it is to manage a river. That is quite a task when you think about it.
Weather forecasts for the 2013 cropping season indicate the lack of weather patterns that will dominate the delivery of moisture for crop production. However, the Missouri River Watershed is currently in an exceptional drought, and the water from the Missouri is needed for maintenance of river depths on the Mississippi for normal barge operations. Under current forecasts, chances are strong that low water on the Mississippi will last through next fall.
Source: FarmGate blog