dams

Wally Miller / Flickr

If you live at the foot of a dam – or downriver – you may wonder what could happen if an earthquake rumbled nearby. Dam managers say it’s something they’re constantly watching, but major shaking east of the Cascades shouldn’t cause too much damage.

“We are concerned (about earthquakes), but we’re not concerned from an overall public safety standpoint,” said Bill Christman, Chelan County PUD’s chief dam safety engineer. “The dams on the Columbia River are naturally constructed to resist a big volume of water through just their own weight.”

Grant County PUD

Crews have finished drilling around 230 core samples in Priest Rapids Dam on the Columbia River in central Washington state.

Emily Schwing/Northwest News Network

Towns in central and northeast Washington are under flood watches as rivers swell from rapid snowmelt in the mountains.

In the small Washington border town of Oroville, the Okanogan River is above flood stage and the river is expected to begin flooding south as the week progresses.

Flickr Photo Courtesy Richard Kassan

A nearly 100 year-old dam near Leavenworth, Washington, is under heavy pressure from melting snow this week and officials are warning downstream residents to be prepared to evacuate if the dam breaks.

Grant County PUD

Priest Rapids Dam on the Columbia River in southeast Washington state has multiple leaks and structural problems.

The dam is made up of large sections of concrete and steel bound together by 50-foot-long layers of grout. Now, at least four sections of the grout are failing and causing leaks.

Grant PUD

In Central Washington, Grant Public Utility District officials have declared what they’re calling a “non-failure emergency” at the 1950’s-era Priest Rapids Dam northwest of Richland. 

Crews discovered leaking in the dam’s spillway structure when they were drilling inspection holes.

Jack Williams / OSU Special Collections & Archives/ Flickr - tinyurl.com/yd2ala3k

The White House is blocking money to build new tribal housing along the Columbia River. That’s according to five members of the Washington and Oregon congressional delegations.

Sam Beebe / Flickr - tinyurl.com/ycbokzax

If Northwest fish were stand-up comics, the salmon would be the headliner. And the fish that gets “no respect” would be the lamprey, an eel-like creature that has been plying the Northwest’s rivers for 400 million years. 

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

The state of the salmon population in Idaho’s Snake River was the topic of a passionate discussion during a conference hosted by members of Idaho’s Nez Perce Indian tribe over the weekend.

California Department of Water Resources

Northwest residents are surrounded by thousands of dams, some in disrepair. And now the emergency at California’s Oroville Dam has sharpened interest in dam safety.

Grant County PUD

A surgeon at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle said the serious burns to five electricians and dam operators injured in Thursday’s explosion at Priest Rapids Dam in central Washington are consistent with "arc flash."

Anna King / Northwest News Network

Updated -- Officials with the Grant County Public Utility District say an electrical equipment failure is to blame for an explosion at Priest Rapids Dam Thursday that injured six workers, two critically.

Grant County PUD

An explosion at a central Washington dam Thursday afternoon injured six workers, two critically. Harborview Medical Center in Seattle was treating five workers who were airlifted to the hospital, including two who were in critical condition. Three other patients are in satisfactory condition and being treated for burns.

US Army Corps of Engineers

An audacious proposal to revive the Columbia River’s historic Celilo Falls drew heavy flak when it was aired at the Oregon Legislature Thursday.

Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

Lewiston, Idaho has had unusual bragging rights for the past 40 years. It's the farthest inland seaport on the West Coast -- 465 miles upriver from the Pacific Ocean.

Anna King / Northwest News Network

The State of Washington and residents in Okanogan County are concerned that more small dams could be at risk of failing after three of them burst in a thunderstorm event last week near Twisp in northcentral Washington.

MrPanyGoff / Wikimedia

Hydropower dams built without fish ladders have blocked migratory fish from the upper reaches of the Columbia and Snake Rivers for decades.

Bill Barrett, Wikimedia. A view of Kerr Dam with the gates at full open in June 2011.

The Northwest hydropower system is full of dams that were built over the strenuous objections of Native American tribes. Now, two of these old projects are changing ownership -- one in Western Montana and another in central Oregon.

And it’s the tribes that were once powerless to stop them that are becoming the new managers.

The Kerr Dam went up on the Flathead Indian Reservation in the 1930s. It’s north of Missoula. Homesteaders and farmers used it for irrigation and it still generates electricity to this day.