WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) The State of Wisconsin is informing residents on how to stay safe near high flowing waters during this Dam Safety Awareness week. The purpose of the week is to prevent accidents from happening near dams, especially ahead of spring and fishing season.
Last month, Governor Scott Walker signed a Proclamation declaring April 3rd through 9th Dam Safety Awareness Week. Gov. Walker recognizes benefits provided by dams like the cultural, ecological, recreational, and renewable energy, but that dams also have potential safety hazards associated with them.
River flows in Wausau
In the Wausau area, at its peak, there was a water flow of 20,000 cubic feet per second, which is similar to 20,000 basketballs coming down every second through the dams. The high flow caused some local flooding, but Peter Hansen, VP Operations of Wisconsin Valley Improvement Company says there weren't many problems along the Wisconsin River this year. Right now, they're past the Spring run-off phase, which causes a high flow of water, but more rain could effect the Wisconsin River.
"We had a pretty early spring," said Hansen. "A couple weeks ago we had all of snow melt, and quite a bit of rain on top of it."
Safety tips when near dams
The Wisconsin Public Service works on keeping people safe near dams. Here are some helpful tips to remember:
• Obey all signs, they're there to help you.
• Any sirens and flashing lights indicate a change in water level or flow.
• Plan a safe escape route when near a dam, in case of drastic changed in river flows.
• Falling into cold water can cause hypothermia.
• Always stay outside buoy lines and away from restricted areas near dams.
Brad Menning, Western Region Hydro Supervisor, says even though there's signs prohibiting swimming, in summers, he still sees people in the water near dams, which is extremely dangerous.
"Even though the surface of the water may seem pretty calm, because we are passing such high flows there can be extremely dangerous under currents that any swimmer wouldn't be able to overcome," said Menning.
Dams produce renewable energy
Water is run through the generators at Wausau Hydro, which ultimately generates electricity. The water goes through something called a runner, which then essentially makes the generator serve as a huge boat propeller. At full capacity, Wausau Hydro can power up to 1,000 homes using the renewable energy.