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Information and progress for bringing back our lakes.

December 14, 2020

Flood Control and the Four Lakes

Four Lakes Dams: Built to Generate Hydroelectric Power

The four dams that make up the four lakes system – Secord, Smallwood, Edenville and Sanford dams – were built for the purpose of generating hydroelectricity.

The following language is copied from a July 19, 2019 report by Essex Consulting:

“The four hydro facilities were built nearly a 100 years ago. It was a time when large, centralized fossil generating stations were just beginning to be built. Transmission and distribution systems were in their infancy. In many rural areas of the country distributed hydroelectric stations such as these four facilities were the preferred, and perhaps only option, for electricity. As such, the projects could support large amounts of civil infrastructure to impound rivers and create head ponds. The advent of large, efficient generating stations and strong transmission - distribution systems diminished the value of small hydroelectric projects. Virtually no new dams are being built for small hydro and the projects that are being developed typically require only a minimum of infrastructure investment.”

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE), and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) have all dismissed the notion that the four dams were built for flood control. FLTF consultants and engineers, all of whom have decades of experience working with dams, dismiss the notion as well.

The takeaway is that these four large dams were built to make hydropower possible during the infancy of the electric industry. When these four dams were built in rural Michigan – hydropower was the only viable option.

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FERC recognizes discrepancy in reporting of data in the USACE NID database in a letter to Dave Kepler.

"Thus, the Commission’s records show that flood control was considered as one of the reasons for retaining the projects’ winter drawdown, apparently to protect shoreline property owners, but was not the primary purpose of licensing these projects....

Read Letter from FERC to Dave Kepler

Four Lakes Task Force

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