by: Chris Legeros Updated:Near VANTAGE, Wash. —
A crack that’s 65 feet long and 2 inches wide has been found in the Wanapum Dam near Vantage. It is at the base of a concrete pillar next to a spillway.
The Grant County Public Utilities District operates the dam. The utility can’t say whether the dam is in danger of failing.
“At this point, this is what our inspectors are evaluating,” PUD Spokesman Tom Stredwick said.
The PUD is taking precautions to make sure there isn’t more damage. It's lowering the water level behind the dam to alleviate pressure on the structure.
Unfortunately as the water drops, so does the capacity to generate hydro power. Right now, the dam is generating enough power to fill the needs of local customers, but the utility may wind up buying some from outside sources.
“It could end up being more expensive than generating it ourselves,” said Stredwick.
The PUD prides itself on offering some of the most affordable power in the nation. Residential customers pay $43 for 1,000 kilowatt hours. That's less than half the rates of Seattle City Light and Puget Sound Energy.
It's also one of the main reasons Microsoft built a data center in Quincy the size of 10 football fields. It consumes the same amount of energy used by 20,000-to-40,000 homes. That is a lot of juice that may eventually cost more because of a crack in a 50-year-old dam.