Chris Rousseau, Hydro Operations Manager at Minnesota Power's Thomson station, showed us a PowerPoint about restoring the power at the Thomson station after the 2012 flood. The flood was preceded by a drought followed by a big Memorial Day rain that filled all the MN Power's reservoirs and the ground as well. 
 
 
In June the huge rainstorm hit. It was the highest water flow ever recorded here and it came so fast that MN Power needed to open all the gates at the Thomson dam. They had to move cars to get all the gates open. They got everything open except for one sluiceway, and got high praise  for this accomplishment. Even so, water was going over the top of the dam and flooded parts of Thomson. At 4:45 pm, the power went out at Thomson station. Water poured through the windows. By 6 pm water was going around the upper gatehouse. Forebay Lake became a bathtub and by 10:30 pm, Forbay breached, sending water through the park to the river. Luckily no injuries occurred. Within 4 or 5 minutes Forbay Lake emptied, sounding like a train going through the woods, making the 350 foot drop downhill. After the flood, the recovery started. At first there was no way to get to the Thomson station, so people slid down the wet and muddy hill. Then they built a 215 step wooden staircase, which was the only access for 2 and a half months. They had to carry fuel down the hill. The work on Forebay Lake, which is on Jay Cooke State park property, began by first cutting off the flow, then building a steel coffer dam and sealing the breach. They rebuilt the concrete spillway and by February 4, 2014, it was done. MN DOT built a new bridge. The upper gatehouse got new gates, and the lower gate house  got new steel gates. The penstocks, or big pipes that move the water downhill, had the old lead inside coating removed and new steel with epoxy liner put in. The powerhouse by the river was cleaned inside, sediment 
removed and painted. They rebuilt the hydro turbines and dredged the river with a floating excavator to remove sandbars. Wow! Did you know all this? Some of us didn't even realize the power went out!! What a terrific story with photos, and great job telling it, Chris Rousseau.
 
Excerpts taken from the Cloquet Rotary log, edited by Rachael Martin 
 
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