There are many different ways to harness the energy in water. The most common way of capturing this energy is hydroelectric power, which is just electricity created by falling water. The reason we are now searching for the new ways of energy particularly the way of water is because we need something that will last us longer than that of the fossil fuels that we are using this day in age. In the earlier years of Washington we needed a way to get energy in the PNW so we came up with the way of Hydro Electric power which we created by making dams on the Columbia River and using the power of the falling water to get energy.
Hydro power consist of 85% to 90% of the PNWs electrical needs and the other little bit is produced by the coal and nuclear power plants in the area. Over about a 70 year spanned of time making dams became really popular and here in the PNW we constructed 55 of the nicest dams in the world. (Lambert 362) That number is one third of the United States dams all put together, and the Columbia River is the most Hydroelectric in the whole world. So this all proves that Hydro power is the most valuable and abundant in the region.
Out of the fifty five dams that were built 21 of them were constructed by the army and the others were all constructed by the government. These dams have a capacity for almost 18 million kilowatt hours. All these dams that were constructed were multi purpose dams. The main purpose for the dams is tocreate hydro power for the people and the other reasons are flood control, store water, irrigate farm lands, create water navigation, and provide recreational activities(Lambert 363). All dams have a sort of storage tank which is built up water behind the dam which is called a resivour.
When the demand for electricity becomes high they will open the water way so that they can get more of the water from behind the dam to flow through the turbines and when the demand for electricity is not high they dont use so much of the stored water. Lake Roosevelt is a resivour behind the Grand Coulee dam and it is 151 miles long in total and averages one mile in width. Consumer demand for electricity is highest during the cold winter months just when the rivers volume flow is lowest. With out adequate water storage reservoir water would not be available for hydroelectric production to meet the egions electrical needs.
Due to the serious of droughts in 1977 and 1985 to 1995, reservoirs remained below normal levels. The PNW had to purchase energy from outside the region during the long drought years from 1985 to 1995(Lambert 395). After Washington makes this easy and cheap electricity they sell it to other states who need the electricity. The BPA provides a distribution network of transmission lines to move electricity quickly, cheaply, and efficiently to a wide variety of regional and California markets. This market that helps to ship our electricity is always expanding(Lambert 397).
The reason for the cheap electricity is the PNW has so much of it that it is not like we need anymore so we sell it at cheap prices. The rates should rise way higher here but still not nearly as high as those in other national markets. One of the biggest problems with the dams were how much of the fish run they took away one all of them were built and as you know fish are one of Washingtons biggest sources of income. The reason that the fish were not making it is not just the dams themselves but instead it was mainly how poor the fish ladders were built.
Also when fish would return to spawn they couldnt find there way up the river because of the fish screens which wouldnt put them out right and they would end up going to still water were the water would evaporate and they would die. Since we have lost about two thirds of our fish runs do to these dams we are starting to make improvements like better ladders at all the dams and new screens that work how there supposed to. All in all this operation will cost millions of dollars but we feel it is worth it if it brings back one of our most important resources(Lambert).
The Columbia River treaty was very important because that is when we actually tried to start to contain the mighty Columbia which no one though could happen. The Columbia drainage basin covers about 258,000 square miles of British Columbia and a couple of the states in our Untied States. On January 17, 1961 both the United States and British Columbia agreed to the treaty and on signed on it on September 16, 1964. Under the terms of this treaty four very large dams were constructed for floods and water storage.
These five single handed reduced flooding and adding acres and acres of water storage(Grand Coulee). Perhaps one of the most important and nicest dams in the whole state of Washington or maybe even the whole Untied States is the Grand Coulee Dam on the Columbia River. It is the largest concrete structure ever built in the world even today. If you were to take the Grand Coulee Dam and spread it out across the world you could make a sidewalk around the entire world. Coulee puts out about 110,000 cubic feet of water per second. The average power generation is 21 billion kilowatt hours per year(Grand Coulee).
The main purposes for the dam in itself were to prevent floods, to help irrigate the farm lands that arent getting enough water, Hydro power, recreation, stream flows, and fish and wildlife benefits. Facilities at the dam include three powerplants, a pump-generating plant, and three switch yards. Construction of the dam stared in 1933 and didnt end until almost 10 years later. The first power was generated in 1941 and the last of the original 18 units began production in 1950. Pumping for irrigation commenced in 1967 with the first unit commissioned in 1975 and the last in 1980.