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Au Sable River Valley Dams

A world-famous trout stream, the Au Sable River runs about 80 miles from near Grayling to Lake Huron. Along the river’s eastward flow, Consumers Energy operates six hydroelectric dams: Mio, Alcona, Loud, Five Channels, Cooke and Foote.  The hydros were built between 1911 and 1924. Together, they can generate 41,000 kilowatts of electricity, enough to power a community of about 20,500 people.

Dams

Alcona Dam - 1Alcona Dam  is a hydro-electric dam on the Au Sable River in Michigan.  This hydro-electric dam is capable of producing 8,000 kilowatts. It is currently named after the county where it is located, but was originally named for a nearby road called Bamfield. Work began on Bamfield Dam in 1917, but the project stalled due to unstable sand and World War I. Construction resumed in 1923, and Alcona Hydro began commercial operation in 1924. The drop in elevation is approximately 30 feet (9.1 m), depending on the time of year.  Alcona Park, on the Alcona Hydro pond, is an 1,100 acre outdoor paradise with more than 450 campsites and many special features.

Cooke DamCooke Dam is a hydro-electric dam on the Au Sable River in Michigan. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1996 as the Cooke Hydroelectric Plant.  This dam began generating electricity in December 1911, with an original capacity of 9,000 kilowatts, making it the first of the six Au Sable River hydros. Cooke is named for banker Andrew Cooke, who helped secure financing for the project. Cooke Hydro was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on Aug. 2, 1996. The honor recognizes the hydro's transmission of 140,000 volts, 125 miles to Flint, establishing a world record. Innovations included three-legged, windmill-like towers that supported the transmission line and advances in insulator design. Cooke Hydro is also part of the River Road Scenic Byway and listed in the National Scenic Byways Program. Lumberman’s Monument, a 14-foot bronze statue dedicated to Michigan lumbermen, is the centerpiece of a major Forest service visitor Center located on the Cooke Hydro pond. The site features interpretive displays, along with a panoramic overlook and staircase leading down to the pond.

5-Channel Dam - 1Five Channels Dam is a hydro-electric dam on the Au Sable River in Michigan. Consumers Power Company (now Consumers Energy) began construction on this hydro-electric dam in 1911 and completed it in 1912. The dam, the second of six built by the company on the Au Sable River, is named for the nearby location where there were once five distinct river channels. The current plant is capable of producing 6,000 kilowatts.  During construction of the dam, the company tried to provide a healthy environment for workers by incorporating lessons learned on worker safety and health during construction of Panama Canal. They built a 45 acre camp for workers and their families, complete with a central water supply and sewage system, icehouse, school, washroom, store and boardinghouse. The workers also received land on which to build a house; the resulting structures ranged clapboard houses to log cabins to tarpaper shacks to tents. At the completion of dam construction, the worker's camp buildings were moved to the next construction site (the Loud Dam) or razed. The site of the workers' camp built to support construction of the dam was listed as an archaeological site (designated designated  on the National Register of Historic Places on March 13, 2002.

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Foote DamFoote Dam is a hydro-electric dam on the Au Sable River in Michigan. This hydro-electric dam was completed in 1918 and generates a current of 9,000 kilowatts.[1] It is located 9 miles upstream from Lake Huron and is named for William A. Foote, the founder of Consumers Power, which later became Consumers Energy. In 1896, Foote took a side trip from Kalamazoo to Allegan, where he conceived the idea of a hydroelectric plant along the Kalamazoo River. In Foote's mind, that plant and others would power the industrial centers throughout the state.

Loud Dam - 1Loud Dam is capable of producing 4,000 kilowatts, the hydro was completed in 1913. It is named for Edward Loud, who had done extensive lumber business along the Au Sable and bought up most of the cut over Au Sable lands between 1900-06, then later partnered with company founder William Foote and others to build the Au Sable hydros.

Mio Dam with a capacity of 4,900 kilowatts, the hydro was built between 1914-16 and is the company’s hydro furthest upstream (west) on the Au Sable River.  Named after the nearby city, Mio was the first hydroelectric plant to use a conduit or under-sluice spillway. Before this, all dams had included a massive above-ground concrete spillway that typically included a system of gates to pass excess flows. The under-sluice spillway was built into the powerhouse foundation and eliminated the need for the above-ground structure. The under-sluice spillway was invented and patented by William W. Tefft, a Consumers civil engineer and vice president. Tefft’s innovation reduced tailwater erosion during spill operation, increased the plant’s power production and reduced construction expense. It was refined and used at subsequent Consumers’ projects at Alcona Hydro on the Au Sable River, at Hodenpyl Hydro on the Manistee River and at Hardy Hydro on the Muskegon River. Oscoda County Park is the perfect place for scenic views of the Mio dam and watching bald eagles soar above the forest, with 153 campsites in a quiet forest setting on the Mio Hydro pond.

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