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Spillway modernization begins at Xcel Energy Cedar Falls Hydro

Published: Mar. 30, 2022 at 6:17 AM CDT
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CEDAR FALLS, Wis. (WEAU) -A three-year project designed to strengthen the original structure at Xcel Energy’s Cedar Falls Hydro plant in Menomonie is underway.

The spillway modernization project is part of the company’s investment in a cleaner electric system, as it continues its drive toward 100% carbon-free electricity by 2050.

The Cedar Falls Hydro is one of 19 hydroelectric facilities Xcel energy operates in Wisconsin and it generates 7.2 megawatts meaning about 5,400 homes in the area rely on this source of clean, renewable and carbon free electricity.

The hydro built in 1910 has remained virtually untouched other than a few routine updates and the addition of two small Tainter gates on the far west side of the dam.

“Being 112-years-old, some of the concrete has become deteriorated and also looking at current dam safety standards,” says Rob Olson, Xcel hydro operations manager. “We don’t have enough spillway capacity here so if we got a big flood here we wouldn’t be able to pass it and certainly if you’ve watched around the country you’ve seen episodes where dams have been over inundated by flood flow.”

The overall project consists of replacing the existing overflow spillway and small gates with six large Tainter gates and also a downstream stilling basin which will helps reduce the risk of eroding the riverbed at the dam.

Final project rendering for the 3 year, $50M project.
Final project rendering for the 3 year, $50M project.(Xcel Energy)

Xcel has been on the cite just over a month, mobilizing trailers, bringing in gravel but in the coming weeks, Olson says they’ll begin building a road across the river allowing them access the spillway from the powerhouse side.

Access will be limited both immediately upstream from the dam all the way to areas to the downstream bridge much of the time throughout the project, depending on what phase they may be working on at the time.

As for Tainter Lake itself, Xcel says they have no plans of drawing it down, it will remain at its normal water level.

To learn more about the $50M project, see here.

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