So far, after one full day of inspections, Pacific Power engineers are reporting what we already knew about the leaking, 103-year-old Newport Avenue dam.
"It's inline with our expectations, which is, it's old," said Pacific Power spokesperson Bob Gravely while standing on the Newport Avenue Bridge overlooking the dam. Gravely, who was relaying reports from the engineers onsite, went on to say that the dam would require "extensive work" to continue to make it operational in the long term. "And that's what we suspected," he concluded.[jump]
The leak, which was first discovered on Oct. 2 and triggered today's dam inspection, was not the dam's first, but the third such leak in six years. The breach (pictured above) was in one of the dam's 13 wooden bays and near where past repairs had been made. Gravely explained that one of the main priorities for the dam inspectors (there were two from Pacific Power as well as one safety foreman and a state dam inspector) was to gauge the functionality and longevity of the dam's other wooden bays. If any show signs of failure, it may be a further sign that the dam is ready for retirement. Additionally, inspectors explored the inside of the dam and, according to Gravely, if the innards check out then it may make more sense for the utility company to patch the leak and continue operations. Like any business decision, a cost-benefit analysis will be the driving force behind a conclusion about the dam's future.
Tomorrow, dam inspections will continue, but from afar. As water is once again allowed to build up behind the dam, engineers will set up sensitive survey equipment that should show whether the increasing water pressure behind the dam causes any movement. The equipment can reportedly show shifts as small as a fraction of an inch.