UPPCO set to draw down reservoir at Victoria Hydroelectric site

The Upper Peninsula Power Company’s Victoria Hydroelectric Project in Ontonagon County is nearly finished. The 2013 construction project will make the dam safer for higher in flows of water, and allow the facility to generate more power.

The Ontonagon River reservoir has been refilled, but with the annual draw down expected to begin this weekend, officials are warning residents to be careful if they plan to venture out onto the ice.

UPPCO is still waiting for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s final approval before they begin lowering the reservoir, but once they start the process it may cause “bridging,” a condition that creates gaps or spaces underneath the ice due to changing water levels. The increased river flow erodes deep-seeded ice that isn’t visible from above, compromising its stability. UPPCO has warning signs posted locally, but sometimes snowmobile riders don’t see them depending on when they join the trail.

Crewmembers will be on location this weekend as the draw down begins, deicing spillway gates ahead of the spring run off which could see flow speeds upwards of 100 thousand gallons a second. The crew will also be monitoring stumps and other debris as they head downstream so that they can pass safely through the spillway gates and allow water levels to remain unaffected.

Again, if you’re planning on crossing the ice on the Ontonagon River near the facility, be careful.