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Wanapum Dam update: 65-ft crack in dam, failure could impact downstream town

Wanapum Dam crack causes drop in water level and notifications going out.
Wanapum Dam crack causes drop in water level and notifications going out.
Wikimedia Commons

A Wanapum Dam crack that stretches 65-feet has bowed out part of the spillway gates very close to where the cars drive across the dam. This was the first indication that something was wrong, according to NewsOxy on March 2.

The Wanapum Dam is a major dam on the Columbia River and it “poses a risk of failure,” prompting the Grant County authorities to activate an emergency response plan. Divers went down and discovered this large two-inch crack that spans 65-feet putting authorities in high gear. They are dropping the water level 20-feet. The crack is located across the spillway piers of the dam.

Authorities report that dropping the water level will make sure that the spillway is “stable enough that inspectors are safe when inspecting it.” Officials analyzed the data that the divers collected and plugged the statistics into the computer models. The results came back indicating that the “risk is high enough that they officially started to notify other government agencies.” They also notified the folks downstream who use the water.

Water is down six feet behind the dam already and many of the boat ramps are unusable because they are out of the water. The lowering another 14 feet of the water level will be reached by Monday. So far PUD (Public Utility District) has not had their power needs disrupted, but it is not known if that will continue to be the case. There is a possibility that PUD will end up buying power on the open market.

The Wanapum Dam is located on the Columbia River just about 18 miles upstream of Priest Rapids Dam and 415 miles from the mouth of the river. It is only eight miles downstream of Vantage, Washington.

Update on March 3: The town of Vantage in Washington would feel one of the greatest impacts of this dam failure. If the dam were to fail Vantage would see the impact on their farming, fishing, and power generation for the town. 1,000 megawatts of hydroelectric power is generated by the dam.

It provides power to more than 45,000 customers in Grant County along with provides electricity in region of the Pacific Northwestern, according to Web Pro News . Authorities have notified the people and businesses downstream from this dam of the potential risks.