Wednesday, June 4, 2014 | NEWS
Clam Falls dam may change ownership
Polk County and town looking at options
Gregg Westigard | Staff writer
CLAM FALLS – The dam on the Clam River at Clam Falls may have a new owner. Northwestern Wisconsin Electric, owner of the dam, has told the Clam Falls Town Board and Polk County officials that it would like to transfer ownership of the dam to another party.
County government officials have started looking at the issue and have said they will call a meeting to discuss options. The dam is no longer used to generate electricity, but the flowage behind the dam is used by many property owners and summer visitors.
Debra Peterson, Polk County properties director, told the Leader that a meeting date has not been set but that meeting will involve the town, property owners, and the DNR. Gregory Anderson, Clam Falls town chair, said the town was advised of the issue in February but has taken no action. Mike Rogney, DNR dams engineer, says the DNR is aware of the discussions.
The present power dam was built in 1914 but there was a logging dam at the site prior to that. David Dahlberg of Northwestern Electric said that NWE operated the dam until 1986 when the generators were damaged and never put back in service. NWE and two other Dahlberg power companies leased their 10 dams to Flambeau Hydro in 2001. In 2011, Flambeau told NWE that it would not be economical to operate the Clam Falls dam and they would stop leasing it. NWE extended the Flambeau lease for three years while it looked at new options for the dam and Flambeau oversees the dam at present.
Dahlberg says NWE also feels it is not economical to operate the dam as a power source and is looking for a new owner. He said NWE would be willing to donate some money to the new owner to help with the transfer.
That new owner would need to have the financial resources to guarantee the maintenance of the dam in order to gain an approval of transfer from the DNR which oversees dam safety. Polk County, which is considered a possible new owner, already owns two dams at Kennedy and Atlas parks. The Town of Clam Falls also owns a small earthen dam at Godfrey Lake.
The present community at Clam Falls is a cluster of year-round homes and a bar. But the population swells in the summer when close to 100 seasonal residents move into their camper homes at two campsites. Richard Cook says that some families at his site have been coming to Clam Falls for over 40 years. In addition, several new homes and cabins have been built on the shore of the flowage. The 2013 property taxes on just the 24 properties fronting on the flowage or lake was over $44,000. McKenzie Creek Wildlife Area is at the south end of the flowage.
The community of Clam Falls, located at the point where the Clam River dropped over a 7-foot ledge before the dam was built, has a long history back to Native American days when they called the river “Kinesca-seba” or Clam Shell River. There was a mining rush there in 1857 when prospectors rushed in looking for copper. Later this was a logging site and a stopping point on an early highway across the county, the Clam Falls – St. Croix Falls Trail.