Drought is a weather phenomenon caused by an extended period of months or years when a region experiences a deficiency in its surface or underground water supply, generally occurring when a region receives consistently below average precipitation. This year, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center, drought persistence is expected across significant portions of the western United States, the Northern Plains, and the New England states as late summer and early fall are typically dry.
USACE Role in Drought
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers services 41 states with ports and waterways. Navigation is one of USACE’s civil works missions. Nearly 25,000 miles are operated and maintained by USACE for commercial navigation. During this drought season, USACE has published guidance to coordinate a collective Common Operating Picture to monitor ongoing impacts on navigation, identified critical river gages as key monitors for navigation, and implemented Waterway Action Plans. In addition, USACE employs designated assets, such as dredges and survey boats, to prevent and mitigate impacts to navigation and critical works infrastructure. USACE is currently dredging in locations along the Upper Mississippi River, Lower Mississippi River, and the Ohio and Missouri Rivers. Additional locations will be dredged as river stages continue to fall. Finally, USACE is ensuring that storage reservoirs are releasing flows to support natural flows downstream for the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, and is coordinating with industry, NOAA, and the U.S. Coast Guard to mitigate drought conditions. USACE actions are taken within existing authorities and approved operating plans.
As drought conditions persist, USACE cautions swimmers and boaters to watch for hazards, such as trees or rocks, which may be exposed or closer to the water surface due to lower lake levels. With waters lower than the traditional pools at most USACE lakes, it is even more imperative that visitors do not jump or dive into the water and that everyone wears a life jacket when recreating in or near the water.