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A new study shows health disparities cost Texas billions of dollars; Senate rejects impeachment articles against Mayorkas, ending trial against Cabinet secretary; Iowa cuts historical rural school groups.

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The Senate dismisses the Mayorkas impeachment. Maryland Lawmakers fail to increase voting access. Texas Democrats call for better Black maternal health. And polling confirms strong support for access to reproductive care, including abortion.

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Rural Wyoming needs more vocational teachers to sustain its workforce pipeline, Ohio environmental advocates fear harm from a proposal to open 40-thousand forest acres to fracking and rural communities build bike trail systems to promote nature, boost the economy.

Power Utility Ponders Fate of 13 Historic Michigan Dams

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Tuesday, December 27, 2022   

A number of small dams along Michigan lakes and rivers, some operating for more than a century, are still generating hydropower energy - just not enough. Their owner, Consumers Energy, said they have become inefficient, and company officials are weighing what to do with the historic structures. They report the aging dams only generate 1% of the company's power output, costing more to maintain than the energy they produce.

Brian Wheeler, Consumers Energy media relations manager, said the federal licenses to operate the dams on the Muskegon, Manistee, Grand, Kalamazoo and Au Sable rivers are set to expire in 2034, and added they have been asking Michiganders what they think.

"We've been engaging in community meetings to get a sense of what would happen if we were to consider selling the dams or closing them altogether," he said. "And right now, what we're looking at is the next step in that process, which is a study in each of these communities to get a true sense of their economic and community impact."

Wheeler said there are four options for each dam: Relicense and continue generating power, sell to a new owner to maintain the impoundment, remove the dam and restore a free-flowing river, or build a new dam that preserves the reservoir. He said a decision will be made in the first half of 2023.

Consumers has hired Lansing-based Public Sector Consultants to perform an economic study. Wheeler said earlier this year, they held a total of 27 "engagement meetings" with communities and stakeholders near each dam. He said many of those attending see their dam as a vital part of their community.

"In many cases, the Consumers Energy hydroelectric dams are not just power plants, but they're also recreational centers. They're hubs for camping and other recreational outdoor activities. They are tourist attractions," he said.

Wheeler added in addition to each dam's ability to generate power, they will consider factors such as the effect of a dam on the local economy and tax base, the ecology of the waterways, and what outcome best serves their customers.

"Some community members obviously want the dams to stay in place because of the benefits they provide. Other people would like to see rivers return to their original state. And, of course, we're in the middle of this, where we're focusing on our facilities, making sure we're providing energy. So, there's a lot to consider," he said.

Disclosure: Consumers Energy contributes to our fund for reporting on Community Issues and Volunteering, Energy Policy, Environment, LGBTQIA Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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