Corps taps SDSU to monitor snowpack

Above, the South Dakota Mesonet station on the campus of South Dakota State University in Brookings, the first of more than 500 weather stations to be retrofitted or installed in the Upper Missouri River Basin plains to improve flood and drought monitoring for the US Army Corps of Engineers. (Photo by Genna Langum, South Dakota Mesonet) Below, the colored portions of this map indicate the area where Mesonet weather stations with advanced snowpack and soil moisture monitoring capabilities will be deployed by the Mesonet weather station networks of the five states in support of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. (Map by Ruben Behnke, South Dakota Mesonet)

University awarded $12.8 million contract

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has awarded major contracts to four universities, including South Dakota State University, to establish a network of stations to monitor snowpack and soil moisture throughout the plains area of the Upper Missouri River Basin. 

SDSU will receive a $12.8 million contract, and Tuesday the first task was issued for the first 10 sites to be installed in South Dakota. The project is expected to be completed by 2025.

“This investment in the South Dakota Mesonet will pay dividends not only in the areas of flood and drought for which it is intended, but for precision agriculture, natural resource management, wildfire and severe weather,” said Nathan Edwards, director of South Dakota Mesonet.

“Every South Dakotan’s life is touched by weather on a daily basis. The livelihoods of many depend on it. We can all benefit from improved monitoring,” Edwards added.

U.S. Sens. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) and John Thune (R-S.D.) and Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.) praised the news Tuesday.

“Following the flooding events of 2011 and 2019, it’s abundantly clear that we need more accurate weather monitoring throughout the Missouri Basin,” Rounds said. “Since coming to the Senate nearly six years ago, I’ve been working to implement a snowpack monitoring system, which will allow the Corps to make better, more accurate decisions with regard to river management. While there is more work ahead, today’s announcement is a huge first step toward better river system management.”

“When it comes to weather related events, having the most accurate, up-to-date information is one of the best tools we have to help mitigate potentially devastating consequences,” Thune said. 

“As we approach the 10th anniversary of historic flooding of 2011 in the Missouri River Basin, this important system will build on our work to improve forecasting and information sharing in an effort to ensure reliable information is available to state and local governments and residents as flood mitigation efforts are implemented.” Thune added. “I look forward to seeing the university’s work on this important issue.”

“No South Dakotan can forget the devastating flooding on the Missouri in 2011,” Johnson said. “Accurate snowpack monitoring and preparation are key. I’m confident SDSU will utilize these tools to ensure boots on the ground have an accurate forecast so South Dakotans can be best prepared.”

In addition to SDSU, the University of Wyoming, the University of Montana, and North Dakota State University have been chosen to lead the implementation of the snowpack monitoring system. 

The four universities will receive awards totaling $48.2 million, over the next five years, which will enable the construction of 35 monitoring stations in 2021.


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