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Game and Fish meets with other agencies to address low water concerns on Sakakawea, Oahe

A network of low water ramps constructed during previous droughts may become functional again this year if issues such as erosion and sedimentation are first addressed.

Sakakawea walleye.jpg
Projected low water levels on lakes Sakakawea and Oahe could present challenges for anglers and other recreationists this summer, the North Dakota Game and Fish Department said. The department is meeting with other agencies to address potential boating access issues.
Contributed / North Dakota Game and Fish Department

BISMARCK – Low water levels could be an issue this summer on lakes Sakakawea and Oahe, the North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s top fisheries manager said this week.

The outlook isn’t promising, said Greg Power, fisheries chief for Game and Fish in Bismarck.

“Given current water levels and projected runoff based on mountain snowpack, it’s likely both lakes Sakakawea and Oahe will be 5 to 10 feet lower than the lake elevations experienced in 2021,” Power said. “At these forecasted elevations, boating access at many, if not most of the boat ramps, will become problematic.”

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The good news, Power said, is that a network of low water ramps constructed during previous droughts may become functional again this year if issues such as erosion and sedimentation are first addressed.

Understanding this, Game and Fish staff launched a planning effort a few months ago with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, North Dakota Parks and Recreation and the North Dakota Department of Water Resources to address the upcoming open water season on the Missouri River System.

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Greg Power
Greg Power, fisheries chief, North Dakota Game and Fish Department.
Contributed / North Dakota Game and Fish Department

“Current interagency planning is intended to proactively deal with these boat ramp issues through addressing coordination, permitting and funding matters yet this winter so that ramp work, where needed, can begin shortly after ice-out,” Power said. “The Corps and Game and Fish have identified and prioritized potential boat ramp sites that will be impacted by the lower lake levels and are seeking additional funding and partnership with stakeholders who manage the respective recreational sites.”

Various agency staff will reconvene by mid-March, he said, “and firm up plans based on funding needs and availability, using the most recent Corps runoff forecast data.”

Current mountain snowpack for the upper Missouri River basin is only about 80% of normal, but one storm can change things, Power said.

“This is Mother Nature-driven and subject to change,” he said.

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