The U.S. Coast Guard has reopened the Missouri River for navigation in the Kansas City area.


This summer’s heavy flooding has closed most of the lower Missouri to navigation, but the Coast Guard has been reopening parts of the river. A couple of weeks ago it opened the river as far upstream as Brunswick, Mo., which is north of Marshall. This week, it opened the river to mile marker 380, about 10 miles upsteam from Kansas City, so barges and other boats can ply the river from here to St. Louis. The river remains closed upriver from mile marker 380 to mile marker 811, which is near the Gavins Point Dam, near Yankton, S.D.


The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has spent the last couple of months getting as much water as it can out of the six upstream flood-control reservoirs – which have this year handled far more water than they are designed for – but has also begun reducing Gavins Point releases. On Friday, releases were headed down to about 110,000 cubic feet per second, down from 160,000 cfs – easily the all-time record – that had been the level for much of the summer. The corps aims to get to about 90,000 cfs in the coming days and then, after a pause to assess damage to spillways and other infrastructure along the river, keep reducing releases. Even at 90,000 cfs at Gavins Point, the corps is releasing far more water than it ever had before 2011.


Those reductions are expected to keep slowly lowering the river, but there’s a long way to go. The river remains at the “moderate flood” stage in Missouri upsteam from Kansas City and at the “minor flood” stage at Sibley and Napoleon. Sibley was at about 28 feet Friday and forecast to fall to 26 feet early next week – still four feet above flood stage. Even as dam releases fall, heavy rainfall can cause river levels to fluctuate.