Consumers Energy, in coordination with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, today announced the reconstruction of the tailwater fishing access at Foote Dam on the Au Sable River. This popular fishing site is operated under a lease agreement by the Michigan DNR.
Reconstruction of the site is required due to deterioration along a sheet pile wall that provides the principal shore fishing access at the site. In addition, other dam safety work is part of the reconstruction plans. The access site draws anglers from throughout Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, particularly during spring and fall salmon and steelhead runs.
Due to this work, significant access restrictions will be in place over the next two years at the site. The project requires closure of a portion of the area in 2012. The site will be completely closed to public use for most of the 2013 construction season.
In 2012, the lower half of the sheet pile wall will be closed off from public access. Engineers working on the design of the rebuild determined that this closure is necessary to maintain public safety at the site. Fishing will still be allowed at the upper half of the sheet pile wall as will access to the existing stairway to the river below the end of the wall. Fencing around the closure area has already been installed.
“Safety is our top priority,” said Jim Bernier, our senior resource manager for hydro generation. “We recognize the inconvenience that will result from temporary closure this year, and construction project site closure in 2013,” Bernier appreciates people’s patience and understanding and points out that the restrictions will enhance public safety during the construction period.
The project design has been developed in consultation with the Michigan DNR and is now being finalized. Tawas Point State Park Manager Chuck Allen, who also oversees the Foote access, said, “The DNR recognizes the need for these improvements. We believe the site reconstruction will ensure that the Foote tailwater access remains one of Michigan’s favorite fishing destinations. We look forward to plans that will greatly broaden accessibility – for anglers of all abilities – to this popular stretch of the Au Sable River.”
Allen was quick to point out that a variety of Michigan state parks in nearby Arenac County and those throughout the region can offer a mix of outdoor recreation opportunities that will appeal to visitors of all ages and interests. Harrisville State Park, for example, features a campground and day-use area nestled along the sandy shores of Lake Huron. Guests can swim, hike, bike, picnic and more at this location. The more rustic Rockport State Park, in Alpena, is home to the Besser Natural Area and a boat launch.
The final design for the Foote Access requires the review and approval of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which licenses and regulates Foote and other Consumers Energy hydro dams. Once site plans have been finalized and approved, we will place a design drawing at the site for public information along with additional details regarding the expected dates of the 2013 closure as they become available. The project is expected to provide 15 to 20 construction jobs over the course of the 2013 construction season.
Foote Dam was completed in 1917 and has been operated as a run-of-river dam since it received a new 40-year FERC operating license in 1994. The powerhouse contains three turbine-generators capable of producing about 30 million kilowatt-hours of electricity annually.
Consumers Energy’s 13 hydroelectric dams have the capacity to generate 132 megawatts of renewable electricity at facilities on the Au Sable, Manistee, Muskegon, Grand and Kalamazoo Rivers. The reservoirs created by the dams provide recreational opportunities. Nearly 12,000 acres of Consumers Energy land adjacent to the dams and the reservoirs are open to the public.