DNR, Xcel Energy encourage safe practices near dams

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) – An Eau Claire energy provider and Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources are promoting safety and awareness near hydroelectric facilities in Wisconsin with the state’s fishing opener set for Saturday, May 7.

Xcel Energy said Thursday that they are reminding outdoor recreation enthusiasts to be safe when they’re near dams and other facilities.

“Boating or canoeing above or below a dam can be very dangerous, especially if the flow changes and your boat is anchored in a hazardous area,” Rob Olson of Hydro Operations at Xcel Energy said. ”If you’re operating a watercraft near a dam, you need to be aware of changing flow conditions from either the spillway or powerhouse, and if you recreate near a dam, you need to be aware of your surroundings so you can quickly respond to rapidly-changing water conditions.”

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers proclaimed Saturday as Dam Safety Awareness Day. The proclamation notes that individuals should obey warning signs, stay away from restricted areas, be alert to rapidly-changing water conditions, and use caution when swimming or walking near a dam. As part of the awareness campaign, the Wisconsin Dept. of Natural Resources also reminded residents and visitors to the state to be safe around the state’s nearly 4,000 dams.

The DNR says that according to the Association of State Dam Safety Officials, in the past 40 years, there have been ten times as many deaths due to accidents at dams than deaths due to dam failures. Over 400 deaths nationally have occurred in the past four decades due to accidents at or near dams, while 40 deaths have occurred as a result of dam failures, or one death per year on average.

To help people enjoying the outdoors in Wisconsin near dams, the DNR is offering these safety tips:

  • Obey all warning signs, barriers and flashing lights, horns and sirens
  • Wear 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
  • Be aware that reverse currents occur below dams and can pull a boat back toward the dam into the spillway and capsize it
  • Never anchor boats below a dam as water levels can change rapidly
  • Set an example for children who may not be aware of the dangers

Xcel Energy includes these safety tips and more on their public safety website, which you can access here. For more information on dams in Wisconsin, safety tips, locations, and more, you can visit the Wisconsin DNR website or by going here.

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