Posted 6/10/09 (Wed)
By Neal A. Shipman
If you like to spend your recreation time on the water or at least near the water, then you are going to be in for a real treat this summer as Lake Sakakawea is going to be full of water.
That’s right, after eight years of watching the big lake dry up as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers slowly allowed this fantastic fishery and recreation area to be drained in favor of maintaining a non-existent barge industry in Missouri, Lake Sakakawea is going to be back in its full glory this summer.
And we have Mother Nature, not the Corps of Engineers, to thank for the return of water to the Upper Missouri River reservoirs (Fort Peck, Sakakawea and Oahe). Thanks to an abundance of snowfall in the mountains of Montana and Wyoming, which feed the Yellowstone and Missouri rivers, as well as heavy rainfall in the lower stretches of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, the Corps of Engineers was able to hold back substantial amounts of the inflows this year which allowed for these giant lakes to refill at rates that most people would never have imagined.
As of the end of May, Lake Sakakawea had risen to an elevation of 1,833 feet, 22.8 feet higher than last year at this time. And the good news is that as the June rise hits, we can expect to see Sakakawea rise an additional four feet with the lake projected to reach an elevation of 1,840 sometime in July.
The other two big mainstem reservoirs are also seeing a return to normal levels. Fort Peck reservoir is 17.4 feet higher than last year and will be just 12.3 feet below normal in June. And south of Lake Sakakawea, Lake Oahe is 28.9 feet higher than it was last year and will be 9.4 feet above its normal level by the end of June.
So break out those boats that have been in storage for years, dust off the fishing poles and tackle and get ready to have one of the best summers in recent years on Lake Sakakawea.
More importantly, let’s hope that now that the big lakes are back to normal operating levels, the Corps of Engineers will practice some good old-fashioned common sense when it comes to managing and maintaining these lakes in the future.