Ishpeming, MI – Below normal precipitation and warmer weather over the last few years throughout the Western Upper Peninsula requires Upper Peninsula Power Company (UPPCO) to draw additional water from Lake Gogebic to maintain minimum river flows through the Bond Falls Project as required by its license to operate. The Bond Falls Project is comprised of the Bond Falls Reservoir, which is already two feet below its minimum authorized level, Cisco Lake Reservoir, which is at the minimum license level, and Lake Gogebic. To maintain license-required minimum flows UPPCO is currently planning to draw additional water from Lake Gogebic, lowering the reservoir up to 0.6 feet over the next several weeks, depending on weather conditions, to its minimum license level.
UPPCO operates the Bond Falls Project according to the terms of the license granted to it by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The license requires UPPCO to operate the facilities and to provide minimum flows downstream for the protection and enhancement of water quality, fish and wildlife resources, aesthetics and recreation on the various branches of the Ontonagon River system.
The minimum reservoir elevations and flows were established during the licensing process in consultation with agencies such as the MDNR, Fish & Wildlife, Forest Service & the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community. UPPCO has been and continues to consult with the resource agencies on maintaining license required minimum river flows.
Fluctuating water levels are normal on reservoirs, which are used to store water that is released to maintain license-required minimum flows and operate associated hydroelectric dams. Normally reservoirs are drawn down in late winter to allow for the capture of spring runoff. The stored water is then later released to stabilize and maintain minimum flows throughout the dryer summer months.
“The last few years have been very warm and dry in the area,” said Virgil Schlorke, UPPCO Manager of Regional Generation. “We haven’t had normal precipitation in either the summers or winters. We haven’t even been able to refill the reservoirs to their normal levels following the snowmelt in spring. We sympathize with residents of Lake Gogebic who may be concerned about the withdrawal of water, especially during the summer season. At this point, we don’t know how long the lower water level will continue. That all depends on Mother Nature.”