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Thursday, August 18th, 2005 -- 6:51 AM

It was standing room only and then some at the Dewhurst Town Hall last night for a public informational meeting on the Hatfield Dam. The Dam?s new owner, North American Hydro (NAH), is planning a five-foot drawdown of Lake Arbutus to assess the dam and then conduct the needed repairs. The president of NAH, Bill Harris, showed a video documenting the 1993 flood that caused extensive damage not only to the plant and dam, but the entire community of Hatfield. An ?act of God? that Harris said wasn?t preventable, but could have been much less severe if the dam was in proper working order.

Video also showed the dam as it currently stands and the obvious leaks that Harris said would ?break? them ? not allowing them to produce electricity efficiently.

Harris explained the dam was constructed in 1907 to provide electricity to La Crosse and Winona for their fleet of cable cars. The dam currently could produce enough electricity to power 2,000 families all while causing less pollution in one hundred years then you?d produce by igniting one match.

Undoubtedly, most of the dozens of people at the meeting were interested in the proposed repairs and drawdown of the lake.

Currently, NAH is planning to ?ramp down? Lake Arbutus on September 15th. The Lake will be lowered 5-feet so crews can look at the ?crown? of the dam, assess its shortcomings and develop a plan to fix it. They?ll then have to go through discussions with governmental agencies and gain permission to fix the dam. That repair could force the Lake to be lowered through the summer of ?07 ? though Harris said they hoped the repairs could be finished by the summer of ?06.

When asked how the lowering would effect recreation, one audience member related that he had boated on Lake Arbutus in 1994 when the lake was drawn down 8-feet and had no problems. There was some concern over the operability of the lake?s boat landings, however.

In the end, those in attendance seemed supportive actually applauding at the end of Harris? presentation.

Harris promised to keep interested residents abreast of the process.


]Lake Arbutus Association[/url]

[url=http://www.nahydro.com/]North American Hydro[/url]

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