March 1, 2014 -- Engineers have started emergency procedures to stabilize a Washington dam after they found a 65-foot crack in the structure.
The Wanapum Dam, a hydroelectric project located on the Columbia River in Grant County, Wash., is still running after divers discovered a 65-foot crack that is 2-inches wide.
The problem was first identified after an engineer noticed a “bowing” in the roadway above the dam and later discovered that a concrete spillway was raised above the water by 2.5 inches, according to Grant County Public Utility District spokesman Thomas Stredwick.
“Since we’ve noticed the issue, there’s no additional movement for that spillway section,” said Stredwick.
Stredwick said there are more than a dozen concrete spillway sections, but only one has been affected by the crack.
The dam has not been evacuated and is still producing electricity for the central Washington region. Due to the severity of the problem, a crisis scenario plan has been implemented, meaning that the damage is significant enough that there is potential the dam could fail.
Some emergency procedures have been initiated, including collaborating with other agencies and notifying residents who own land below the dam of the issue. No evacuations have been ordered.
Engineers have also started to lower the water elevation and they expect the level of the river water to be 20 feet lower than normal by Monday.
To help repair the plant, engineers are performing stability studies to identify the extent of the damage. The crack could also cause problems at other hydroelectric dams along the river as the water is lowered or raised.
The failure of the dam would primarily affect the town of Vantage, which is six miles upstream.