(6/16/12) BLACK RIVER FALLS, WIS., June 15 – Black River Falls community members, project contractors, consultants, and city, state and federal officials gathered today at the Black River Falls Dam for a grand opening ceremony.
The Black River Falls Dam is back in service following a more than five-year replacement project. The effort, which began in 2006, entailed completing feasibility studies, securing regulatory approvals, demolition, reconstruction, and installation of an additional, low-flow hydroelectric generating unit. The 100-plus year-old municipally-owned facility was taken offline for replacement in 2010 and was returned to service in March.
Mayor Ron Danielson noted that the historic structure provides three important functions for the City of Black River Falls and the surrounding community. "First is flood control," said Danielson. "After the flood of 1911 our forefathers decided a better dam structure was needed to protect the city from further destruction, so they built an eight-gate dam. As that aging structure developed flaws, it was very important that we took steps to replace this important facility to ensure our community’s well-being for the future."
Secondly, Daniels pointed out the cost-savings the facility will bring to customers. "We’ve added a third, low-flow generator to the structure that allows the city to produce a greater percentage of our power needs," said Daniels. "Third is the 198-acre impoundment, called the Black River Flowage. This is used extensively for recreational purposes and contributes to our local quality of life and tourism."
The project was made possible in part due to financing from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development Community Facilities Program through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
"Not only will Black River Falls have improved electrical capacity and a more modern facility, today's ribbon cutting sends the message that leaders of this community have an eye on the future. Improvements to the infrastructure mean economic expansion, business growth and a more vibrant community," said Stan Gruszynski, USDA Rural Development Wisconsin State Director. "The mission of USDA Rural Development is to support viable and economically sustainable rural communities. I am pleased Community Facilities Program dollars have contributed to where we stand today and I believe the Administration and members of Congress that supported the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act deserve credit as well."
This is the Nation’s first hydroelectric dam project funded with the assistance of USDA Rural Development.
Lunda Construction Company of Black River Falls was the general contractor for the $9.5-million project, which is anticipated to help preserve Black River Falls’ longstanding tradition of reliable, affordable, local hydro-electric power for generations come. "We are proud to be a part of this project that will serve the city and surrounding area, providing electricity, safety and recreation to the community of Black River Falls well into the 22
century," said Lunda Construction President Larry Lunda.
The Black River Falls Dam facility now features six spillway bays, each with gates measuring 14’ by 27’. The East Powerhouse, which stands more than six stories tall, required the excavation of more than 2,525 cubic yards of rock excavation. The project was constructed using more than 14 million pounds of steel-reinforced concrete. The three new generating units have a combined generating capacity of about 1.5 megawatts and will supply approximately 12 percent of the community’s annual electric energy requirement.
"The hydroelectric and dam project will have a significant effect on the local economy of Black River Falls," said John Lund, BRFMU Commission President. "In addition to the benefits of having local contractors involved in the construction of the project, the City of Black River Falls will receive an annual payment from the Utility of $173,500 which is provided in lieu of taxes. This is in addition to an annual cost savings of approximately $600,000 to Utility customers from the production of the low-cost renewable energy by the three hydroelectric units."
Lund also noted the dam’s impact on the local economy. "The Black River Area Chamber of Commerce estimates that the reservoir generates $180,000 in annual income from watercraft sales and tourism to the community," said Lund. "In total, the dam represents an economic boost approaching $1 million each year for our community."
The 10 a.m. ceremony also featured remarks by officials from Mead and Hunt, the project engineering firm, and WPPI Energy, the city’s wholesale power supplier. Entertainment was provided by the Black River Falls Community Band.
# # #
Black River Falls Municipal Utilities is the locally owned and operated electric and water utility, serving 2,350 customers in Black River Falls, Wisconsin.