WPS begins Wisconsin River drawdown, project lasts all year

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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) Wisconsin Public Service will soon begin improvements to the Wausau hydroelectric dam in May. To perform the upgrades, WPS will begin a 14-foot drawdown of the facility’s reservoir later this month.

During a drawdown, water located upstream of a dam is lowered below its normal level. The Wausau drawdown is anticipated to last through December, and is needed so workers can access portions of the dam normally underwater.

The drawdown will affect Wausau's whitewater course. Wasau Whitewater has canceled its season for 2019, and will use the time to make course improvements.

"Not having any water tells us we pretty much aren't going to have any events this summer," explained President of Wausau Whitewater Brian Scholz said.

Monday contractors for started process to replace three of the dam's gates and some electrical equipment. WPS is also slated to add a heater to the gates.

Local affairs leader Kelly Zagrzebski emphasized the good the project will bring the community and not just in the long run.

"Because of what we're doing with the draw down it is going to be impactful but there is another side that is going to be a benefit," Zagrzebski said.

During the drawdown, the Historical Society will document the foundations of former buildings now underwater and the Parks Department plans to do some grooming work along the riverside.

WPS say project work areas will be fenced in, and signs will be installed to inform residents and the public about the improvements. WPS also will be working with the Wausau Police Department, Wausau Fire Department and Marathon County Emergency Management to ensure the safety of the surrounding area.