The construction of the landmark hydroelectric plant facility was completed in 1902. At the time of completion, the plant was the second largest hydro facility next to Niagara Falls. The hydro plant is constructed of steel and red sandstone. The stone was excavated from the power canal. The plant is a quarter-mile long, 80-feet wide, and has 74 horizontal shaft turbines located on the generation floor level. Each turbine has four runners (blades) that drive the 60-cycle generators. The water, which flows down the power canal, drops through gates in the turbines to make them spin. The turbine turns the rotor—the last moving part and the turning creates electricity.

The excavation of the hydro canal began in September 1898 and was completed in June 1902. It is lined with more than 10,000 white pine timbers native to the area to strengthen and stabilize the structure.

The canal is approximately 2 1/4 miles in length from the headgates (intake) to the hydro plant. It is approximately 24 feet deep and 200 feet wide at the water level. The canal’s entrance is located at the east end of Ashmun Bay, controlled by four steel headgates. Learn more about the powerhouse in this 10-minute documentary.

Cloverland Electric Cooperative


Local architect, D.J. Teague finalized plans for the hydro plant in 1899. The Romanesque design included three large pavilions and a double-pitched roof to counterbalance the length of the plant. This design was the most economical and gave the impression of power, importance, and stability. Ownership Edison Sault Electric Company purchased the hydro plant and canal in 1963 from the Union Carbide Company for $1.5 million. An additional $1 million was spent to convert the plant from 25-cycle electricity to 60-cycle electricity. In 1992, the company completed an $8 million modernization and automation project in the plant which enhanced both safety and efficiency. On May 4, 2010, Cloverland Electric Cooperative purchased Edison Sault Electric Company from Wisconsin Energy Corporation.


Under the most favorable operating conditions, the hydro plant is capable of producing about 36,000 kilowatts (36 megawatts). The power output depends on the volume of water traveling through the power canal and the plant’s operating head. The operating head is the difference in water levels at the plant’s forebay (upriver) and the tailrace (downriver) on the St. Marys River. This difference is equivalent to the drop in elevation between Lake Superior and the lower Great Lakes. At peak operation, the plant discharges approximately 30,000 cubic feet of water per second, which is equivalent to about 13.5 million gallons per minute.


  • The Plant Consists of 74 Three-Phase Generators
  • Each 60-Cycle Generator Operates At 4400volts, 180rpm And 600-850kva (600kva Can Power Two Big Box Stores).
  • With 20ft Of Headwaters From The Upper To The Lower St. Mary’s River, The Output Is 772-935 Horsepower.
  • Three Manufacturers (No Longer In Existence) Built The Turbines. Many Replacement Parts Are Now Machined In-House.
  • Canal Water Velocity Is 7-10ft Per Second or 5-7mph
  • A 12-Person Team Oversees The Plant.
  • The Plant Generates 25-30 Megawatts Of Electricity On Average, Or About 225 Million Kilowatt-Hours, Annually.
  • It Produces One-Fifth Of The Power In The Eastern U.P.
  • Renewable Hydroelectric Power Accounts For 35% Of Our Power.
  • The Plant Produces 20% And An Additional 15% Is Generated From The U.S. Army Corps Of Engineers Hydro Plant.
  • Most Of The Heat Needed For The Building During Winter Is Generated By Itself
  • The Plant Is Allocated Water Every Month By The International Joint Commission (IJC) For Use In Power Generation. The IJC Controls The Levels Of Lake Superior And The Lower Great Lakes.
  • The Plant Increases Electricity Production When The Demand For Electricity Is Highest (8am – 10pm) And Reduces Production At All Other Times.
  • Cloverland Electric Cooperative Serves The Eastern U.P. Including All Neighboring Islands.
  • The Annual Energy Use Of This Region Is Approximately 900 Million Kilowatt-Hours.
  • Cloverland Electric Cooperative is a not-for-profit, member-owned electric utility established in 1938.


The CFRE Fish Hatchery, operated by Lake Superior State University (LSSU), is located in the eastern wing of the hydro plant. LSSU students are responsible for the day-to-day operations and receive valuable hands-on experience in freshwater research and fish culture. With the support of Cloverland Electric Cooperative and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment, the CFRE Fish Hatchery performs freshwater research and stocks fish in the St. Marys River. It raises and releases approximately 25,000 Atlantic salmon into the St. Marys River each year and has helped hundreds of LSSU graduates obtain jobs in fish and wildlife management, hatchery operations, ecology and other biological sciences.


Photo by jean wimmerlin on Unsplash


To learn more about the Cloverland Electric Plant visit their website.