Three dams shut down for replacement - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Three dams shut down for replacement

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KAHLOTUS, Wash. -- Three dams on the Columbia and Snake Rivers are officially closed for a project to repair locks and replace gates. But when they are part of the largest wheat exporting operation in the country, it's a big deal.

Two years of planning has gone into the replacement of the lock gates and not it is time, considering the gate at Lower Monumental was installed back in 1969.

The dam just outside of Kahlotus is where U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Walla Walla and Portland Districts will replace the downstream gate and repair concrete on the sides of the lock. It is a $13.6 dollar project, with money coming from the American Recovery and Investment Act.

However, considering that it is the largest wheat export gateway in the world, how will the area operate without it?

Project Manager, Steve Hartman says, "you would be forced to find alternative measures quickly to move that commerce in other ways that has significant financial impacts."

That means many goods will be transported by truck or train, creating possible gas price spikes.  However, the shut down has been planned for almost two years.  A Pacific NW Waterways Association representative says, it means they're prepared.

"We've had roughly a year and a half to prepare not only grain growers and shippers here in our country, but also our large buyers of northwest grain overseas," Kristin Meira, Pacific NW Waterways Association.

The Dalles, John Day Dam, and Lower Monumental Dam are all shut down until March 18th. Four others will close starting January.