Repair work is now underway to fix the crack in Wanapum Dam, but the area around the dam is still closed off to the public for the rest of the summer.
BEVERLY, WA - Repair work is now underway to fix the crack in Wanapum Dam, but the area around the dam is still closed off to the public for the rest of the summer.
It's something you may not think about, but the power of water is amazing. We know now that a crack the size of 5 car lengths in the middle of dam was caused by an mathematical error in the original design that didn't allow the dam to withstand the tremendous pressure.
"There wasn't enough steel or concrete in the original construction of the dam," Chuck Allen said.
Crews have started drilling more than 40 holes that they will fill with 200 feet of steel from the top of the dam to the river floor below.
"We are restoring Wanapum spillway to the condition it was prior to the fracture," Allen said. "But we're going beyond that and we're making it stronger than it was before the fracture."
To begin this work, dam officials have brought water levels to historic lows. But that caused a huge problem with the thousands of salmon who run through during spring migration.
What you're looking at is the Wanapum Dam fish ladder. Even though it looks more like a fish water slide. This was just built in the last couple months, because after they lowered the water, the salmon couldn't pass through here. Now they can.
"We had to come up with a plan b and it seems to work quite well," Curt Dotson said. "In 5 weeks we went from we got a problem to we got a solution. It's very impressive."
More than 20 thousand Sockeye and Chinook salmon leap into the makeshift steel box each day. Something that is a beautiful sight to officials who frantically put the system together so the salmon population wouldn't suffer.
When officials first discovered the crack, they didn't know how bad the damage would be. Now, repairs have begun while successfully maintaining the spring salmon migration. It appears that the biggest loss will be the canceled summer recreation.
"We really do appreciate the public's patience and understanding," Allen said. "This is a very unique situation. And we anticipate that once we are finished with all the work that we have to do here, that we're not going to see issues like this anymore."
The drilling has already started at wanapum dam, even though it hasn't been officially approved on the federal level yet... officials fully expect that it will be and the end price tag for this entire project... 61 million dollars.