NEWAYGO, Mich. — Consumers Energy is looking at the retirement process of its hydro dams, and Wednesday night, dozens of people attended the first of a series of town hall discussions.
The utility company wants to hear what this means for the communities impacted. People near the Hardy Dam are concerned about its possibility of decommissioning.
They say their communities have done so much to build around the dam. Many hope Consumers Energy can look at other scenarios as they move forward.
A few people who attended the meeting commented that the Hardy Dam Pond is a popular spot for swimming and fishing.
"Every weekend, we would be up at the lake. And like I said in there, they learned how to swim. They learned how to do so," Christena Becker told FOX 17.
The future of this 91-year-old hydroelectric dam is in the hands of its owner, Consumers Energy.
The utility company held its first of 13 meetings at Newaygo High School to discuss what could come next for its fleet.
"Hardy is our largest dam. It is a fantastic facility for us," Consumers Energy Executive Director of Community Engagement and Corporate Citizenship Josh Burgett said.
Consumers Energy says the Hardy Hydroelectric Dam needs a licensing renewal from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission by 2034.
At the meeting, it was mentioned that the dam is entering into a retirement process.
"We have a continuous routine maintenance program that we do for all the year. I can assure you that our dams are safe and they'll continuously, they're up to code. They're up to there," Burgett said.
More than 80 people heard what the future could look like in one of three ways.
One way involves Consumers Energy selling the dam to a third party. Big Prairie Township Parks Chairman Reuben Tucker said he would be on board if that's the outcome.
"If we can, as a community, be creative in regards to the third party owner, and we could possibly be an investor in that maintenance of the dam," Tucker said.
There is also a chance that someone or a company could build a newer structure to keep the pond where it is now.
"I want the water to stay. Please. I don't care if you remove the hydro part of it. But the water basin? Yeah, it would. It would kill us," Becker added.
Finally, there is a chance that the dam could be removed completely.
"We think we'd like to start that conversation with Consumers Energy, but how can we thoughtfully keep some of the impoundments in place and, at the same time, reconnect the river for all the right environmental purposes," Muskegon River Watershed Assembly Executive Director Scott Faulkner said.
Consumers Energy commented at the meeting that the hydro fleet does operate at a total loss of $152,000,000 each year.
"We have intended to reinvest in this facility. We have an auxiliary spillway project and other projects that we plan to reinvest in this facility," Burgett added.
At this moment, there is no start date for that spillway construction.
If you would like to learn more about further meetings click here.