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Wanapum Dam Fix Could Cost $61 Million

Anna King
Northwest News Network

Officials in central Washington revealed the latest update on how much it will cost to fix the massive crack in Wanapum Dam -- and how long it will take.

It’s all bad news.

Grant County utility district officials say it will take until at least past the Fourth of July weekend. That’s not good for migrating salmon and boaters dealing with the drawdown of the Columbia River behind the dam.

And then there’s the price tag of $61 million. About a third of that is from the crack investigation, guarding the river shore, and the loss of power production.

The rest is the fix itself. The plan so far involves a suturing job of sorts. Steel cabling will be threaded through the broken spillway to anchor it to the bedrock. And grout will be squeezed in to fill in the crack.

The utility district's Thomas Stredwick says his agency should be able to absorb the financial hit by using some of its savings and taking out further loans. He adds, “Rate increases are a tool that we’re going to use essentially as a last resort.”

Preliminary studies show that the concrete makeup of Wanapum is still strong. That leaves investigators looking at the construction and the design of the dam.

Anna King calls Richland, Washington home and loves unearthing great stories about people in the Northwest. She reports for the Northwest News Network from a studio at Washington State University, Tri-Cities. She covers the Mid-Columbia region, from nuclear reactors to Mexican rodeos.