Bureau working to ready damaged plant for irrigation season
Burned worker still in hospital
The Bureau of Reclamation anticipates all six pump units in the John W. Keys III Pump-Generating Plant will be available to fill Banks Lake prior to the 2014 irrigation season, and expects to provide a normal irrigation water supply to the Columbia Basin.
The pump plant has been out of service since a fire Nov. 18. The fire was contained to the south end of the pump plant and caused damage to the switchgear for Pump Generator 12 (PG-12).
An employee injured in the fire, Dan McCulloch, 54, was flown to Harborview Medical Center’s burn center in Seattle with burns reportedly over 75 percent of his body. He continues to be cared for at Harborview.
All units in the plant are contaminated to some extent by smoke residue and other potentially hazardous materials and must be thoroughly cleaned and tested before undergoing routine off-season maintenance and ultimately being returned to operation.
“We are working hard to bring the plant back on line and expect to have six pumps operating on or before March 1,” said Lynne Brougher, public affairs officer at Grand Coulee Dam.
Reclamation has hired nine temporary workers to work with operations and maintenance staff to systematically clean the surfaces of the plant. The workers wear protective gear and respirators because the residue has traces of lead and asbestos, Brougher stated Thursday. The nine started work Dec. 9, for 30 days, but the length of their employment might be extended if necessary, Brougher stated.
The injured worker was air-lifted to Seattle and family members are with him, the Star learned. Another worker had been treated for smoke inhalation but returned to work.
Of the 12 units in the plant, six are pumps and six are pump-generators. Reclamation normally uses five pumps to keep water flowing to the 670,000-acre Columbia Basin Project, the economic impact of which is estimated at $3.7 billion in Adams, Franklin and Grant counties alone.
Brougher said it isn’t known how much the cleanup and repair will cost. The damage to the switch area and power line was noted as extensive.
Cleaning will take place over the next two months and as units are cleaned, they will be brought back into service, Brougher stated.
Currently, the level of Banks Lake is at 1,565.74 feet above sea level. Full Banks Lake elevation is 1,570. It will take the equivalent of four pumps being operated for seven days to fill Banks Lake, a bureau press release noted.
The bureau told the Columbia Basin Development League, which represents irrigators dependent on the plant’s pumps, that the cost of repairs would be determined after a review team’s analysis is complete. A Serious Incident Review Team from Reclamation’s Technical Service Center is investigating the incident. Results of their findings are expected in late January.