Consumers Power Company (now Consumers Energy) built Five Channels Dam in 1911 an 1912. It was the second of six hydroelectric plants to be built on the lower Au Sable River by the Foote brothers of Jackson (founders of Consumers Power). During construction the company sought to provide a healthy environment for workers and their families by building a forty-five-acre camp complete with a central water ssupply and sewage system, icehouse, school, washroom, store and boardinghouse. Workers received land on which to build a house. Housing ranged from log or clapboard to tarpaper shacks and tents. Camp buildings were moved to the next site (Loud Dam) or razed as the plant neared completion in late 1912
Flowing water has long provided power to mines and mills. With advances in electricity in the 1880s, waterpower was soon used to generate electricity. The first public demonstration of hydroelectric power in the country occurred on July 24, 1880, when sixteen carbon arc street lamps lit up Grand Rapids using a belt driven dynamo (generator) powered by a water turbine at the Wolverine Chair Factory. Michigan’s extensive water resources were harnessed to power electric generating equipment, first at existing dams and mills and later at sites built expressly for hydroelectric generation. The electricity from these plants provided power for homes and businesses and helped fuel Michigan’s growth as one of the nation’s premier industrial states.
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