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Consumers Energy considering future of 13 dams in Michigan

CMS - Consumers Energy headquarters in Jackson, Michigan
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)
CMS - Consumers Energy headquarters in Jackson, Michigan

The future of 13 hydro-electric dams in Michigan is under review.

Consumers Energy operates power-producing dams along the Muskegon, Manistee, Grand, Kalamazoo and Au Sable rivers.

The federal hydro-dam licenses will start expiring in 2034.

Terry Dedoes, a Consumers spokesman, said the dams produce about one percent of the utility’s electricity. But he adds it’s 30 times more expensive to produce power from river hydro-dams than wind turbines.

Dedoes said the utility is paying for an independent economic study of the dams, which will include taking input from the communities that have grown up around the lakes and reservoirs that have been created behind the dams.

“We want to be transparent with the work we’re doing,” said Dedoes. “And letting these communities know that we are looking at different possibilities for the future of these dams.”

Options include renewing the federal licenses to operate the dams, selling them, replacing them or removing them completely.

Dedoes admits some communities may be “surprised” that removing their local dam might be an option.

While the current federal licenses will remain in place for another decade, Dedoes said the re-licensing process will take several years.

Consumers Energy is one of Michigan Radio’s corporate sponsors.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.