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Initial public scoping a success for Lewis and Clark Lake, Gavins Point Dam master plan update

Omaha District
Published Feb. 4, 2021
Aerial view of Gavins Point Dam, Lewis and Clark Lake.

Aerial view of Gavins Point Dam, Lewis and Clark Lake.

Outdoor recreation enthusiasts will reap the future benefits at Lewis and Clark Lake recreation area in Yankton, South Dakota, after the Gavins Point Dam project master plan update, currently underway, is complete — the plan was last revised in 2004.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Omaha District’s natural resources directorate kicked off the master plan update in December during an initial public scoping meeting.  Due to pandemic concerns, the meeting was held virtually with approximately 45 participants attending, including local community leaders and a senator.

“This was the first time we held a public meeting on Zoom and it went really well. We received a lot of calls and emails giving positive feedback,” said Zach Montreuil, Omaha District natural resources specialist and program manager.

Montreuil, having previously worked at Lewis and Clark Lake, explained that he was not surprised to hear all the concerns about sediment build up in the lake.

“The sedimentation problem has been going on for decades and is a legitimate concern,” said Montreuil. “A lot of the sediment comes in from the Niobrara River which empties into the upper part of the lake which is starting to cause many shallow areas in the upper end.”

Montreuil explained that this build up is starting to impact recreation and diminish some of the open water activities people are used to and has also become a concern for those who live around the lake.  

According to a natural resources conservation service study the Lewis and Clark Lake reservoir is projected to be 50 percent full of sediment by the year 2045.

Other public scoping comments and suggestions focused on the development of several new trails and recreational facilities on the Nebraska side of the lake. The Lewis and Clark Lake recreation area borders Nebraska and South Dakota.

A master plan is a strategic document that and guides how the Corps will operate and manage public lands. This update is needed to meet current regulations and policies and to reflect user needs.  It will also assist the District in providing proper oversight of these project area resources.

Sandy Stockholm, the executive director of the Missouri Sedimentation Action Coalition, participated in the initial public scoping meeting. This non-profit group is concerned about the future of the Missouri River reservoirs.

Stockholm said that the sedimentation issue is an ongoing problem not only at Lewis and Clark Lake but in all the Missouri River Basin reservoirs and is a concern that goes back to the 1950s.  

Currently, the organization she represents is working closely with the Corps on a Section 22 Planning Assistance to States study for a sedimentation management plan for the Lewis and Clark reservoir.

"This investigation has been going on for quite a while and there's new information coming out all the time as far as new sediment management techniques and technologies," said Stockholm. "We try and figure out how the different groups involved can come together to achieve the common goal of addressing sedimentation problems."

Stockholm added that since Lewis and Clark Lake is the smallest reservoir on the Missouri River, it will be the first to fill with sediment which is why it has been MSAC’s focus

Montreuil explained the he sees new trends in how these federal recreation areas are managed and that the public, local organizations, community groups, non-profits and partnerships are more involved and are playing a greater role.

According to Montreuil, after the second public scoping and a final revision of the draft the new master plan will be finalized and should be tentatively ready to sign by the District commander in Feb. 2022.

In accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act, the Corps will also complete an environmental assessment to address potential environmental effects associated with the master plan update, he added.

For now, the District team will work internally for the next several months drafting the new master plan before providing the public another opportunity to review and provide feedback later this fall.

Information on the current master plan can be found at: https://www.nwo.usace.army.mil/Missions/Dam-and-Lake-Projects/Project-Master-Plans/