Maintenance work on Chippewa Falls River Dam to start over Summer

Published: May. 31, 2023 at 5:10 PM CDT
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CHIPPEWA FALLS, Wis. (WEAU) - Dams keep us safe from the roaring water flow of rivers, which is why officials with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources say it’s important to maintain them as best as possible.

The waters gates keeping such flood waters at bay at the Chippewa Falls River Dam are in need of a lot of work after about a 100 years of service.

“We’re replacing 6 of the 13 tainter gates on the spill way. Tainter gates are a radio looking gate that we operate to pass water. The existing steel is corroded. It has holes in it. It just needs to be replaced for dam safety related reasons,” said Stefan Read, an engineering manager with Xcel Energy.

Xcel Energy officials said the gates were able to last this long by design, but after some routine maintenance work it became evident that all 13 gates need to be replaced.

“There have been many dam related disasters over the years,” said Uriah Monday, a dam safety expert with the Wisconsin DNR. He said National Dam Safety Awareness Day helps prevent those disasters.

With about 3,000 dams in the Badge State, it is why he said dam owners should be aware of properly maintaining them.

“Dams, like any other infrastructure, if they are not maintained correctly or paid attention to, they fall into disrepair and that poses a hazard. Also, in cities and villages, there’s more population at risk. If there’s a problem with the dam it’s more likely to affect somebody,” said Monday.

What does it take to replace the Chippewa Falls River Dam at the Xcel Hydro Plant?

The gates are 15 feet high and 40 feet wide, weighing around 37,000 lbs.

“This type of project for Xcel Energy is high-risk. If you look at the spill way there’s potential fall hazards,” said Read.

It will take years to replace all 13 water gates.

“We’re excited to see this project kick off. I’m excited to see these new gates installed in a working fashion,” said Read.

The first round of work is set to start by late June going into October.

As the work begins on the dam, Read said there will be some periodic lane closures to help bring equipment over by barge and crane.