Last month, the large dams on the Missouri River (located upstream of most of Nebraska) saw more than double the amount of normal runoff for October.
That sets the stage for a nail-biting spring should winter bring heavy snows. The 2011 flood is too current to take near-record runoff lightly. That flood was caused by heavy spring rains and then worsened by similarly extreme summer rains.
About 2.8 million acre-feet of water flowed into the six main-stem dams in October, the second-highest amount for that month since record-keeping began in 1898, according to the Army Corps of Engineers.
Soils are wet across much of Montana, Wyoming and the Dakotas, according to the corps. Saturated soils reduce the ability to absorb subsequent heavy snows or rains.
Mike Swenson, team leader in the Missouri River Basin Water Management office, said the agency will factor the saturated soils into its dam-management plans for next year.
During the winter, the corps avoids adjusting releases from the dams because that could lead to flooding on ice-jammed streams and rivers.
As it stands now, even with the high runoff, the reservoir system is low, and the corps doesn't expect to catch up this winter. The three largest reservoirs — Fort Peck, Garrison and Oahe — are 3 feet to 10 feet below their desired level, according to the corps.