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Aging hydroelectric turbine spills more than 300 gallons of oil into Snake River

Lower Granite Dam on Snake River aerial from AP low res.jpg
Posted at 3:55 PM, Oct 31, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-31 17:58:04-04

WASHINGTON — An aging hydroelectric turbine in Washington state likely spilled more than 300 gallons of oil into the Little Snake River over the last three months. That's according to a press release from the Idaho Conservation League (ICL).

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) reported on October 25 that staff at the Little Goose Dam, near Jackson, Washington, discovered the oil loss and immediately shut down the turbine that was responsible.

USACE staff are working to understand and fix the issue and have deployed containment measures for the reservoir below the dam.

The river is a home and migration corridor for four runs of wild Salmon and Steelhead as well as Bull Trout. Each of these fish populations is listed under the Endangered Species Act.

Oil is known to harm fish, but the full extent of the damage from this leak will likely never be known according to ICL.

The four dams on the Lower Snake are in poor shape according to USACE. According to data collected by USACE in 2021, across all dams, about one-third of their internal components are in "Poor" or "Marginal" conditions. In the Little Goose Dam, more than half of the internal components are listed as "Poor" or "Marginal."

Replacing the generating units at the four dams is expected to cost nearly $1 billion and will need to happen soon.