Mitchell Lake and Dam was named for the former President of Alabama Power, James Mitchell.
Mr. Mitchell moved to Alabama for Massachusetts in 1911, to survey the State’s potential for the development of hydroelectric power.
When he was in Massachusetts, he was an internationally connected electrical systems developer.
After getting financing from the country of Great Britain, he created a holding company based out of Canada.
He called this company The Alabama Traction, Light and Power Company, and had one major goal; to consolidate the electric power development and interests in the State of Alabama.
Over time, this company and all of its interests were consolidated under the new name, the Alabama Power Company.
When Mr. Mithcell died in 1920, the leadership of the newly formed Alabama Power Company, was passed to Thomas Martin.
Mr. Martin was an attorney that helped in the entire process of starting the company.
Mitchell Lake and Dam are located in two counties in the central part of Alabama, Coosa and Chilton County.
Built by the Alabama Power Company, this Dam started to generate electricity in the that region in the year 1923.
The Federal Power Commission was created by the United States Congress in 1920, which allowed it to build this structure.
This is when the power company was given its first license, and they choose the Coosa River, as it was near another like structure.
The Lay Dam was located close to the town of Verbena, at a shoal’s area on the river.
However, there was one very big challenge the company faced when building the Mithcell Lake and Dam; it was located in a very remote area.
Because of this, they had to build a “workers village”, before they could even start to build the dam.
Here is What Had to Be Built
Once the workers started, they had to clear the reservoir lands and right of ways for the transmission lines.
The recently built Lay Dam, which was upstream, made the job much easier work the workers for one simple reason; electricity they could use.
The generating units where then built, and the first 3 went into service in August of 1923, and a 4th unit was added in 1949.
In the year 1985, the original 3 units were deactivated, when 3 more new and powerful units were installed in a brand-new powerhouse, located below the dam.
Mitchell Lake and Dam are no different than most all of the dams like this built, in that they have two types of lakes.
They are “storage” and “run-of river” lakes.
The main difference between storage and run-of-river is the creation of a reservoir or “lake”.
A storage project requires a reservoir to store water, use when electricity is needed.
A run-of -river plant, which generates energy using the natural flow of the river, has no or minimal water accumulation.
Alabama Power will vary the water levels on its storge lakes, and power is enhanced by keeping it at the highest possible levels during the State’s very hot summer months.
This is when demand for power is the highest, and then the lakes are lowered in the fall and winter, to provide room for flood storage.
Mitchell Lake and Dam is just the opposite, however, as it is a “run-of-river lake, which means the levels are fairly constant all the time.
If there is a drought in the State, it can have an effect on either type of lake or reservoir.
Little Known Facts About Mitchell Lake and Dam
Mitchell Lake and Dam will generate electricity “only” when the peak demand requires it to, or when the market price for electricity is favorable.
Because of this, and the fact that it is a hydro power plant, it cannot be used all of the time.
Because it is a hydro power plant, there are no fuel costs to run it, and this makes it very economical for Alabama Power.
However, again if there is a severe drought, all of Alabama Power’s hydro dams are reduced significantly.
The electricity that is generated at Mitchell Lake and Dam, as do all of Alabama Power’s Dams, are not for any specific customer.
They are all fed into the Southern Company power grid, which allows all customers to draw power through the substations connected to the grid.
Another “little known fact”, is that all of the lakes owned by the Alabama Power Company, are licensed by the Federal Government.
They are licensed for a period of 30-50 years, and at the end of this time, Alabama Power has to re-apply for a license.
In order for Alabama Power to qualify for re-licensing, they must demonstrate that it has satisfied certain regulations.
There regulations are set and monitored by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
The Lake Created by Mitchell Dam
The lake that is formed by Mitchell Dam is 4 miles long and covers a little over 5,800 acres.
It has a maximum depth of 90 feet, and it is estimated that the water volume of the lake is roughly 56 billion gallons.
The watershed area that drains into the lake cover more than 9,800 square miles.
This beautiful Lake has over 147 miles of beautiful shoreline, that is available for both permanent and vacation homes.
There are numerous recreational opportunities for you and your family and include boating, fishing, swimming, as well as numerous other outdoor activities.
Located on the gorgeous Lake are boating ramps, picnic facilities, nature trails, as well as public restrooms.
It is loaded with numerous types of fish including bass, crappies, catfish, sunfish, and walleye.
If you and your family have never visited Mitchell Lake and Dam, you are missing one of the best of the Alabama Back Roads trips.
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