Dakota County safely operates the Byllesby Dam near Cannon Falls, maintaining the renewable energy facility on the Cannon River and working to ensure the safety of residents who live nearby. The county is highlighting those efforts in recognition of National Dam Safety Awareness Day on Saturday, May 31.
Built in 1910, the hydroelectric dam generates enough power to provide electricity to a city the size of Cannon Falls. That energy is sold to Xcel Energy, and the revenues cover dam operation costs. The dam also provides recreational benefits at Lake Byllesby and two parks: Lake Byllesby Regional Park owned by Dakota County, and Goodhue County's Lake Byllesby Park. Dakota County uses the dam to comply with state and federal requirements for management of water in the lake and downstream on the Cannon River.
Dakota County's priority is the safety of residents living upstream and downstream of the dam. The county, with assistance from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Dam Safety Grant program, has invested over $26 million in improvements and upgrades to the dam. Major projects included a spillway improvement to double the capacity of the dam and repairs to the existing concrete, gates and foundations. The dam is currently in the middle of a turbine and powerhouse upgrade.
"We take pride in safely operating the Byllesby Dam and generating renewable energy to help power communities in our region," said Dakota County Board Chair Mike Slavik, whose district includes the Byllesby Dam.
The county invests considerable time, effort and funding to remain compliant with strict federal regulations and to ensure the safety of area residents and visitors enjoying the nearby recreational opportunities.
Responsible ownership and operation of the Byllesby Dam also means Dakota County and its local emergency management partners need an effective, well-rehearsed emergency management plan in the unlikely scenario of a dam failure. At this time every year, Dakota County, Goodhue County and the City of Cannon Falls mail brochures containing evacuation zones and routes to residents and businesses who reside in the inundation zone. Area residents are encouraged to familiarize themselves with their evacuation route in the unlikely event of a dam failure.
Find evacuation zones and routes on the Byllesby Dam Evacuation page.