Dam issues not resolved in Manawa
Dam issues are still the focus in Manawa.
North American Hydro, of Neshkoro, sent two representatives to the Manawa Common Council’s Feb. 13 meeting.
Jereme Klassy, director of compliance, and Paul Radzikinas, project manager, were present to represent the company that generates electricity from turbines in the city-owned dam.
They noted that the first phase of repairs has been completed and a short-term drawdown is required before the second phase begins.
The second phase includes injection to fill voids in the downstream apron and reinforcement of concrete in the upstream retaining wall and gates.
The drawdown process cannot begin until it is authorized by the council.
“We need to really get the ball rolling now,” Radzikinas said.
He noted it takes about three weeks to prepare a proposal and at least 30 days for it to be reviewed by the entities involved, which include the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
A dive test in June 2010 revealed there is a large amount of seepage through the bottom of the dam. Estimated cost of repairs is $200,000, for which the city of Manawa is responsible.
“There is a distinct path from the dam gates to where the concrete apron meets the sheet covering,” Radzikinas reported.
He said there is a possibility that the concrete rock supporting the apron may have cracked. “So a heavy spring runoff could peel off the apron,” he cautioned, “then undercurrents would undermine the dam.”
Radzikinas urged the council to “heed the recommendation of the engineers.”
“Replacing and fixing (the dam) after decay would be more expensive,” he warned.
Radzikinas said the dam and the resulting reservoir (Lake Manawa) provides benefits of recreation, income and increased property value to the area. “It’s hard to quantify that when it comes time to pay for maintenance,” he said.
Jim Secard, representing the town of Little Wolf Dam Committee, asked how long this seepage has been occurring.
No one knows how long the seepage has been there, Radzikinas replied. “But we know that it is there and it is a risk.”
“There is a void underneath (the dam) and your engineers have recommended that it be addressed and they reported it to the federal energy regulators,” Radzikinas added. He noted that federal regulators asked that the work be done in 2011.
Mayor Debby Nolan reported that the city recently received a letter saying the work needs to done immediately. She indicated that the city had previously not been kept informed of the proceedings because North American Hydro had been dealing with the federal regulators.
“That’s why we were kind of out of the loop for a while, but now everything is in order,” Nolan said.
Secard asked if the work could be done without a drawdown. Radzikinas said yes, but it would be more expensive.
The Wisconsin DNR would prefer that the city do a long-term drawdown of an additional 8-10 months to help with the weed problems in the lake. If Manawa opted for a long-term drawdown, they may be required to compensate North American Hydro for lost generation. There would be no compensation during a short-term drawdown.
City of Manawa and town of Little Wolf representatives questioned if the lease agreement specifically stated that North American Hydro needed to be compensated for lost generation.
“We can’t afford the repairs,” said Alderman Joel Bonikowske.
“(We) are not prepared to talk about the lease,” Klassy said. “We did not write the lease.”
“It sounds like a win-win for (North American Hydro) and a lose-lose for (Manawa),” said Alderperson Ann Bonikowske.
“It is a functioning structure and it needs to function properly for the safety of all concerned,” Radzikinas said. “Dam maintenance is an ongoing process. If (North American Hydro) didn’t have a turbine there, (Manawa) would still have issues.”
Klassy and Radzikinas urged the council not to delay on the drawdown issue. Further delay would not allow them enough time to make the repairs because it will take several weeks just to complete the drawdown. The drawdown must be completed before fall.
They noted that the DNR prefers the water level lowered by 3-4 inches per day to avoid an environmental disaster. This precaution is necessary to protect the endangered Snuffbox Mussel that exists in the area.
Manawa Police Chief David Walker asked if there were any grants available to help fund the repairs.
Klassy encouraged the city to look for grants. He said most of the grants are only for state-regulated dams, and was doubtful any grants were available for federally-regulated dams.
After the North American Hydro representatives departed, the council decided to ask for an extension from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. This will give the city time to apply for possible grants to help fund the repairs. It was noted that the grant application process could take up to three years.
“We need to take a long hard look at the lease,” said Alderman Mike Frazier.
The Manawa dam was built in the late 1800s for lumber transport and later converted to generate electricity.
North American Hydro has operated the dam since 1984 and generates about $50,000 annually from the turbines at the dam. According to the contract, which can be reviewed or automatically renewed in 2014, the city receives a small percentage of the generated profits of about $1,200 annually.