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Inslee: Cracked Wanapum Dam A Unique Problem, Not Systemic In River System

Governor's Office
Washington’s Governor Jay Inslee toured the cracked Wanapum Dam on Wednesday.";

Gov. Jay Inslee got an up-close view of the drilling machines at work on the damaged Wanapum Dam in central Washington Wednesday, just one day after officials announced the dam’s massive crack was caused by fundamental design errors and bad concrete pours in 1960.

I stood with the governor in a tiny irrigated oasis amid the sagebrush in a picnic park in the shadow of Wanapum Dam. I asked if he was concerned about other dams in the region given the fundamental problems with Wanapum’s design and construction. 

“I would say from what I know right now, this has enough uniqueness of how this error was made, that I’m unaware of reasons to believe that there would be a systemic problem throughout our dam system," Inslee said. "That would be surprising to me. Nonetheless, I’m going to talk to some engineers and make sure that’s the case.” 

Grant County officials don’t expect the $61 million fix to be completed until near the end of the year.

Meanwhile, the drawdown of water behind the cracked dam has closed recreation on the river, posing a problem for local tourism. Inslee says there are no plans for state aid right now.

"But that’s one of the reasons I’ve come to find out what the challenges are, and this is going to help us," he said.

Anna King calls Richland, Washington home and loves unearthing great stories about people in the Northwest. She reports for the Northwest News Network from a studio at Washington State University, Tri-Cities. She covers the Mid-Columbia region, from nuclear reactors to Mexican rodeos.