News from the Missouri River Initiative: June 2024

Paul Lepisto
Clouds reflected in river - credit Paul Lepisto

The "Mighty Mo," America's longest river, flows past communities in Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, and Missouri – plus it receives water from Wyoming, Colorado, and Minnesota. The Izaak Walton League is working with partners throughout the region to make sure this amazing waterway stays healthy. Here's what happened along the river in June.

Major Flooding Impacts Basin

A storm system dumped heavy rain over portions of the Missouri River basin. Some areas of eastern South Dakota got over 18 inches as portions of the tri-state region recorded more than eight times the average precipitation. The flooding caused widespread damage, forcing evacuations and water rescues. Travel was disrupted as many highways, including a portion of Interstate 29, were closed.

The excess runoff caused the Missouri River’s tributaries to be above flood stage. Water that enters the Missouri River below Gavins Point Dam can’t be controlled by the reservoir system. High flows on the James, Vermillion and Big Sioux rivers caused the Missouri to be above flood stage in Sioux City. In response the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reduced releases from Gavins Point and Fort Randall dams.

Get the latest on river stages.

Efforts To Help Pallid Sturgeon Continue

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers continues to run a test release from Fort Peck Dam in northeastern Montana. The purpose is to assess benefits for the endangered pallid sturgeon.

The test started April 26 and will be completed September 1. The test included two higher flow periods. The first, of 18,000 cubic feet per second (CFS), was run in early May. The second, which will reach a peak flow of 20,000 CFS, began on June 17.

Experts hope the flows will trigger pallids to spawn. The Corps is monitoring pallid response, as well as potential impacts to cultural resources, erosion, water quality and water intakes.

Learn more about the test flows.

Corps Will Provide Recovery Program Updates

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ annual Adaptive Management (AM) Workshop will be held July 30-August 1 in Nebraska City. The Missouri River Recovery Implementation Committee’s (MRRIC) Bird, Fish, and Human Considerations work groups and the Independent Science Advisory Panel will attend.

The workshop will also feature a tour of four mitigation sites for the Bank Stabilization and Navigation Project in Iowa and Nebraska. Discussions on the new Biological Assessment (BA) for the lower river pallid sturgeon, the Fort Peck test flows, and modifications to the Science and Adaptive Management Plan are scheduled.

I represent the League on MRRIC and on the three work groups mentioned above.

Families Enjoy Homestead Day

South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks (SDGFP) hosted Homestead Day at Pierson Ranch near Yankton on June 8. The goal was to introduce families to outdoor activities and give them a look back at aspects of pioneer life. Regalia International, a live raptor program from Oklahoma, gave several presentations.

In addition to SDGFP, the League partnered with the National Park Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Army Corps, and many local groups on this event. 

Missouri River Cleanup Approaching

The Pierre-Fort Pierre Missouri River Cleanup will be held on Wednesday, July 10, from 5-8 p.m. It will be based out of Downs Marina in Pierre.

Land- and water-based teams of volunteers will pick up litter and trash along the river. Boats, pontoons, trucks and trailers are needed for the cleanup. If you can provide that equipment, please contact me at 605-220-1219 or email

This will be the 14th Pierre-Fort Pierre Missouri River Cleanup. In the 13 prior events, about 900 volunteers have removed over 28 tons of trash. The cleanup is coordinated by the League; South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks; the Fish and Wildlife Service; the Army Corps of Engineers; and the cities of Pierre and Fort Pierre. Many area businesses and organizations also help to make the event a success.

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Top photo: Clouds reflected in the Missouri River. Photo credits: Paul Lepisto.

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