The Upper Peninsula Power Company (UPPCO) is preparing for spring runoff by lowering the water levels at its hydro reservoirs in the Western portion of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Because of license requirements and interim operations agreements with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) who regulate all U.S. hydro operations, the annual draw downs and operations at lower levels have started earlier than the usual February or March timeframe.
This winter, UPPCO’s Victoria Dam reservoir draw down began in January and the Prickett Hydro Dam Reservoir and Bond Falls Reservoir will not require any additional draw down as they are already within their normal winter operating ranges. The Lake Gogebic reservoir is expected to be lowered slightly between now and the end of February to meet the end of the month target elevation as required by the facility’s operating license.
Bond Falls and Victoria are located on the Ontonagon River in Ontonagon County and Lake Gogebic is located in Gogebic County in the Western UP. Prickett is located on the Sturgeon River in Baraga County in the central UP.
“It’s an annual operating practice. We lower the reservoir to make room for the anticipated melting snow and spring precipitation,” according to Jim Melchiori, Supervisor of Regional Generation at UPPCO.
Melchiori also warns that lowering the reservoir water may cause “bridging,” a condition in which the lower water level leaves a gap or space under the ice. Melchiori also said that increased water flows may deteriorate the ice from the underside and result in unstable and unsafe ice conditions. These areas may not be that easy to identify, so Melchiori urges the public to be extremely careful around all reservoirs, lakes and associated rivers this time of year.
UPPCO’s service area extends into 10 of the 15 counties in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula or about 4,460 square miles and the utility provides electric service to nearly 52,000 customers.