Lake Chelan Dam
Backstory and Context
Lake Chelan existed long before the first damn was built in 1892. In fact it helped balance the flow and fluctuations of the Chelan River, which drops around 350 feet as it reaches the Columbia River. The combination of this drop in elevation and the lake made Chelan a great location for a hydroelectric power plant. The purpose of the first dam wasn't to generate electricity but to facilitate navigation to the city and supply water to south Chelan. Unfortunately, this dam was destroyed in a flood in June 1892. Another, bigger dam was built in 1893 to allow steamships to reach the city but a flood in 1894 destroyed that one as well.
Construction of the first dam built for power generation began in 1899 by the Chelan Power Company. It was completed in 1903 and Chelan "turned on its lights" for the first time in May of that year. The present dam and powerhouse were built in 1927 after two years of construction. Its design included advanced design and engineering for the time including a special intake tube, a long tunnel that connects the dam to the powerhouse, and generators with a closed air cooling system.
The tunnel is and about 2.2 miles long, and only a part of it is visible near the powerhouse where turbines and generators are located. The turbines are rated over 42,000 horsepower and rotate 300 times per minute. The current generators produce 62 megawatts and were installed in 2009 and 2010.
"Lake Chelam Dam." Chelan County PUD. Accessed April 15, 2020. https://www.chelanpud.org/hydropower/lake-chelan-dam.
Soderberg, Lisa. "Lake Chelan Hydroelectric Power Plant." National Park Service - National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form. December 15, 1988. https://s3.amazonaws.com/NARAprodstorage/lz/electronic-records/rg-079/NPS_WA/88002739.pdf.
Wikimedia Commons: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:HD.11C.081_(14926342072).jpg