There's not much measurable relief yet from flooding at the lower end of the dam and reservoir system on the Missouri River.

Gavins Point, the last of six dams dealing with the 2011 deluge, still was releasing water at a rate of 160,000 cubic feet per second Tuesday along the Nebraska border.

That's more than twice the previous record, and the pace is scheduled to continue through the rest of July.

But at Fort Peck in Montana, the most upstream dam and the closest to mountain snowmelt, the Monday inflow was only 25,000 cubic feet per second, about half of what it was four weeks ago.

"I do believe we've gained the upper hand," said Jody Farhat, based in Omaha as chief of the Water Management Division for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Farhat also could calculate progress on Tuesday with releases from the three biggest flood control checkpoints.

Fort Peck was down from its peak of 65,000 to 40,000. Garrison in North Dakota was down from 150,000 to 120,000. And Oahe in South Dakota was at 140,000 cubic feet per second, compared to 160,000 earlier.

"At all of the dams, except for Fort Randall and Gavins Point, we've reduced peak releases," she said.

But whatever happens from this point won't do much to soothe the feelings of river-bottom farmer Corky Jones of Brownville, who has 800 acres of prime corn and soybean ground underwater. Nor can retreating water make up for lost business in Nebraska City, cut off from Iowa by the flood that poured over Nebraska 2 more than a month ago.

"The economy anywhere around the Missouri River is in the toilet," Jones said.

Nebraska City Mayor Jack Hobbie said the water level there appears to be down about 3.5 feet from maximum 2011 flood stage. But that's mostly due to breeched levees in Iowa and water spreading in that direction.

It's not enough to put the highway on dry ground.

"I really believe -- perhaps even now as well as after the fact -- there will be an investigation that will go on into this to determine what can be done to prevent it ... from ever happening again," Hobbie said.

Other critics of the Corps response say spillway gates should have been opened much earlier than May 6 to compensate for unusually heavy snow in the Rocky Mountains and gulley-washer rainstorms in the upper reaches of the river basin.

"They sat there and held them way too long and way too full," Jones said of Corps management of reservoirs in Montana and the Dakotas.

Farhat has pointed out earlier that the reservoirs had their normal flood storage available as the spring thaw began. Then came a huge precipitation spike. And then came June, the highest single month on record for releases at 13.8 million acre feet.

But she acknowledged the forming of a Missouri River coalition in the U.S. Senate and increasing interest in the House of Representatives in a review of the Corps' flooding response.

"We ourselves will be looking at this event to see if changes in the Master Manual (the agency's river management Bible) are warranted."

On a brighter note, levees in the Peru area and in Nemaha County seem to be holding up well, said Renee Critser, the county's emergency management director.

As members of the Nebraska National Guard continue monitoring levee stability there, water has poked over and through similar earthen structures on the Missouri side of the river. As it spread out, water levels in Nebraska dropped and relieved some of the pressure on Nebraska levees.

"The only way I could see some major issues," Critser said, "is if it would rise up the 5 feet that it's dropped."

Mayor Hobbie said residents of Lincoln and other points west need to be reminded that they can still reach Nebraska City. It's points east that are the problem.

Lost sales for some businesses add up to 30 percent to 40 percent in some cases, he said.

"Also what we're faced with on labor -- I would estimate that we've got about 300 people who cross the bridge every day (normally) to come to work over here."

Even when the water drops below the level of the highway, Hobbie and his constituents are uncertain how much repair will be needed to get it back in drivable shape.

"We've asked those questions," he said, "but nobody has any answers to them yet."

Reach Art Hovey at 402-473-7223 or at ahovey@journalstar.com