ELK RAPIDS -- A couple of Stockhausens charged to the rescue when it came time for Antrim County officials to take stock in the Elk Lake dam.
The county turned over operation of the dam near downtown Elk Rapids this week to Elk Rapids Hydroelectric Power, a family-owned company operated by Bill Stockhausen and his son, Stock.
The family's hobby-turned-passion for operating small hydroelectric dams is a perfect fit for Antrim County, where officials wanted to keep the dam operating but didn't have the expertise to do so.
"We looked at other options ... but nobody was entertaining us with another proposal," Antrim County coordinator/planner Pete Garwood said. "I think the board thought it really made sense, when you think about the energy crunch and rising prices, to keep that dam operating as a hydroelectric facility."
Stockhausen, who lives in the Detroit suburb of Northville, is a retired engineer from Ford Motor Co. He got into the small-scale power business 25 years ago when his family restored an old mill in Bellevue, north of Battle Creek, and installed hydroelectric generation equipment there. He also does consulting work on other small dams around Michigan.
"This has kind of been my second career," he said.
County officials said the dam played a key role in the village from its earliest days. It powered the town's first saw mill and generated electricity for the community. Its construction allowed boat navigation through the Torch River and allowed the shipping of timber and agricultural goods products out of the county.
The current structure dates to the 1920s, when it was constructed as a four-turbine hydroelectric facility. It generated electric power until the 1950s, when it was decommissioned, and Consumers Power Co. turned ownership over to the county in the 1960s.