Wisconsin News

Xcel Energy reminds boaters of dangers near dams

Company offers several safety tips

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WKBT) - Xcel Energy wants to remind boaters of the dangers of fast-flowing rivers, especially near dams.

The company said it has been unable to safely install boat restraining barriers upstream of several of its hydro plants due to high river flows from recent rainfall.

The boat restraining barriers have not been installed upstream of Xcel Energy's hydro plants in Holcombe, Cornell, Wissota and Chippewa Falls on the lower Chippewa River. In addition, boat barriers upstream of the Thornapple and Ladysmith hydro plants on the Flambeau River and Saxon Falls hydro plant on the Montreal River have washed away due to high river flows and debris.

"Boating, canoeing or kayaking above or below a dam can be very dangerous, especially if the flow changes and your boat is anchored in a hazardous area," said Rob Olson, Hydro Operations at Xcel Energy. "If there's a sudden water discharge from the spillway gates, you risk capsizing."

Xcel Energy offered these tips for personal safety near dams:

  • Obey all warning signs, barriers and flashing lights, horns and sirens.
  • Wear a personal flotation device (PFD) – a life jacket.
  • Always stay outside buoy lines and away from restricted areas near dams.
  • Never swim or wade near a dam.
  • Never boat or fish alone when near a dam.
  • Leave your boat motor running to provide maneuvering power.
  • Stay clear of spillways. Changing currents and "boiling" waves can make boat control difficult near dams.
  • Reverse currents occur below dams. They can pull a boat back toward the dam into the spillway and capsize it.
  • Never anchor boats below a dam because water levels can change rapidly.
  • Bring a cell phone and contact 9-1-1 in an emergency.

On Tuesday, two people in a boat rescued a man in a kayak who was pulled under water due to a strong current near the Onalaska Spillway.

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