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Posted 9/1/2014

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By Samantha Heilig
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Rock Island District


The second-largest hydroelectric plant in Iowa is officially under construction after a ceremonial groundbreaking Aug. 13 at Red Rock Dam near Pella, Iowa. Representatives from the Missouri River Energy Services (MRES) hosted the event to showcase plans for the new facility which is scheduled to be completed in spring 2018.

The groundbreaking featured remarks from Iowa Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds, Rep. Dave Loebsack, and Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works) Jo-Ellen Darcy as well as other local leaders.

Lake Red Rock, Iowa’s largest lake, is primarily used for flood risk management and recreation however the holding capacity of the reservoir, 15,600 acres of water, makes it a prime candidate for energy production. The Red Rock Hydroelectric Project (RRHP) will involve retrofitting the dam with a turbine and generators to produce an average of 36.4 megawatts of electricity on a regular basis and up to 55 megawatts during peak season. According to MRES, the average energy produced by this project annually will provide enough clean and affordable energy for approximately 18,000 homes.

MRES plans for construction involve building the RRHP facilities adjacent to the existing spillway on the Lake Red Rock Dam. The approach channel and intake structure will be located upstream of the dam. Two penstocks, large tubes that carry water, will run from the intake structure through the dam to the powerhouse. A tailrace channel will then extend from the downstream end of the powerhouse to the existing spillway tailrace which flows back into the Des Moines River.

Darcy said getting this project completed was high on the priority list for President Barack Obama’s climate change plan, and the Army Corps of Engineers is proud to contribute.

"This project is on that list because of the fact that climate change is having an impact in a variety of ways on all our natural resources and we have to be ready with water resources and planning and management alternatives in the face of climate change, and hydroelectric power is one way that we can meet that challenge," Darcy said.

One major advantage to the RRHP is that during the time of the year when demand for electricity is high, March through August, flow rates at Red Rock Dam are also typically at their highest. This will enable MRES to produce larger amounts of electricity and meet the needs of their customers while using a resource that is readily available.

"It is great to be here to celebrate the construction of a reliable, affordable and environmentally sustainable source of power for this community," said Darcy. "President Obama’s plan to improve upon our permitting and review processes for infrastructure projects highlighted this Red Rock Hydroelectric plant. Today is a big step for this country’s hydropower efforts."

Brett Call, operations manager for Lake Red Rock said he is happy that the RRHP has reached the construction phase. Members of his staff along with District staff have spent countless hours working through the preparatory phase of this project.

Call said, "We are very excited to see the work put in place and look forward to working through the next few years of construction."

The ground breaking was not the only activity scheduled during Ms. Darcy’s visit to the lake. District commander Col. Mark Deschenes along with staff from the Lake Red Rock Project Office took Ms. Darcy and her aid, Lt. Col. Antoinette Gant, on a tour of recently renovated facilities. They visited the new Red Rock Marina site and the North Overlook Beach and Playscape area and discussed plans for the next Playscape set to be installed by community volunteers at the upcoming National Public Lands Day in September.

The group also toured a few of the new recreation features added by MRES as part of a mitigation effort due to impacts to existing recreation areas during construction of the hydropower plant. Features they visited included a 1.5 mile extension of the Volksweg bike trail, a new restroom, picnic shelter and information kiosk at Robert’s Creek trailhead, and a new large-event shelter constructed at Cordova Park. This was Darcy’s second visit to the Rock Island District during the month as she visited Brandon Road Lock and Dam Aug. 8 to discuss efforts to restrict invasive carp from moving up the Illinois River.

Visit redrockhrdroproject.com for information on the Red Rock Hydroelectric Project progress.