Inside Look at a McNary Dam Turbine - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Inside Look at a McNary Dam Turbine

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UMATILLA, Wash-- With only 130 employees, McNary Dam provides $400 million worth of energy to our region. Today KNDU went inside a McNary Dam turbine that's being maintenanced.

Workers only have access to each turbine every nine years for maintenance. Safety is the number one priority.

The turbines are underneath the forebay of the Columbia River. While being repaired, gates hold the water back.

"We're trying to do preventative maintenance to go ahead and keep the rates and keep the cost of running these units down," said Art Maldonaldo, McNary Dam Chief of Maintenance

Water normally flows through the scroll case to the turbine and once the water hits the blades it spins producing electricity. Maintenance includes putting stainless steel on the walls to cover up dents and gashes.

"Our focus here is power generation and without it or when there's interruption brown outs or black outs would occur," said Gary Smit, McNary Dam Mechanic.

The turbine is about 70 feet below that Columbia River. Dam workers can free all of the stray fish by going inside a man door that leads to a draft tube. The entire maintenance project takes about two months. Once finished the unit is turned back on and starts producing hydro electricity.