Spotlight on Hydro Repairmen

Designing the historic hydro plant in Sault Ste. Marie was a monumental task in 1899. Local architect, James Calloway Teague, developed a structure that was both economical and functional while showcasing the power, importance and stability of the hydro plant. Construction was completed in 1902.

119 years later, this iconic hydro plant stands as a testament to Teague’s architectural vision, but the values of power, importance and stability are evident beyond the hydro plant’s red sandstone walls.

Powerful skills are required to preserve the hydro plant, which generates approximately one third of the energy for the cooperative’s 43,000 meters for 34,000 business and residential members across its five-county service territory. Repairmen who walk under the double pitched ceilings are important for the preservation of the plant. Teamwork among the crew, combined with guidance from management, provides stability for the cooperative’s renewable energy generation

Cloverland’s 13-member hydro plant team has a mission to preserve the plant for future generations. While the goal seems simple, the reality of preserving the historic hydro plant is more complex. Now over a century old, the hydro plant requires specialized parts and skilled maintenance work to remain an efficient operation.

Hydro turbine and generator parts are unique and nearly half the parts are manufactured in-house by specialists, including a welder, machinist and two electricians. Creativity and quick-thinking are skills that help the team thrive each day. Repairmen and specialists work together identifying problems and creating solutions - relying on teamwork to accomplish complex maintenance jobs

“Our hydro repairmen have a background in a variety of specialty trades,” states Cloverland’s Hydro Plant Manager, Scott Ellis. “We need a skilled team to operate this plant and we have that team here at Cloverland.”

Hydro plant repairmen are tasked with maintenance of 74 turbines and generators. Turbine maintenance requires dropping a gate to stop water flow, draining the turbine pen stock, cleaning the turbine of dirt and debris, inspecting for broken parts, repairing parts and re-filling the pen stock upon completion. Generator maintenance ensures all generators are kept clear of debris and oil rings are turning.

Hydro generation crew (left to right): Ducky Duvall, Aaron Mayer, Garrett Lasecki, Dan Klever, Mike Metrish, Jim Stolt, Kory Rogers, Steven Earl, Ben Forejt, Jesse Bishop, Dave DePlonty and Owen Bell. Not pictured: Kent Nicholls.

During summer months, repairmen perform maintenance on boom logs at the head of the hydro canal near Ashmun Bay. The importance of boom log maintenance is evident in the winter, as they are barriers to keep ice and debris from entering the hydro canal.

Safety is a top priority at the hydro plant. The team completes extensive safety training each year to ensure they work safely on the job. Repairmen use a variety of safety equipment each day, including life jackets and hard hats, but the most important element of working safe remains staying alert and paying attention to details during their varied workdays.

The hydro plant remains fully operational year-round, which means repairmen perform maintenance work on many cold or stormy days. Each day brings a new priority list, and no two days are the same. The crew is flexible and skilled at changing job priorities when needed.

“We have a team with diverse skillsets and backgrounds,” states Cloverland’s Director of Generation, Roger Line. “They all work well together and have a strong sense of pride in preserving this historic plant.”

The repairmen’s diverse skillset and strong work ethic are a powerful and important asset to the cooperative. The pride evident through each repairman’s diligent work ensures continued stability of the plant. Talents and teamwork of this crew ensure the historic hydro plant will remain operational for generations to come.


By: Abby Bell