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Elkhart Dam Repairs Spring 2024 - Frequently Asked Questions

March 28, 2024

What is happening?

I&M must delay the normal timing of raising the water level upstream of the Elkhart Hydroelectric Plant to its normal spring and summer measures.

Why can’t I&M raise the water levels at the normal time?

The issue we’re facing is that maintenance work must be completed before we can begin raising the water level from the winter drawdown level. The reason is so that current hydraulic conditions can be maintained (i.e., reduced seepage flow beneath the dam) while the maintenance work is being completed.

Is the dam in danger of failing?

No. Safety is I&M's top priority, and we will continue to monitor the dam and perform necessary maintenance to ensure the safety of the surrounding community.

Is the dam stable?

Yes. By keeping water levels lower, we will be maintaining current hydraulic conditions beneath the dam while we perform the necessary maintenance. Once the work has been completed, we will be able to raise water levels and maintain dam stability.

How long has I&M known about the issue(s)?

The issue is a more recent development that was discovered in late 2023 during the course of implementing the dam stability remediation project.

Why did I&M wait so long to begin work or communicate with the public about this issue?

When the concern was identified in late 2023, we stopped work to assess the issue and made efforts to mitigate challenges, which improved hydraulic conditions. When we lowered the reservoir to winter levels in December, that further improved conditions. Since that time, we have been working with our Engineer of Record to develop a plan to complete the maintenance work going forward. We reviewed and considered all possible options to lessen the length of impact to the community and develop a solid plan to communicate.

When will I&M raise the water level back up to spring and summer pool?

I&M's current plan is to complete the maintenance work and start the process of raising the levels back up with the goal of reaching summer levels by Memorial Day. However, as with any construction project, issues could arise which could either lengthen the timeframe or force us to keep water levels lower for a longer period of time.

Is there a risk of having to lower the water level any further?

At this time, we do not anticipate the need to drop water levels below the winter drawdown levels. As we raise the water level, if there are identified issues with dam stability, we may have to lower levels back down to the winter drawdown levels with little to no notice. Because of that, I&M is cautioning affected customers who haven’t already put boats and other watercraft in the river to consider waiting until work has been completed.

When the water level is raised to summer pool, will it stay there?

The maintenance work we are conducting is to enable us to raise water levels to typical summer pool levels and keep them there. We will continuously monitor the dam and might need to lower levels in short notice if any issues arise.

Are there any aquatic life concerns throughout the year with lower water levels?

I&M does not anticipate any adverse effects to aquatic life as a result of maintaining the winter reservoir pool elevation past March 31.

Will any portages be closed due to lower water levels?

We don't expect portages to be closed due to lower water levels, but users should use caution when utilizing portages. Signage will be installed.

Can you explain the work that is being done?

Contractors will install an impermeable layer of material (Aquablok) and protect it with a layer of stone. This activity will reduce existing seepage pathways where it is applied and lengthen the distance any residual upstream seepage has to travel to reach the base of the dam. The Aquablok is a small stone coated in water absorbent clay that will create a blanketing effect on the riverbed adjacent to the dam. This work will all be performed in the area between the dam and the boat barrier.

Will crews be working expanded hours to try to meet the earliest timeline to finish the project and return water levels to summer?

Crews will work as quickly and safely as possible to meet our timeline goals. There are certain aspects of the project that cannot be rushed, such as the need to raise the water levels in 6-inch increments, wait for 48 hours to determine that the water level is holding, and then raise levels again, repeating the process until levels have been raised by a total of 2 feet to summer pool.

What impact will this have on the ability to generate electricity from this station?

This will not impact our ability to generate electricity from the station, as we are able to generate during the winter months when the water is at the lower levels. The largest impact will be to those who would usually put boats and other marine crafts in the water during the spring and summer months.

My question is not addressed here. Whom can I call to answer my question?

If you have a question or concern, we have a dedicated customer service team ready to assist you. You can contact them at 260-408-3724 or email them at IMCustomerService@aep.com. Updates will also be available on IndianaMichiganPower.com/News.


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