If you’re lucky, usually in the spring, you might get to see the rare and amazing site of water falling down Grand Coulee Dam’s huge spillway about 300 feet to the river below.
Some years this doesn’t happen at all, which is the way most who “operate” the Columbia River prefer it.
Today, the rest of us get our wish. They’ve been “spilling” for the last two days, the result of too much runoff from the snow-packed mountains upstream, which is carefully and continuously measured to avoid flooding downstream.
The Bureau appears to be holding the level of Lake Roosevelt behind the dam at about 1267. Full is 1290 (feet above sea level, that is).
In the photo, less than 10 percent of the River’s flow is coming over the top. The rest of the 173,000 cubic feet per second is flowing through the dam, some of it making electricity.
You can check for yourself how much is currently spilling or flowing through and what the levels of the water are with is link.
Last Thursday, the official forecast was that the lake would come up over the next week to the mid 1270s. Here’s a graph of this years lake levels compared to last year’s.
For reasons unknown to me at the moment, the USBR is letting water flow over the top of Grand Coulee Dam right now. This is a fairly unusual event. That’s not just water, it’s money running over the top, in the form of revenue foregone by the BPA, which can’t sell electricity the dam doesn’t produce with that water power.
If you have a chance, pop down and see it.
The dam is almost a mile across, and the spill is about 300 feet.
Seems that Lake Roosevelt has to drop right now to meet flood control goals. We wouldn’t want Portland to flood, after all. Here is info about current lake operations the USBR published yesterday:
The elevation of Lake Roosevelt was 1280.4 at 10 a.m. on April 9.
It is antipated the elevation will remain around elevation 1280.0 in order to reach the Biological Opinion operating objective of 1279.9 by April 10. Currently, Grand Coulee Dam is being operated to meet flood control elevations.
The flood control levels are the maximum elevation for Lake Roosevelt. Other factors such as power demand or supplying water downstream for fish can result in elevations under the flood control elevations.
The current flood control elevation is as follows:
April 30 – 1258.5 feet
This is only a prediction and can change due to weather events, power demand or other unforeseen power emergencies.
Lake level forecasts are updated by 3 p.m. each day. Please call 1-800-824-4916 for the updated forecast.
Visitors to three Columbia River dams, including Grand Coulee, can join in on a high-tech educational treasure hunt that could earn them a special patch simply by taking part in the “D3 Geocache Challenge” beginning May 27 and continuing through Labor Day.
The visitor centers at Bureau of Reclamation’s Grand Coulee Dam; U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Chief Joseph Dam; and the Chelan County Public Utility District’s Rocky Reach Dam will be the starting point to discover the hidden treasures of hydropower production and other essential facts about the role large dams play in the Pacific Northwest.
Geocaching uses GPS (global positioning system) devices GPS-capable smartphones to find a “cache” or treasure box containing educational information and a prize. It’s great fun and can lead you on many adventures, including this one, which offers even more to see when you find the cache at Grand Coulee Dam, and amazing tour all by itself.
For those completing all three geocaches at Grand Coulee, a special prize awaits at the visitor center. Those wanting to win the D3 Geocache Challenge patch must visit all three dams and complete all the caches.
Each visitor center will hide three or four caches on their grounds, for educational purposes.
“This is a great opportunity for visitors to have some fun exploring these areas while also winning a special patch showing that they met the challenge,” said Lynne Brougher, Grand Coulee Dam public affairs officer.
The fun starts when participants receive a “D3 Challenge Passport” along with GPS coordinates at each visitor center and follow the coordinates to locate at least three or four geocache sites at each dam. Each site will consist of a box containing an educational activity sheet. Remember to bring a pen or pencil to complete the activity sheet.
Participants will record answers to questions they learned while touring the dams and return the completed sheets to the visitor center to have their “passport” stamped and earn a prize. Questions can include facts about hydropower production, irrigation, flood control or recreation.
Tour guides will be on hand to explain the D3 Challenge and assist participants in getting started on their adventure, Brougher said.
For more information call the Grand Coulee Dam Visitor Center at (509) 633-9265.
The Grand Coulee Dam Visitor Center is open daily and public tours are being offered. The visitor center is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tours are given daily into the John W. Keys, III Pump-Generating Plant at 10 a.m., noon, 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.
This is a change from last year, when visitors toured the Third Power Plant, which is now being prepared for a big upgrade.
Visitors will ride a shuttle bus to the pumping plant where they will view the gigantic pumps that lift water from Lake Roosevelt to be delivered throughout the Columbia Basin Irrigation Project.
Visitors will then ride the shuttle bus across the top of Grand Coulee Dam for spectacular views of Lake Roosevelt and the Columbia River as it winds through the town of Coulee Dam.
The one-hour tours are on a first-come, first-served basis. Also, no reservations are taken and space is limited.
Beginning May 26, the Visitor Center hours will be extended from 8:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. during the summer season. This will also mark the beginning of the popular laser light show, which will run nightly through the end of September.
Star gazers will have an opportunity to take advantage of an astronomy program, Saturday, Aug. 13.
The star gazer event will begin at Grand Coulee Dam’s Visitor Center auditorium at 7:15 p.m., and end up at Crown Point, using telescopes to search the skies.
The event is sponsored by the National Park Service and Washington State Parks, the Bureau of Reclamation and Grand Coulee Dam.
The program is similar to one held early in July.
The program begins with an introduction to the night sky by NPS Sky Ranger Janice Elvidge. That will take about 45 minutes.
The group will then gather at Crown Point, where telescopes will be set up for examination of a galaxy, nebula and the moon, as well as other wonders of the sky.
The entire program is free and suitable for persons of all ages.
Organizers encourage people to bring their telescopes and binoculars and to wear or bring a warm coat.