Newaygo County Residents Want Local Dams Changed

Posted at 11:58 PM, Apr 25, 2013
and last updated 2013-04-26 00:05:21-04

NEWAYGO Co., Mich — Newaygo resident Jim Love wants Consumers Energy to lower the water levels in three local dams along the Muskegon River during winter months.

The energy company controls the Croton, Rogers and Hardy dams. The dams generate hydroelectricity.

Love is not alone. Many residents attended a meeting Thursday night at Newaygo High School. They live downstream from those dams.

They’re concerned that the reservoirs are kept at a water level that’s just too high. When heavy rain occurs and the dams are opened up, they said flooding downstream of the Muskegon River is worsened.

“Last 10 to 12 years we’re starting to see a pattern emerge where they’re not lowering the reservoirs any. When we get any kinds of spring rain, unfortunately this year we got a lot, they have to let it go,” Love explained.

He argues that the company ought to account for potential flooding and let the dams’ water levels fall before a heavy rain. He feels they let it all out at once, leading to worse flooding.

“[It] does a lot of erosion. All that energy’s gone. They can’t make power out of it cause they’re letting it go, and it damages people’s home, and it floods them out,” Love explained.

“It’s pretty terrifying for someone who lives near the river is way up,” he added.

Residents asked a Consumers Energy superintendent what it takes to get the reservoir levels down before a projected flood. He said the company can’t control the dams exclusively for flooding.

The dams are regulated by FERC, the Federal Energy Regulatory Committee.

“We have a license that limits how quickly we can move the pond up and down. It regulates how far we can draw the pond down,” Don Baker, an Operations Manager with Consumers said.

Baker said there is a certain water level the company must maintain in the dam.

“They’ve got their directives by their people, and I think that’s why we need Congressman Huizenga and Senator Stabenow to get together in a bi-partisan manner to help,” Love said.

He said, “[We need to] get some clarity to the regulations. If they’ve got to be changed, change them.”

Senator Debbie Stabenow and Congressman Bill Huizenga had representatives at the meeting. Residents were able to speak with them. No word yet on their next plan of action.

The water levels in the Muskegon River are receding. FOX 17 learned that the river crested Thursday, April 18th. A flood advisory continues for Newaygo County near the Croton Dam. That’s issued by the National Weather Service.