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Bonneville Dam's $140M Makeover Done

by Keely Chalmers
KGW, July 20, 2010

CASCADE LOCKS, Ore. -- The Bonneville Dam marked the end of a 17 year long project to rehabilitate the dam's first powerhouse with a re-dedication ceremony at the Bradford Island Visitor Center.

The dam's first powerhouse was built back in 1937. It was the first federally constructed dam on the Columbia River.

But after 73 years, the powerhouse's infrastructure was breaking down.

In 1993 the Army Corps of Engineers began the rebuilding project. Now, the powerhouse is able to harness the power of the Columbia much more efficiently.

"Over all were able to get about 15 percent more electricity out of this power house when it running at full capacity," said Scott Clemans with the Army Corps of Engineers.

That's enough electricity to power an additional 25,000 homes. And while producing more power, the improved turbines will kill fewer fish, improving salmon survival by about one percent.

"One percent passing Bonneville equates to literally thousands of saved fish," explained Fisheries Biologist Dennis Schwartz.

The improvements also allow operators to adjust much faster to fluctuations in wind power to keep electricity flowing. "We can store some water behind the dam and we're able to ramp the generation up when we need to when the wind is not blowing or ramp it down when the wind is blowing," said Bonneville Power Administration CEO Stephen Wright.

At the re-dedication ceremony, Bud Ossey recalled the day back in 1937 when President Roosevelt first dedicated the dam.

"It was a real treat and a fantastic experience for me to be here," recalled Ossey.

He says he's proud of the work he did on the dam then and is just as proud of the work done today to keep a piece of history producing clean energy for decades to come.

The entire project cost about $140 million. The Corps expects the improvements will last another 70 years.

Keely Chalmers
Bonneville Dam's $140M Makeover Done
KGW, July 20, 2010

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