Hydro-dam gets new gates

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Nearly 30 years ago St. Cloud opened the Hydroelectric Facility Dam which generates electricity from the rushing waters of the Mississippi River. This summer has been a work-in-progress for dam employees as new technology is being introduced to the structure.

For the past year, city officials have been working at constructing a safer way for dam employees to open and close the trip gates. Normally, the employee would have to go out onto the spillway to manually close the gates; this can get slippery during the colder months when ice has accumulated on the bridge. Instead, the city has come up with plans to replace the manual gates for mechanical ones. This will make it safer and easier to close the gates.

Dam Plant Supervisor Daryl Stang has been at the dam since the beginning and even helped build it back in 1988. While he was weary at first, Stang is now excited to see the new equipment be used.

“It’s hard to be out there in the winter, so these new gates should make it easier on us to open and shut,” he said.

Stang is joined by 13 others who are currently putting in the new gates. These added features are just a small part of what makes the dam so important to Stang and to the city of St. Cloud.

The hydroelectricity facility can generate up to 9 megawatts of power. This is the equivalent of burning 7,000 tons of coal. It manages this power by utilizing two large turbines where water enters at an average flow of 5,000 cubic feet per second. As the rotor of the generator turns, its magnetic field induces a current inside and generates electricity. This power supplies over 75 St. Cloud homes with electricity.

With all of the power the plant produces, it’s easy to worry about the environmental damage it could be causing. However, the dam works in harmony with the river by allowing the water to run freely through the gates instead of stopping the water and creating a reservoir. The hydroelectric dam is not only environment-friendly, but with the new gates will be user-friendly too.

Having been at the plant for over two decades, Stang says his favorite part about working there is getting to see the river view every day.

“It’s a really pretty area, and I get such a close-up view of everything,” he said.

Stang says the gates are currently in the first phase of repairs and can be expected to be done later in January.