Power company urges public to be cautious around hydro reservoirs

MARQUETTE – The Upper Peninsula Power Company is preparing for spring runoff by lowering the water levels at its hydro reservoirs in the western Upper Peninsula.

“It’s an annual operating practice. We lower the reservoir to make room for the anticipated melting snow and spring precipitation,” Jim Melchiori, supervisor of Regional Generation at UPPCO, said in a written statement.

Melchiori also urged the public to be extremely careful around all reservoirs, lakes and associated rivers this time of year, since the lower water totals in reservoirs can be dangerous.

Lowering the reservoir water may cause “bridging,” he said, a condition in which the lower water level leaves a gap or space under the ice. The ice may then deteriorate from the underside and result in unstable and unsafe ice conditions.

UPPCO’s Victoria Dam reservoir drawdown began in January and the Prickett Hydro Dam Reservoir drawdown will begin in February. The Bond Falls Reservoir will not require any additional drawdown as it is already below normal winter operating levels. The Lake Gogebic reservoir is expected to be lowered slightly between now and the end of February.

UPPCO is also currently planning project improvements for its Victoria facility during the summer of 2013. These improvements will require a drawdown which is expected to extend through the summer.

Bond Falls and Victoria are located on the Ontonagon River in Ontonagon County and Lake Gogebic is located in Gogebic County. Prickett is located on the Sturgeon River in Baraga County.

UPPCO expects the reservoirs, with the exception of Victoria, to begin returning to their normal water levels in April, depending on the rate of snow melt and spring precipitation conditions.

UPPCO’s service area extends into 10 of the 15 counties in the U.P. or about 4,460 square miles and the utility provides electric service to nearly 52,000 customers.

Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. Her email address is jstark@miningjournal.net