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MARION COUNTY, Iowa- Lake Red Rock is known as a place for recreation on the water, now it will also be a source of energy. The Groundbreaking for the new Red Rock Hydroelectric project was held Wednesday morning near Pella.

The project will be a retrofit of the current dam on Red Rock, which is owned and maintained by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The project has been under discussion for a number of years in the Pella area. The project will provide enough electricity for up to 18,000 homes to members of Missouri River Energy Services. That agency serves four states, including the city of Pella.

Speakers at the groundbreaking included Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds, Assistant Secretary of the Army, Jo- Ellen Darcy, Congressman Dave Loebsack, as well as Pella Mayor James Mueller.

Tom Heller is the CEO of Missouri River Energy Services, which is a co-op for customers of electric energy.  He said hydroelectric power is a dependable source of green energy.  “Days like today when the wind isn’t blowing, wind turbines aren’t producing electricity,” said Heller. “In the summer time, this thing’s going to produce electricity for us in the peak period,” said Heller. He added the Army Corps will control the outflow.  Lake level and outflows do affect the generating capacity.

Lt. Governor Kim  Reynolds said she is excited about the future of such projects in Iowa. “I think you’ll see more projects like this,” said Reynolds. She added, “hopefully we can condense the time frame,”

Also on hand for the ground breaking was a man who helped make this project possible with the building of Red Rock Dam. Retired US Congressman Neal Smith was recipient of appreciation for his efforts to get this dam built back in the 50’s, as well as Saylorville and Rathbun.  The Neal Smith Wildlife Refuge was created and named for him after his work on the dam projects.

The Red Rock Hydroelectric Dam will also impact Pella. The electricity generated here will surpass the peak loads generated in Pella during summer air conditioning season.  Pella Mayor James Mueller said that since Pella has joined Missouri River Energy Services, the old coal-burning power plant has been torn down near the Pella Corp. plant, leaving a green space.

The Red Rock Hydro Electric Project has been added to the Federal Infrastructure Permitting Dashboard which according to a news release is “designed to expedite critical infrastructure projects.” The release also says financing for the $390 million retrofit is coming through the Western Minnesota Municipal Power Agency.

The project is scheduled to be completed in 2018.