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A 65 foot crack was found on Wanapum Dam, upstream from the Hanford Nuclear Site. KAPP reports:

The Grant County Utility District has gone to work since the crack was discovered, dropping the reservoir about 25 feet.

Alleviating the pressure helped stabilize the spillways and allowed the crack to close by nearly an inch as of this morning.

However, the drop in water level can be seen all along the riverside.

People living in the area will have to get used to the sight for some time, crews will need to keep water levels this low in order to begin their assessment of the crack.

"Now we're moving into the next phase, which is to investigate it further, identify a cause, and begin looking into some of those short term and long term potential fixes," said Grant PUD representative Thomas Stredwick.

As the article notes, this disaster will likely do serious economic damage to the region, since this is a prime boating area for people and outsiders. The area is closed for boating and could be through the summer. People will likely take their dollars elsewhere.

The problem is that no contingency plans for fixing a crack of this nature were ever put in place for this dam even though it was reasonable to assume that a crack of this nature was a possibility. Emergency planners have an obligation to prepare for contingency plans of all kinds; there was no excuse to be caught flat-footed in this manner. Northwest Public Radio:

Dam operators are struggling to find a solution for a major underwater crack in the Wanapum Dam. It spans the Columbia River in central Washington near Vantage.
And Fiber One News:
It remains unknown how the crack can be fixed. Allen said. He doesn’t know when the work on a solution will be completed.
According to the Associated Press, the utility does not believe that there is a threat for people downstream.
"Say this section were to fail completely," spokesman Tom Stredwick said Monday. "The remainder of the spillway would remain intact and with the current amount of water in the river, the water through that section of the dam would still be normal for this time of year."
The article notes that a big difficulty will be in managing the river flow. While the electric utility says that they will still be able to sell electricity, if the problem gets worse, then they might have to buy electricity elsewhere, possibly forcing them to raise rates.

Boise Public Radio quotes Stredwick in more detail:

"A spillway is the portion of the dam that allows water to "spill" past the dam as opposed to running through the turbines. The spillway consists of multiple, independent structural sections that support the spillway gates. Each of Wanapum Dam's 12 spillway gates are capable of passing roughly 80,000 cubic feet of water per second based on current river conditions. In a worst case scenario, if one of the spillway sections failed, the remainder of the spillways and the main dam structure would remain intact. Under current conditions, the amount of water that would flow through this section of the dam would be within the range of normal river conditions."
The question is, what if another spillway gate were to fail?
The Seattle Times says that even in the best case scenario, this could affect the entire Columbia River system.
Even if the dam doesn’t fail, the significance of the damage is likely to require extensive repairs and that, too, could impact the entire Columbia River system.

“All these dams coordinate to generate energy on a regional scope,” Stedwick said. “If Wanapum is impacted, that has impacts on dams up stream as well as below.”

But Kevin Wingert, a BPA spokesman, said the immediate impact would be an increase in flow from Priest Rapids Dam downstream, which would temporarily exceed the low flows needed to protect chinook salmon redds (nesting holes) through the Hanford Reach area.

He expected flows to return to normal once the drawdown was completed.

While none of us hope that the worst case scenario happens, we must always determine what the worst case scenario could be and how peoples' lives might be effected. The first question is, if the entire dam fails, would there be a threat to Hanford? And the second question is, would there be a threat to people living downstream?

Originally posted to Stop the Police State! on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 11:31 AM PST.

Also republished by DK GreenRoots.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I read in passing the other day (5+ / 0-)

    That there's a crack in the Hoover Dam, as well.

    •  there is concrete in the Hoover that won't set for (7+ / 0-)

      another 50-75 years. They still pour millions of gallons through it to cool it as it generates heat (from the chemical reaction of concrete setting).

      What we call god is merely a living creature with superior technology & understanding. If their fragile egos demand prayer, they lose that superiority.

      by agnostic on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 11:46:22 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yeesh. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        agnostic, NYFM, RiveroftheWest

        Progress, my ass!

        •  The potential energy stored by the dam is (4+ / 0-)

          incredible. It was a mammoth project, employing thousands of workers, with incredible administration in providing housing, meals, tools, supplies, and more.

          What we call god is merely a living creature with superior technology & understanding. If their fragile egos demand prayer, they lose that superiority.

          by agnostic on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 11:52:04 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I'm not that excited by it admittedly (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            cany, RiveroftheWest

            I find myself thinking more and more that we wouldn't find ourselves in the mess we're in today had we accepted we're merely human and had we not been so utterly determined to prove our dominance over nature.

            Your points are absolutely fair, however.

        •  you misunderstand, that was by design (9+ / 0-)

          The Hoover Dam is not the concrete slab under your house; there's no way it was going to reach its required design strength after only 28 days of curing.  The people who designed the Hoover Dam weren't stupid; the fact that they installed that cooling system in the first place proves it.

          Domestic politics is the continuation of civil war by other means.

          by Visceral on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 12:01:36 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  yup. (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            FarWestGirl, terabytes

            The thing is an engineering marvel. I read about about its construction. Apparently, in addition to the rebar used to strengthen certain areas, at least 20 corpses remain embedded in the concrete. Once they fell in, there was no way to get them out, dead or alive.

            What we call god is merely a living creature with superior technology & understanding. If their fragile egos demand prayer, they lose that superiority.

            by agnostic on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 12:04:47 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Nope (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              agnostic, Eyesbright

              "A famous person once said, 'You can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time.' But as I once said, "If you don't teach them to read, you can fool them whenever you like." – Max Headroom

              by midnight lurker on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 01:35:58 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  interesting. I must dig up that book (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                and find the claim the engineers made.

                Of course, just because it was paper and ink does not mean it is more accurate than electrons and websites. But, given the detail they put in the book, with a lot of supporting data, copies, and more, at the end of the book, I find it hard to believe that they would skip out on the research on such a unique, bizarre "fact."

                On the other hand, that website has at least a 90% accuracy, which is pretty fucking high.

                What we call god is merely a living creature with superior technology & understanding. If their fragile egos demand prayer, they lose that superiority.

                by agnostic on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 02:19:33 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

              •  Thank you for this!! n/t (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                They don't win until we quit fighting!

                by Eyesbright on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 02:21:15 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

            •  I've read claims that it's just a myth. Supposedly (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              pvasileff, RiveroftheWest

              they only poured the concrete a foot or two at a time, and that the rumors of people being buried came from practical jokes of workers who would stick a pair or boots upside down in the wet cement to panic the next work crew.

              Don't really know enough to have a valid opinion on which version is correct, buried workers or no buried workers.  The internet propagates misinformation almost as well as it spreads correct information.

              •  this was a scholarly book, not the tubes. (4+ / 0-)

                Written by a couple of engineers (who somehow did not lose the english language by attending Mass. Tech). They wrote this in the late 70s, early 80s.

                It had plans, plats, plots, problems, puns, and papers (both the printed kind in dailies, and letters and notes). Given the controlled mayhem that was taking place, and the HUGE scope of the project, their fatalities were actually rather low.

                Sears Tower here in Chi-town averaged 1 death for every 10 floors. Hancock building, about the same rate. The former Amoco building (build with the basic design of the whirled trade centers) was higher, about 1.4 deaths every ten stories.

                I once deposed a high rise construction worker. They were building one of the taller buildings in chicago. His job that day was to tack down plywood over and around holes in the concrete floors. He was working on the 63d floor, carrying a 4 x 8 thick plywood sheet.

                Being the windy city, a gust picked him up and blew him out of the building's skeleton. He was being blown around like a leaf, until he blew back into the building, only 10-15 stories lower.

                This guy was unique. Talk about walking under a black moon. He had a list of accidents, coincidences, and bad luck like I have never seen before. Except for that one event. He only cracked one kneecap, sprained both ankles, and broke his wrist.

                What we call god is merely a living creature with superior technology & understanding. If their fragile egos demand prayer, they lose that superiority.

                by agnostic on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 02:03:51 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

        •  Probably still better than generating those power (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Rileycat, pvasileff, RiveroftheWest

          through coal power plants.

      •  Maybe a myth? (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        NYFM, FarWestGirl, RiveroftheWest
        How was chemical heat caused by setting concrete in the dam dissipated?

        By embedding more than 582 miles of 1-inch steel pipe in the concrete and circulating ice water through it from a refrigeration plant could produce 1,000 tons of ice in 24 hours. Cooling was completed in March 1935.
        When the concrete was first poured, river water was circulated through these pipes. Once the concrete had received a first initial cooling, chilled water from a refrigeration plant on the lower cofferdam was circulated through the coils to finish the cooling. As each block was cooled, the pipes of the cooling coils were cut off and pressure grouted at 300 pounds per square inch by pneumatic grout guns.

        “Texas is a so-called red state, but you’ve got 10 million Democrats here in Texas. And …, there are a whole lot of people here in Texas who need us, and who need us to fight for them.” President Obama

        by Catte Nappe on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 01:01:04 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  the book I referenced above said that even (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Catte Nappe, RiveroftheWest

          at the present time, they continued to run water through the damn dam. Might have changed by now, but given the scope of the project, it is one huge mo-fo. I have some sketches of it from several years back someplace.

          What we call god is merely a living creature with superior technology & understanding. If their fragile egos demand prayer, they lose that superiority.

          by agnostic on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 02:09:16 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  a 65 foot bottle of Gorilla Glue (7+ / 0-)

    That would fix it.

    Although, because GG expands as it dries, it may put more stress on the crack.

    What we call god is merely a living creature with superior technology & understanding. If their fragile egos demand prayer, they lose that superiority.

    by agnostic on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 11:45:19 AM PST

  •  Flip the switch (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    indubitably, cheminMD, RiveroftheWest

    On the giant beacon signaling all boys of Dutch decent to come at once.

    You best believe it does

    by HangsLeft on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 12:02:07 PM PST

  •  Damn that Murphy and his law. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    marina, FarWestGirl, RiveroftheWest

    The country is crumbling D.C. hello? anybody paying attention? crickets.

    "Wars of nations are fought to change maps. But wars of poverty are fought to map change." Muhammad Ali

    by blueoregon on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 12:09:44 PM PST

    •  Ansers to questions ! & 2...yes & yes (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      The first question is, if the entire dam fails, would there be a threat to Hanford? Yes! And the second question is, would there be a threat to people living downstream? Yes!
      Peace and Blessings!

      Stop with the purity trolling!

      by Penny GC on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 03:15:48 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  There's little likelihood of catastrophe (10+ / 0-)

    even at Hanford, which is on the only remaining wild stretch of the Columbia.

    They've already safely drawn down the water levels, meaning there is effectively a "shock absorber" built into the system, and there are a number of dams all the way back upstream into Canada to restrict incoming flow, and dams all the way to the Bonneville Dam to increase the outflow if necessary. The flow on the Columbia River is entirely managed by the BPA. The biggest variable is spring runoff - the snowpack is probably approaching normal, which seemed unlikely a month ago - but the various dam authorities have been doing regular snow surveys since the 1930s, and managing flow based on the survey results.

    There are lakes - natural lakes like Chelan, or man-made lakes like Roosevelt behind Grand Coulee - which can absorb a lot of the runoff. Chelan, for example, is a mile wide, 50 miles long, and 1400 feet deep at it's deepest, and is drawn down at least 20 feet every winter and allowed to refill in the spring. There wouldn't be any complaints from property owners along the lake if it refilled early to keep river flows lower, as the draw down and refill is a perpetually contentious issue.

    The biggest issue is the reduction in generating capacity. The Chelan County Public Utility District (PUD) has already taken the Rock Island Dam offline because water levels are too low for safe operation after the draw down. The Rocky Reach Dam remains fully operational except for one generator offline for repair, as are the dams upstream, including Grand Coulee, which is a Federal dam, but also in Grant County. Grand Coulee dwarfs Hoover Dam in size, and only 3 Gorges Dam in China is larger.

    However peak demand for Chelan County usually occurs in January, as most of the area heats with electric, so even taking Rock Island offline isn't that big a deal. I'm in the process of buying a truckload of logs to cut for firewood - at $100 a cord, wood heat is about the same price as electric heat is here. The Chelan County PUD also ran a huge surplus last year, and if they raise rates due to the dam crack, we'll probably remain the second lowest rates in the country. It's more likely they'll raise rates on their commercial customers, who don't get to vote for the PUD commissioners.

    The Columbia Dams all have regimes in place to regulate river flow properly for salmon runs - the county dams also have effective up- and downstream bypasses in place - but that may not be possible, so there is another potential environmental and economic impact there.

    This isn't the Amercian Fukishima, and the county PUDs and BPA aren't TEPCO.

    No matter how cynical you become, it's never enough to keep up - Lily Tomlin

    by badger on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 12:17:54 PM PST

    •  3 gorges is becoming a major clusterfuck (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      badger, RiveroftheWest

      the likes of which we have rarely seen on our sore, tired, beaten up little wet rock.

      I only wish I could have seen that natural beauty before the Chinese fucked it all up.

      What we call god is merely a living creature with superior technology & understanding. If their fragile egos demand prayer, they lose that superiority.

      by agnostic on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 02:21:45 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  These old dams are scary (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    particularly above Hanford.

    25 feet is quite a drop. Leaves docks on the bottom.

    There are still earthen dams around. One below Fern Ridge reservoir that needed some extensive work a few years ago.

    We have it within our power to make the world over again ~ Thomas Paine

    by occupystephanie on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 06:57:58 PM PST

  •  this doesn't pose a hazard to Hanford imo (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Wanapum Dam is no Hoover, or even a Grand Coulee. I'm familiar with the topography around Hanford, and there are certainly some areas we do not want to see flooded. But the water level has been dropped a significant amount already. If Wanapum still fails, i don't think Hanford would be affected.

    I sure hope 'm not wrong, though.

    All things in the sky are pure to those who have no telescopes. – Charles Fort

    by subtropolis on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 09:18:13 PM PST

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