$321 million contract awarded to replace McNary Dam turbines

An overhead crane is used to remove a piece of main unit power generator 9 in 2014 at the McNary Dam on the Columbia River outside of Umatilla. All 14 turbines will be replaced in the next 14 years.

UMATILLA — A subsidiary of General Electric has been awarded the $321 million contract to build and install 14 turbines at McNary Lock and Dam, a process that will take about 14 years to complete.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced the contract Wednesday, naming Alstom Renewable US LLC after three years of “research, planning, design and acquisition” to replace the current turbines and other equipment. The 14 generators create 980 megawatts of power capacity, according to the release. One megawatt supports about 700 homes, and at full power the dam supplies power for about 686,000 homes.

The dam was commissioned in 1954 and the current turbines have been in operation for more than 62 years. The modernized equipment is hoped to increase fish survival, hydraulic capacity and turbine efficiency and durability.

The replacement will be funded with capital investment money from Bonneville Power Administration, which receives between $150-$300 million in revenue from power generated at the facility each year.

“This contract award is a significant accomplishment for our district and the region,” said Walla Walla District Commander Lt. Col. Damon Delarosa in the press release. “The re-capitalization effort at McNary Lock and Dam is one of my top priorities for 2018 ... Once completed, the improvements recognized from this project for reliability, operational flexibility and fish passage will be substantial and measurable.”

Alstom Renewable has experience around the world in the design, manufacture and installation of hydropower turbines, according to the relsase. Their most recent work in the Northwest was replacing turbine runners at Chief Joseph Dam near Bridgeport, Washington, also for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. That project is near completion.

Corps project manager Shawn Nelson said engineers and biologists from offices in Walla Walla, Portland and Vicksburg, Mississippi will be involved with the design.

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