Cascade Dam

Cascade DamThe Cascade Dam, located on the Thornapple River just southwest of Cascade Road, is owned by Cascade Charter Township and operated and maintained through a contractual relationship with Eagle Creek. Because the dam actively produces hydroelectric power, the operation and maintenance of the Dam is regulated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The information provided to you on this website is being provided in accordance with FERC guidelines.

Dam Drawdown - 2024

There are two environmental factors to consider regarding drawdown timing:

1. Water temperature - The water temperature is important for mussel surveys and relocations as mussels generally are buried in sediment when the water temperature drops below 50 F. 
2. Air temperature -  Air temperatures are a major concern for relatively short-duration drawdowns as exposure to freezing temperatures would increase mortality of stranded mussels. 

Based on the above information, EGLE has approved the below date for the spring drawdown. Please note that the 2024 fall dates are tentative.

Fall 2024  
• Start lowering impoundment on Monday, September 30
• Reach lowering extent by Friday, October 4
• Begin refilling impoundment on Monday, October 7
• Impoundment refill complete by Friday, October 11

The vertical extent of the drawdown shall not exceed 2 feet.

Living Below a Dam 

Emergency Action Plan (EAP) – The Cascade Dam is a federally regulated dam that has a high hazard classification. In order to comply with FERC regulations, Cascade Charter Township is required to have and actively maintain an emergency action plan (EAP). The EAP is a detailed guide on how to deal with dam related emergencies in the Township, and is updated and tested on an annual basis. The EAP has provisions in place to notify you of events that could affect the safety of you and your family. Among the provisions of the plan:

  • Direct Notification: There are several properties in the vicinity of the Cascade Dam that are contacted directly in the case of a dam break emergency. Contact to these residences is provided by text alerts from Kent County. If you are an identified property for direct contact, you will be notified each year during the testing of the EAP.
  • Warning Signal: The Cascade Dam is equipped with an emergency warning signal. Four short sounds indicates either changing water levels and flows, or a dam related emergency, and people located within the flood zone should seek immediate evacuation or move to higher ground. NOTE: The siren is not the same as the Civil Defense (tornado) siren and the sounds they make are different.

Have an Evacuation Route – If you are a resident in the flood zone of the Thornapple River, it is important that you and your family have a preplanned evacuation route. Your evacuation route should include a direct route out of the flood zone, as well as an area of “high ground” to retreat to if evacuation is not possible. It is important to realize that only 6 inches of moving water can sweep you off of your feet, and 24 inches of water can lift a car and carry it away. If you would like to request Township assistance in helping you determine a safe evacuation plan, you can contact Township Manager Jade Smith at (616) 949-1500.

Cascade Twp DamMonitoring the Weather – River levels fluctuate based on the amount of water flow moving down the river. Because of this, it is more likely that the Township will experience a dam related emergency during high levels of precipitation, or high levels of snow melt (or both at the same time.) The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration website is a good place to get weather related information.

In addition you can get NOAA information here on the current and predicted flooding levels of the Thornapple River.

Ice on the River – Ice conditions near dams can change rapidly due to unpredictable weather. In particular, we want the public to be aware of the possibility of thin ice and dangers associated with the ice immediately upstream of the dam itself. Water currents at a hydroelectric plant can be hazardous in the winter, when a reservoir may or may not be covered with ice. Ice near a dam is not reliable and should be avoided by snowmobilers, anglers and anyone else. Ice covered water downriver from a hydroelectric facility should also be considered very dangerous, and is never a safe place to walk.

Additional Information – Below are some additional resources regarding dam safety: