Our History

Beginning in 1988 with the class of 1993 relicensing efforts, several licensees in the Midwest were entering into the early consulting phase of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) relicensing process and were confused and uncertain about what steps to take to ensure a successful experience.

These licensees decided to meet periodically to discuss the steps needed and to determine if some cooperation with joint licensing studies, other licensee training or meetings might be appropriate. At that time and into 1991, these meetings had no formal organization, no Board of Directors, no membership fees (only fees to recover meeting costs) and were held on an “as needed” basis. The principal organizers or “founding fathers” of the Midwest Hydro Users Group included Chuck Alsberg of North American Hydro, Ted Handrick of Wisconsin Public Service, Lloyd Everhart of Northern States Power, Sam Morgan of Wisconsin Valley Improvement Company, Tom Plante of Wisconsin Electric Power Company and Ken Knapp of Consolidated Water Power. The participants informally called themselves the “Hydro Users Group”, affectionately shortened to “HUG”. Most of the earlier meetings provided a forum to discuss FERC relicensing issues, developed a “Fish Management Plan” outline for members to follow; funded a fish entrainment and mortality study that was used by many members in relicensing; but some special projects were also funded by selling “shares” among interested companies.

About 1991 the organization was formalized as the Midwest Hydro Users Group (MHUG or still just “HUG” for short) with a Board of Directors, membership fees, a semi-annual meeting schedule (today typically in the spring and fall) was set, special area of interest committees were organized, and the meeting emphasis switched from relicensing issues to more general hydro interest issues that began with a single day meeting format. The first Board of Directors consisted of 5 members that were elected in August 1994 when MHUG was incorporated as a non-stock, non-profit corporation. To avoid total loss of the Board and to provide better succession planning, the Board was expanded to 8 members with 4-year overlapping terms.

During its history, MHUG has had several notable accomplishments including:

  • Worked with staff of the State of Wisconsin DNR to develop state administrative rules on Dam Safety.
  • Established a Public Safety Committee that developed standardized guidelines for consistent use of warning signs and devices at area dams (many of these guidelines were incorporated into FERC guidelines for public safety).
  • Developed a Public Education Committee that created the “Fatal Attraction” public safety outreach program to alert the public about specific hazards around dams.
  • The Public Safety Committee sponsored three “Partners in Safety” workshops around the state to help dam owners develop an effective public safety program.
  • Initiated and led the collaborative effort of several dam owners, along with support from the FERC and EPRI, to develop the “Probable Maximum Precipitation (PMP) Study for Wisconsin and Michigan”, Volume 1 prepared by North American Weather Consultants from Salt Lake City, Utah and Volume 2 prepared by Mead and Hunt of Madison, Wisconsin and both published by EPRI in July 1993. This was the first non-NWS “Regional PMP Study” and was accepted by the FERC as the official PMP for Wisconsin and Michigan. This study resulted in reduced PMP values (and corresponding PMFs) that also accounted for regional variations caused by the Great Lakes that were not considered in the original HMR 51 study by the NWS.
  • Sponsored a 2 year research project at the UW-Madison entitled “Probability-Based Approaches to Evaluating the Adequacy of Spillway Capacities” prepared by Dr. Ken Potter and Dr. Erhard Joeres that was about 15 years ahead of its time.
  • Initiated the annual spring “Dam Safety Week” program that in cooperation with the WDNR, prepares news releases, media appearances and a Wisconsin Governor’s Proclamation for hazard awareness around dams and spring flooding.
  • Held training seminars for dam owners on concrete repair and other dam maintenance.
  • Participated in the National High School Debate program by providing information on Hydropower.
  • Developed “Facts About Hydropower” and other materials to promote the value of Hydro for public outreach programs.
  • Presented several presentations from licensees, vendors or manufacturers or other guests on erosion control, NWS or private flood prediction programs, dam safety modifications, turbine improvements, operational failures/improvements, fish passage, FERC Q&A, FERC licensing settlement agreements, flooding, EAPs, STIDs, PFMAs, Functional Exercises, surveillance plans and reports, etc. (all topics that still thrive in today’s meetings).

These topics and presentations reinvigorated the MHUG and twice yearly meetings have been expanded with at least an annual tour of a hydroelectric project or dam facilities to highlight improvements, new construction, etc., and an additional feature of an “Owners Meeting” was added where owners of hydroelectric or dam facilities can share, compare, or “commiserate” on topics of interest. Also, an annual joint meeting was initiated by MHUG with the National Hydropower Association in 2007 where exposure to a national hydropower lobbying organization provides insight into current legislative efforts or other benefits available to the MHUG group on behalf of hydropower. This provides MHUG with national exposure within the hydroelectric industry. Meeting attendance has steadily grown from 47 participants in the spring of 2007 to 134 participants in the spring of 2015 from a total membership of ?? members.

In the fall of 2014, a workshop on winter operations was introduced successfully by the Dam Safety Committee as a discussion forum where owners, vendors or others could share issues or concerns on operating difficulties under severe winter weather conditions (such as Tainter gates, icing issues, etc.). This workshop idea is expanding such that in the fall of 2015, two concurrent workshops, one 4 hours workshop on “Surveillance Instrumentation for Embankment Dams” and another 4 hours workshop on “Relicensing” as the class of 1993 projects will be starting early phases of consultations to renew their licenses beginning in 2018. 

Topics continue to be widespread and familiar if you have any history with MHUG or the hydropower industry and more ideas are being solicited by MHUG from within the industry to accommodate the many new faces we see at each meeting. But the meetings are not led by paid participants! It is a volunteer organization with meeting topics and workshops heavily dependent upon your participation!  If you are not a member, please consider joining. If you are a member, please continue to participate in MHUG! For more information of what topics are currently being considered in our next meeting, please review our website for an agenda for the upcoming meeting!

The wording above was put together in 2015.