EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- Boaters using the stretch of the Lower Chippewa River just upstream from the Dells hydroelectric facility in downtown Eau Claire are urged to use extreme caution because the boat restraining barrier has been washed away due to high river flows and debris. While the boat barrier cannot be replaced until the water level goes down, warning signs have been posted at nearby boat landings.
Typically, this time of year, water flows have subsided on the Chippewa River; however, heavy rains from earlier this week have resulted in river flows exceeding 60,000 cubic feet per second (cfs). According to the National Weather Service’s River Forecast Center, the Chippewa River in Eau Claire is expected to crest today at approximately 65,000 cfs. Similarly, flows are dangerously fast on other area rivers including the Eau Claire, Red Cedar and Flambeau.
Xcel Energy encourages boaters to take precautions that would protect them in the event of a mechanical failure. The fast river flows mean there is not much time for rescue before a boat would drift from the barrier location downstream to the dam.
Many of the accidents and fatalities that occur near dams and rivers could be prevented by using common sense, practicing safety, staying clear of dams and understanding the dangers to be found near them. Some safety precautions include:
• Obey all warning signs, barriers and flashing lights, horns and sirens.
• Always stay outside buoy lines.
• Wear a personal floatation device a life jacket.
• Always stay outside buoy lines and away from restricted areas near dams.
• Never boat or fish alone when near a dam.
• Leave your boat motor running to provide maneuvering power.
• Stay clear of spillways; changing currents and “boiling” waves that can make boat control difficult near dams.
• Reverse currents occur below dams and can pull a boat back toward the dam into the spillway and capsize it.
• Never anchor boats below a dam because water levels can change rapidly.
• Especially in spring, cold water can cause hypothermia that could result in death from drowning.
• Always have a safe escape route planned when near a dam. Be prepared to evacuate at the first sign of danger.
• Bring a cell phone and contact 911 in an emergency.