The future of a 124-year old hydropower plant in Marhshall, Mich., is unclear after the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission determined it will need significant upgrades to remain safe.
The 319 kW project was subject to a FERC dam structure study in 2012 that determined the run-of-river infrastructure is leaking, forcing Marshall to consider several options.
According to a release from the city, rehabilitating the project would likely require a drawdown of its reservoir by between six and eight feet, potentially exposing harmful heavy metals and other chemicals that have accumulated behind it.
The City of Marshall, which owns the plant, has also reportedly considered constructing a cofferdam while it completes repairs, or removing it entirely and restoring the river system.
"The city council has not made any decisions regarding the future of the hydro dam and will thoroughly evaluate each proposal," city manager Tom Tarkiewicz said. "We are taking a proactive approach to this project to learn what needs to be done to maintain a high quality of life we now enjoy in Marshall. We are keeping an open mind and exploring all of our options."
The council is currently in the process of selecting an engineering consultant to assist as it makes its decision. The choice is expected to be announced during a council meeting later this month.
The Marshall Dam was constructed in 1892 as a stone and earth backfill structure before being capped with concrete in the early 20th Century. Generating units were first added to the project in 1919, making it one of the oldest municipally owned hydropower facilities in the country, according to the city.
The plant is located on the Kalamazoo River and generates less than 1% of the town's total energy requirement.
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