April 2, 2009

Plants shut down after dam goes to 0 release

With recent flooding along the Missouri River in the Bismarck and Mandan areas, the U.S. Crops of Engineers made history March 24 when they shut down the flow of water coming out of the Garrison Dam and into the Missouri River, eliminating the flow to zero cubic feet per second.

The stopped flow of water had major effects on the southern part of the state, and when battling massive ice dams along the Missouri, this stop caused huge benefits to flood victims and communities. With no water coming into the Missouri, local residents closer to the dam were feeling the negative impacts.

Due to the zero output from the dam, two major power plants near Stanton were forced to go offline and shut down operations on Thursday. The Basin Electric Power Cooperative’s Leland Olds Station and Great River Energy plants both shut down beginning at 8:45 a.m. when Basin Electric took their first unit offline.

GRE shut down their first unit at 11 a.m. and their second boiler unit was taken offline at noon. Due to different intake levels for the two units at Basin Electric, they were able to keep their unit two operational until 2:30 p.m. Thursday.

With their facility completely offline, Basin Electric spokesman Darryl Hill said, "This is the first time that we have ever had to take both units offline due to the situation with water levels."

When asked if the plant ever planned to be in this situation with low water levels causing both units to go offline, Hill said, "I don’t think anybody did. This is the first time in the history of the dam that they have ever shut the dam completely off."

GRE spokesmen Lyndon Anderson also said this is the first time their plant has had to shut down due to low water levels.

In both plants, employees continued to work throughout the shut down.

"There will continue to be a staff at the station because it will be a relatively short time period," Anderson said. "During the time of shutdown they will do minor maintenance work, cleaning of certain components. There is always maintenance at the plant."

"When you have a situation like this, you do have the opportunity to do some maintenance work. There is a list of things that we need to do, and since it is a fairly short-term duration, we will get that done while the plant is offline," Hill said.

The duration of the plants’ shutdown depends entirely on the decisions made at the Garrison Dam. On Thursday, the dam was reopened to 3,000 cubic feet per second, but Anderson said that the plant would need more than 3,000 cfs to go back online. Hill said that the river level would have to rise at least 2 feet before the units could be restarted.

By Friday afternoon the dam had increased their outtake to 6,000 cfs. Once the water is released, Anderson and Hill said that it will take approximately 10-12 hours to feel the effects downstream, and raise the water levels to the necessary point for both plants.

"It’s going to take a good 10 hours from the time that they release enough water, until we can even think about getting back up," Hill said.

The Weather Network