Grant PUD says 65-foot crack at Wanapum Dam is closed
UPDATE: BEVERLY, WA - The Grant County Public Utility District now classifies the crack in a spillway pier at the Wanapum Dam, as a "non-failure emergency."
The Grant County Public Utility District lowered the classification after engineers determined the area impacted by the 65-foot crack is stable, and continues to stabilize.
The PUD says the fracture has closed and the damaged section of the spillway monolith has moved back upstream by nearly 1.75 inches.
Engineers say that's the result of the utility's actions to lower the water level above the dam and reduce pressure on the spillway.
BEVERLY, WA - Engineers have been lowering water levels around Wanapum Dam near Vantage to get a better look at the damage caused by a 65-foot long crack.
Investigators said the dam is now stable so divers can start looking at the root causes of the crack and figure out potential fixes.
The Grant County Public Utility District said they don't expect to lower water levels anymore, but the historically low levels are certainly getting a lot of attention.
It's a sight that hasn't been seen in more than 50 years. So it's no wonder curious drivers pulled over because they simply couldn't believe their eyes.
"I've been driving over the pass probably for 30 plus years, and never in my life seen it this low," said Jason Warren. "So we had to check it out."
Water levels behind Wanapum Dam are at historic lows Tuesday, around 545 feet above sea level. Thomas Stredwick, a Spokesperson for the PUD said this is about 30 feet lower than normal for this time of year.
The PUD said they've been lowering water levels to stabilize the 65 foot long crack found in the dam, and it appears their efforts paid off. The PUD said the crack even went from two inches to one inch deep. Now, it's safer for divers to further investigate potential causes and fixes.
"We're getting some staff and technical experts coordinated right now, but as far as specific fixes it's still to early to tell," said Stredwick.
Wanapum Dam not only serves hydroelectric purposes but also recreation. Many people camp and boat near the dam. The PUD said they're keeping all this in mind as they look for short term and long term solutions.
"I mean, you're not getting your boat launched from here," said Warren.
"So many people come down here in the summer to boat, picnic and whatnot," said Tom Rosser. "So it'll definitely be a problem there."
"As far as impacts to camping and recreation, those are all things that we're going to be looking at as we begin identifying solutions to the problem," said Stredwick.
The PUD said Wanapum Dam still generates enough electricity.
We asked the PUD for pictures of the crack, which we weren't able to see with our cameras because it's still underneath the water. The PUD said images of the cracked damage is exempt from public disclosure because it's sensitive information.
BEVERLY, WA - Lowering the reservoir behind Wanapum Dam on the Columbia River in central Washington has taken the pressure off a crack in the spillway.
The Grant County Public Utility District said the 2-inch wide crack had closed by nearly an inch Monday and a spillway pier that had bowed has moved back upstream by about an inch. The utility says the measurements confirm the dam is more stable and is still generating electricity.
The horizontal crack across a 65-foot wide spillway pillar was discovered underwater February 26th and led the utility drop the reservoir by about 25 feet.
With the reservoir at historic lows, boat launches are closed and people along the shoreline are reminded not to dig for archaeological objects in the newly exposed areas.