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EAU CLAIRE – Due to a late spring melt, recent rainfall and high river flows, Xcel Energy crews have been unable to safely install boat restraining barriers upstream of the company’s Holcombe, Cornell, Wissota and Chippewa Falls hydroelectric plants on the lower Chippewa River and the St. Croix Falls hydro on the St. Croix River. In addition, boat barriers upstream of the Thornapple and Ladysmith hydro plants on the Flambeau River and Saxon Falls hydro on the Montreal River have washed away due to high river flows and debris. Boaters and fisherman in these areas are urged to use extreme caution when approaching the dams, keep a safe distance and obey all warning signs and signals.
Typically at this time of year, Xcel Energy crews install a cable with a series of floats that runs across the rivers to mark a restricted area for boaters upstream of the dams. The barriers will be installed when the rivers subside and it is safe to do the work.
Xcel Energy encourages boaters to take precautions that would protect them in the event of a mechanical failure. The fast river flows mean there is not much time for rescue before a boat would drift from the barrier location downstream to the dam. Power is being generated at the powerhouses and excess water is being discharged through the spillway gates.
The company offers these tips for personal safety near dams:
• Obey all warning signs, barriers and flashing lights, horns and sirens.
• Always stay outside buoy lines and away from restricted areas near dams.
• Never boat or fish alone when near a dam.
• Leave your boat motor running to provide maneuvering power.
• Stay clear of spillways. Changing currents and “boiling” waves can make boat control difficult near dams.
• Reverse currents occur below dams. They can pull a boat back toward the dam into the spillway and capsize it.
• Never anchor boats below a dam because water levels can change rapidly.
• Wear a personal flotation device (PFD) – a life jacket.
• Bring a cell phone and contact 9-1-1 in an emergency.