Project would take decade, inject millions into regional economy


Last updated 12/26/2018 at 9:39am

Chamber of commerce members get an up-close look at a spinning shaft of a generator in the Third Powerhouse at Grand Coulee Dam on a tour in 2010. The total weight of the major components of one of the generators to be upgraded comes to nearly 3,687 tons, according to an illustration in the draft environmental assessment document published in November. - Scott Hunter photo

The Bureau of Reclamation is looking to modernize three more generators in the Third Power Plant of the Grand Coulee Dam in a project that should get underway in about four years.

The upgrade of generators G19-G21, if approved, would take about 10 years to complete, beginning in 2023 at the earliest, and would add tens of millions of dollars to the regional economy, a draft environmental assessment states.

A similar project, modernizing G22-G24, started in 2010 and still continues. It has cost about $100 million.

A November 2018 Draft Environmental Assessment from the bureau on the topic outlines the proposed work to be done and why.

The generators should be rewound every 30 years, the EA states, which involves removing the stator coils and replacing them. With the generators having come into service in the mid-1970s, the maintenance is overdue.

"They show problems stemming from age-related wear that could potentially result in increased hardware failures and forced outages, more-challenging repairs due to obsolescence and lack of spare parts, higher operation and maintenance costs, and longer down times," the EA states.

Coulee Medical Center ER and Walk-In Care

The bureau document says the generators are not efficient by current standards, and that cavitation has caused extensive damage.

"New, modernized generators, turbines, and auxiliary components would operate at a higher efficiency, experience less cavitation, and ensure another 40 years of reliable service," the draft EA states.

Over a 10-year span, the project is expected to inject more than $10 million in wages into the economy.

"There would be a maximum of about 103 workers in one year, with fewer in most years," said USBR Public Affairs Specialist Lynne Brougher in an email to The Star. "The majority are expected to be temporary workers who likely would not relocate permanently. Construction activities associated with the alternatives would result in positive economic output at the five-county regional level."

The Environment Assessment addresses other issues, such as how the project would impact water, cultural resources, socio-economics, and the impact on schools.

"The presence of five additional students in the school district during the construction phase of the Grand Coulee EA project is not anticipated to have long-term implications," the EA reads.

"The Project's total regional design and construction costs associated with the construction is estimated to be $27.3 million," the EA states, showing an estimated economic output of $33.4 million over 10 years, $10.4 million of which is wages.


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