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Washington Governor To Tour Cracked Wanapum Dam

Anna King
Northwest News Network

Governor Jay Inslee will get to see the problems with central Washington's Wanapum Dam for himself Wednesday. The visit will be Inslee’s first look at the damaged dam since a massive crack was noticed back in February.

Major design miscalculations and construction flaws are to blame for the crack. Now officials say they’ll be studying other dams on the Columbia River as well.

It’s taken a team of 100 engineers nearly three months to slog through decades of records on Wanapum. They found the very fundamentals of the 8,000-foot-wide dam are flawed. A miscalculated design and faulty concrete pours mean the safety of other dams on the Northwest’s largest rivers are now in question.

Grant County Public Utility District spokesman Thomas Stredwick says his agency plans to do a detailed review of its other dam, Priest Rapids, about 20 miles downstream on the Columbia from Wanapum.

Upriver, Chelan County owns Rock Island, Rocky Reach and Chelan Dam. Suzanne Hartman, a spokeswoman with the county's public utility district, says the agency has done a careful examination of its structures for any Wanapum-like scenarios. She says their structures are sound.

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.