Wanapum Dam, located in Washington, has a 65-foot crack in its structure. It is large enough to cause any issues if the problems were to arise.
Originally reported by regional news site, The Spokesman-Review, the crack was discovered when one of the dam’s engineers noticed a bowing in the road on the dam right above where it was located. Divers were sent to find out what the cause of the bowing was. That is when they found the 65-foot long, 2-inch wide crack in one of the dam’s piers that support the fourth spillgate. Since then, Dam officials have stated they lowered the water level by 6-feet in order to relieve pressure.
Wanapum Dam is located on the Columbia River. It is a hydroelectic project capable of generating 1,092 megawatts of electricity, enough to supply nearly 900,000 Northwest homes. It is near Vantage where Interstate 90 crosses the Columbia River.
Because of its importance and current condition, ABC News reports they are implementing crisis scenarios in the case of failure. So far, the town of Vantage, which is six miles upstream, would be effected in a worse-case scenario. Also, other dams along the river are highly effected just by small differentials in water levels made by Wanapum Dam.
At this moment, engineers are conducting structural tests on the dam in hopes of figuring out what may have caused the 65-foot crack to be made in the first place. Most of the studies are done through video tapes the divers have recorded of the crack itself. From what information was gathered, the structural problems seem to lie within the expansion joints of the dam. There are parts of the dam incorporated into design to help the dam flex due to changes in water pressure and temperature. When measurements were taken on the dam, engineers found the movement at Wanapum to be “outside historical norms.”
There is the possibility that in the initial design that the human aspects of how certain things work were overlooked. At times, engineers can over-analyze situations, see problems within problems, and over-complicate things that the simplest of mandatory details may be missed. The Inquisitr posted a hilarious picture of a sign that should be on all engineering offices just to prove this point.
Right now, the dam has not been evacuated and is still operating.