On October 13, 2015 members of the WICOLA Board attended the Winton Hydro Annual Meeting. To help our members understand the purpose and importance of WICOLA’s involvement, the following is a brief summary of how this annual event began.
In 2004, ALLETE (Minnesota Power) was granted a new license to continue operation and maintenance of the 4.0-megawatt Winton Hydroelectric Project. This Project occupies 365 acres of federal lands administered by the U.S. Forest Service. This Project consists of 2 developments; the Winton Development and the Birch lake development.
· The Winton Development consists of a 2,339 foot long concrete dam and embankments, a powerhouse containing 2 generating units with a combined installed capacity of 4.0MW, and 2,983-acre Garden Lake Reservoir comprising Garden Lake, Farm Lake, South Farm and Friday Lake.
· The Birch Lake Development consists of a 227 foot long concrete dam and 7,624-acre Birch Lake Reservoir. The Birch Lake reservoir is used for water storage to supplement winter water flow used for hydroelectric power generation at the Winton Development.
ALLETE prepared its license application using the alternative licensing process, and filed an Applicant Prepared Environmental Assessment (APEA) with the license application. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued a Public Notice once the APEA was ready for environmental analysis soliciting comments and recommendations. In response to comments received from the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, and the Minnesota DNR, ALLETE filed what is called a “Settlement Agreement” that includes conditions to Protect and Enhance fish and wildlife resources, recreational resources, and other related issues. In addition to ALLETE, the Settlement Agreement was signed by the US Forest Service, Minnesota DNR, White Iron Chain of Lakes Association, and Conservationists with Common Sense.
The Settlement Agreement sets out the background, purpose, use, implementation, general conditions, and terms for its execution. The agreement addresses the signatories various concerns related to project operation, fish and wildlife resource enhancements, recreation resources, and other related subjects.
Some of the agreement topics of interest to WICOLA include;
- Target Lake Levels for Garden & Birch Lake
- Streamflow gauges equipped with telemetry & real time online access
- Erosion control plans
- Water quality plan that may be affected by operations including water drawdown
- Measures to protect, mitigate, and enhance terrestrial and fisheries habitat.
- Recreational Plans and Enhancements
The Annual Meeting allows all parties to the Settlement Agreement the opportunity to meet and review; License Requirements, Settlement Agreement Terms, Monitoring & Operational Issues, Resource Protection, and any additional new business.