Sturgis Dam

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Sturgis Dam
Official name Sturgis Dam
Country United States
Location Lockport Township, St. Joseph County, Michigan
Near Centreville, Michigan
Coordinates 41°58′12″N 85°32′19″W / 41.969905°N 85.538569°W / 41.969905; -85.538569Coordinates: 41°58′12″N 85°32′19″W / 41.969905°N 85.538569°W / 41.969905; -85.538569
Purpose Power
Status Operational
Construction began 1909
Opening date 1911
Construction cost $190,000
Owner(s) Sturgis, Michigan
Dam and spillways
Type of dam Embankment, earth-fill
Impounds St. Joseph River
Height 24 ft (7 m)
Length 308 ft (94 m)
Width (crest) 22 ft (7 m)
Width (base) 800 ft (244 m)
Creates Sturgis Reservoir
Power Station
Operator(s) City of Sturgis
Commission date 1909
Turbines 2 x 550kw Allis-Chalmers Vertical Shaft Units, 2 x 750kw Allis-Chalmers Horizontal Tube Units

Sturgis Dam is a dam with a hydroelectric power station on the St. Joseph River in Michigan.


The Sturgis Dam was the first municipal water power plant built in Michigan.[1] It is currently named after the city who owns it and paid for its construction. The dam is about 17 miles (27 km) away from the city of Sturgis which owns and operates the plant. The citizens of Sturgis passed a bond for a cost of $190,000 (equivalent to $3.71 million in 2016[2]) for the construction of the dam by a vote of 779 to 47.[3] Construction for the dam started in 1909 and the dam started producing power on September 3, 1911. Today the plant produces less than 4% of the cities electrical needs. It has been estimated that the cities operation of the plant has saved them $56.6 million by not having to buy power from Indiana Michigan Power.[citation needed]


When the dam was being voted on local municipalities had just been given the right to use eminent domain for construction of projects like this. However, the use of eminent domain was not used to secure the necessary right. At the time there were no other dams upstream of the Sturgis Dam. The original design of the dam had four floors in the powerhouse. When first constructed, there was the 2,300-volt oil switches and 23,000-volt lightning arresters on the switchroom floor. The lowest floor held six 200-kW oil-cooled transformers. The original transmission line out was a 17-mile (27 km) three-phase line of No. 4 B & S hard drawn copper.[1] The bond that was approved was for $175,000 however the cost came to $250,000. When the dam was constructed it caused the Langley Covered Bridge to be raised eight feet (2.4 m).[citation needed]

The general contractor for the spillway and powerhouse was Carpenter & Anderson of Allis-Chalmers. The entire engineering work including preliminary surveys, and estimates was under the supervision of Gardner S. Williams of M. Am. Soc. C.E. Consulting engineer.

In 1930s the St. Joseph County Fish and Game Commission built two fish hatching ponds to stock the river. However, those ponds are now gone and overgrown.[citation needed]

In 1982 a second powerhouse was added with two Allis-Chalmers horizontal tube units.[citation needed]

During the 2011 Dam Days celebration a large boulder and plaque were placed on the grounds recognizing the dams centennial year of operation.[4]


This hydro-electric dam is capable of producing 2,600 kilowatts. The original two Allis-Chalmers Vertical Shaft units produce 550 kilowatts each for a total of 1,100 kilowatts. The 1982 second powerhouse and two new units allow for an additional 750 kilowatts each, providing another 1,500 kilowatts. There are 33 gates that hold back the St. Joseph River and creating the Sturgis Reservoir.

In July 2016, the City of Sturgis notified residents and land owners along the river that would be doing an emergency drawdown of the Sturgis Reservoir to make emergency repairs to the earth embankment of the dam. To perform the repairs the reservoir was drawn down three feet (0.91 m).[5] The emergency drawdown of the reservoir in the middle of a heat wave caused concern from local farms that irrigation intakes were now left above the water line of the river.[6]


  1. ^ a b Ayres, Louis (January 1912). "A Municipal Hydroelectric Plant". Engineering Record Building Record and Sanitary Engineer. McGraw Publishing Co. 65 (9): 230–231. Retrieved September 27, 2016.
  2. ^ Thomas, Ryland; Williamson, Samuel H. (2018). "What Was the U.S. GDP Then?". MeasuringWorth. Retrieved January 5, 2018. United States Gross Domestic Product deflator figures follow the Measuring Worth series.
  3. ^ Rietsma, Jef (June 27, 2011). "Sturgis Hydroelectric Dam marks 100 years of operation with Dam Days celebration". mlive. Kalmazoo. Retrieved September 27, 2016.
  4. ^ Rietsma, Jef (June 27, 2011). "Sturgis Hydroelectric Dam Marks 100 Years of Operation with Dam Days Celebration". MLive. Booth Newspapers. Retrieved September 27, 2016.
  5. ^ Parker, Rosemary (July 8, 2016). "Dam repair robs crops of water during critical time, farmers say". MLive. Booth Newspaperso. Retrieved September 27, 2016.
  6. ^ Parker, Rosemary (July 8, 2016). "Dam repair robs crops of water during critical time, farmers say". MLive. Booth Newspapers. Retrieved September 27, 2016.