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article image65-foot long crack found in major dam in Washington state

By Karen Graham     Mar 1, 2014 in Environment
A two-inch wide crack measuring 65-feet in length has been discovered on the spillway of the Wannapum Hydroelectric Dam on the Columbia River in Washington state. This has prompted officials to start lowering the water level to assess the damage.
Although utility officials say the crack in the 8,320-foot long dam poses no immediate danger to the public, Grant County Public Utility District spokesman Thomas Stredwick said on Friday the crack was still "serious."
Earlier last week, an engineer reported some slight "bowing" above the spillway gates in an area where cars can drive across the dam. Divers called in found a two-inch wide, 65-foot long crack underwater, along the base of one of the dam's spillway piers. It was decided the crack was serious enough to call in federal energy officials.
The spillway allows surplus water to escape and is used for the controlled release of large volumes of water. By Saturday, the water level had been reduced by 12 feet. A target level of 20-feet should be reached by Monday.
The Wannapum dam is located about 18 miles upstream from the Priest Rapids dam in a rural area of central Washington. Construction began in 1959, and power generation began in 1963. It is 6-miles downstream from Vantage, Washington, where Interstate 90 crosses the Columbia River.
The dam has 12 spillways, each one 820-feet long, and 10 generators. There are also 10 turbines, each turbine generating 150,000 horsepower. In all, the rated generating capacity of Wannapum is 1,092 megawatts of power.
The dam was named in honor of the Native Americans who live along the river from Vantage south toward Pasco, Wash. No tax money or government appropriations were used to build the Wannapum or the Priest Rapids dams.
More about hydroelectric dam, Washington state, 65foot long, spillway, Columbia river
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