Power Play: It may not look like much, but local hydroelectric plant is a powerhouse

Looks can be deceiving.
Take the Taylor Draw Hydroelectric Facility at Kenney Reservoir, for example. At a glance, it looks like it’s about the size of a storage shed.
That is, until you go inside.
“It’s the tallest building in Rangely; you just can’t see it,” said Dan Eddy, director of the Rio Blanco Water Conservancy District.
The “building” stands two and one-half stories high, but most of the structure is underground.
Construction of Taylor Draw Dam and Kenney Reservoir, located five miles east of Rangely, was completed in 1984. The reservoir is a popular spot for summer recreation activities.
But maintenance on the dam continues year-round. Lately, crews have been redoing expansion joints and seams on the dam.
“It’s an ongoing thing,” said Dave Way, one of three employees for the water district. Jeanette Prosser is the other employee.
“When you have a structure this size, (maintenance) is a never-ending process,” Eddy added. “For what we have to do, it’s lot of work. We meet the same regulations as any Class 2 dam. We do all shoreline maintenance and take care of the campgrounds, everything that has to do with the reservoir and the power plant.”
The hydro plant was built in the mid 1990s.
“It’s turned out to be quite a little project,” Eddy said.
At maximum capacity, the plant can produce 2,000 kilowatts of power per hour.
“We sell it to Moon Lake Electric, and Moon Lake distributes it,” Way said of power generated by the hydro plant. “We had a really good year last year, because of the water level. It all depends on the river and how much water is coming down.”
Water comes into the reservoir from the White River.
“We slow it (the water) down and use it,” Way said. “The rest goes over the top (of the dam). We don’t store water. So, it’s a balancing act, between the water level and the amount of water going out. We balance what comes in and what goes out.”
A maximum of 708 cubic feet per second of water can go through the 78-inch pipe inside the hydro plant. The inlet pipe coming from the reservoir is 96 inches wide.
“That’s a pretty good chunk of water,” Eddy said. “Our permit is what they call run of the river, meaning whatever comes into that reservoir has to go down river. We don’t hold water for storage. If there’s 300 (cfs) coming in, we have to let 300 out. We don’t make releases. We hold our lake at one level, per permit, and that’s where it stays.”
The level for the lake is 5,317 feet.
“That’s the elevation of the water,” Eddy said. “We can’t control high water. What comes in (over the 5,317 elevation) goes over the spillway. It’s an uncontrolled spillway. When we have high water, it goes over. Of course, we run everything we can through the power plant.”
The staff of the water conservancy district keeps close watch on the dam.
“We keep an eye on it and measure it and survey it every year,” Way said. “We operate under the same rules as, say, Hoover Dam, and we have a staff of three.”
Those rules include an action plan in the event of an emergency at the dam.
“Every year, we meet with everybody in town who is involved in it, so they would know what their role is if something were to happen,” Way said. “I don’t think it would ever happen, but you have to be ready for it.”