Costs of Wanapum Dam crack pegged at $61 million

EPHRATA — Dealing with that cracked dam on the Columbia River is going to cost about $61 million.

That’s the estimate given Tuesday to the Grant County Public Utility District.

The estimate of $61 million includes all costs associated with fracture investigation, spillway repairs, fish passage modifications, shoreline protection and power supply costs. It could change as the utility continues to investigate the cause of the fracture.

The 65-foot long crack on a spillway of Wanapum Dam was discovered in February. The reservoir was dropped 26 feet to relieve pressure on the crack, and the dam is generating only about 50 to 60 percent of the power it could produce.

The utility will use a combination of reserve funds, debt financing and expense reductions to cover the costs.

Thousands of spring chinook are already headed up the Columbia, and about 1,200 to 1,500 spring chinook will soon be passing the Wanapum Dam per day. Those numbers will climb to a peak of about 25,000 migratory fish per day during the summer run.

The crack in the dam and reduction of water levels prompted crews to modify fish ladders. Wildlife officials also were catching and transporting some steelhead and salmon around the structure in trucks.

The fish ladders at the Rock Island Dam, upstream from Wanapum, also had to be extended 30 feet because of the lowered river level.

Until they see that the migrants are adjusting well to the ladder changes, public utility district officials planned to trap as many as 1,500 fish per day as they arrive at Priest Rapids Dam, downriver, and haul them by truck to release points above Wanapum or, possibly, above Rock Island Dam.

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