Dams in flooded Duluth-Superior area to get close look


Hydro-electric plants on the St. Louis River in the flooded Duluth-Superior area held during last month’s deluge, but there was plenty of damage, including to the hydroelectric stations.

Flooding last month knocked out the ability of two dams to make electricity, but one of them is back in production. Minnesota Power spokesman Pat Mullen says they need to assess the damage at all four dams before fixing it. “This is a big deal. So we look to make sure that we’ve got both dam integrity and reservoir integrity. So we look at a number of things as we go through these hydro reviews. Right now we’ve hired several different hydro consulting firms that specialize in different areas. They are making the assessment right now.”

Mullen calls this a “critical period” for the dams and reservoirs on the St. Louis River, Lake Superior’s largest tributary. The Thomson Hydroelectric Station won’t be able to produce power for several weeks, which produces about 2% of Minnesota Power’s electrity.

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Meanwhile, Mullen says Minnesota Power workers are chipping in to help neighboring towns pick up the pieces, “We’re pleased that the dams held, that the integrity of the river system was operating the way it was supposed to. We think overall that helped control flooding to a point where it wasn’t worse than what it was. But on the other hand, you can’t help but feel empathy and sympathy for how much tragedy this has caused along its wake.”

In addition to giving the dams a close examination with dive teams, Mullen says the Federal Energy Regulation Commission has to sign off on all repair plans since it has oversight of generating plants.