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Bonneville Dam

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Title: Bonneville Dam  
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Subject: WikiProject National Register of Historic Places/Cleanup listing, Columbia River, Bridge of the Gods (modern structure), Charles L. McNary, Roll On, Columbia, Roll On
Collection: 1937 Establishments in Oregon, 1937 Establishments in Washington (State), Buildings and Structures in Multnomah County, Oregon, Buildings and Structures in Skamania County, Washington, Columbia River Gorge, Dams Completed in 1937, Dams in Oregon, Dams in Washington (State), Dams on the Columbia River, Dams on the National Register of Historic Places, Dams on the National Register of Historic Places in Oregon, Dams on the National Register of Historic Places in Washington (State), Energy Infrastructure Completed in 1937, Gravity Dams, Historic American Engineering Record in Oregon, Historic American Engineering Record in Washington (State), Historic Civil Engineering Landmarks, Historic Columbia River Highway, Historic Districts in Washington (State), Hydroelectric Power Plants in Oregon, Hydroelectric Power Plants in Washington (State), Industry Museums in Oregon, Locks of the United States, Museums in Multnomah County, Oregon, National Historic Landmarks in Oregon, National Historic Landmarks in Washington (State), National Register of Historic Places in Multnomah County, Oregon, National Register of Historic Places in Skamania County, Washington, New Deal in Oregon, New Deal in Washington (State), Run-of-the-River Power Stations, United States Army Corps of Engineers Dams
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Bonneville Dam

Bonneville Lock and Dam
Spillway structure
Location Multnomah County, Oregon / Skamania County, Washington, USA
Construction began 1934 (First Powerhouse)
1974 (Second Powerhouse)
Opening date 1937 (First Powerhouse)
1981 (Second Powerhouse)
Construction cost $88.4 million (First Powerhouse)
$664 million (Second Powerhouse)
Owner(s) US Army Corps of Engineers (Operator)
Bonneville Power Administration (Marketer)
Dam and spillways
Type of dam Concrete gravity, run-of-the-river
Impounds Columbia River
Height 197 ft (60 m)
Length 2,690 ft (820 m)
Width (base) 132 ft (40 m) (Spillway)
Spillway type Service, gate-controlled
Creates Lake Bonneville
Total capacity 537,000 acre·ft (0.662 km3)
Catchment area 240,000 sq mi (620,000 km2)
Power station
Turbines 20
Installed capacity 1189 MW
Annual generation 4,466 GWh (2009)[1]
Bonneville Dam Historic District
Bonneville Dam is located in Oregon
Location Bonneville, Oregon
Built 1909, 1934
Architect Claussen and Claussen, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Architectural style Colonial Revival, Other
Governing body United States Army Corps of Engineers
NRHP Reference # 86000727 (original)
86003598 (increase)
Significant dates
Added to NRHP April 9, 1986 (original)
March 26, 1987 (increase)[2]
Designated NHLD June 30, 1987[3]

Bonneville Lock and Dam consists of several electrical power generation and river navigation. The dam was built and is managed by the United States Army Corps of Engineers. Electrical power generated at Bonneville is distributed by the Bonneville Power Administration. Bonneville Lock and Dam is named for Army Capt. Benjamin Bonneville, an early explorer credited with charting much of the Oregon Trail. The Bonneville Dam Historic District was designated a National Historic Landmark District in 1987.[3]


  • History 1
  • Dimensions and statistics 2
  • Environmental and social implications 3
  • Electricity controversy 4
  • Gallery 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


In 1896, prior to this damming of the river, the Cascade Locks and Canal were constructed, allowing ships to pass the Cascades Rapids, located several miles upstream of Bonneville.

Prior to the New Deal, development of the Columbia River with flood control, hydroelectricity, navigation and irrigation was deemed as important. In 1929, the US Army Corps of Engineers published the 308 Report that recommended 10 dams on the river but no action was taken until the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration and the New Deal. During this period America was in the Great Depression, and the dam's construction provided jobs and other economic benefits to the Pacific Northwest. Inexpensive hydroelectricity gave rise to a strong aluminum industry in the area. With funding from the Public Works Administration in 1934, two of the larger projects were started, the Grand Coulee Dam and the Bonneville Dam. 3,000 workers in non-stop eight-hour shifts, from the relief or welfare rolls, were paid 50-cents an hour for the work on the dam and raising local roads for the reservoir.[5]

To create the Bonneville Dam and Lock, The Army Corps of Engineers first built one of the largest scale models in history of the proposed dam, the section of river it was to be located on, and its various components to aid in the study of the construction.[6] First a new lock and a powerhouse was constructed which were on the south (Oregon) side of Bradford Island, and a spillway on the north (Washington) side. Cofferdams were built to block half of the river and clear a construction site where the foundation could be reached. These projects, part of the Bonneville Dam were completed in 1937.[7]

Both the cascades and the old lock structure were submerged by the Bonneville Reservoir, also known as Lake Bonneville, the reservoir that formed behind the dam. The original navigation lock at Bonneville opened in 1938 and was, at that time, the largest single-lift lock in the world. Although the dam began to produce hydroelectricity in 1937, Commercial electricity began its transfer from the dam in 1938.[5]

A second powerhouse (and dam structure) was started in 1974 and completed in 1981. The second powerhouse was built by widening the river channel on the Washington side, creating Cascades Island between the new powerhouse and the original spillway. The combined electrical output of the two power houses at Bonneville is now over 1,000 megawatts.

Despite its world record size in 1938, Bonneville Lock became the smallest of seven locks built subsequently at different locations upstream on the Columbia and Snake Rivers; eventually a new lock was needed at Bonneville. This new structure was built on the Oregon shore, opening to ship and barge traffic in 1993. The old lock is still present, but is no longer used.

Dimensions and statistics[8]

  • Owner: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Portland District
  • Location: On Columbia River about 40 miles upstream from Portland, Oregon
  • First Powerhouse – Constructed in 1933-37; Dam 313 m (1,027 ft) long x 77 feet (23 m) high forebay; 10 generators with a nominal total output capacity of 526.7 MW; Overload capacity 577 MW.
  • Spillway – Constructed 1933-37; 18 gates over a length of 442 m (1,450 ft); maintains the reservoir (upriver) usually 18 m (59 ft) above the river on the downstream side;
  • Second Powerhouse – Constructed 1974-82; Dam 300.5 m (986 ft) long x 77 feet (23 m) high forebay; 8 generators (plus two at fish ladders) with a nominal total generating capacity of 558.2 MW; Overload capacity 612 MW.
  • Bonneville Lock – Constructed from 1987 to 1993 at a cost of $341 million; 26 m (85 ft) wide, 206 m (676 ft) long; transit time is approx. 30 minutes. Replaced earlier smaller lock built 1938.
  • Lake Bonneville – 77 km (48 mi) long reservoir on the Columbia River created by Bonneville Dam; part of the Columbia-Snake Inland Waterway.

It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1987.[3][9]

Environmental and social implications

The Bonneville Dam blocked the migration of white sturgeon to their upstream spawning areas. Sturgeon still spawn in the area below the dam and the lower Columbia River supports a healthy sturgeon population. Small, very depressed populations of white sturgeon persist in the various reservoirs upstream.

To cope with fish migration problems, the dam features

  • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers - Bonneville Lock and Dam
  • Bonneville Power Administration
  • Dams of the Columbia Basin & Their Effects on the Native Fishery
  • Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) No. OR-11, "Bonneville Project", 42 photos, 76 data pages, 4 photo caption pages

External links

  • Bonneville Lock and Dam. A National Historic Landmark Serving the Northwest. 2001. U.S. Government Printing Office, 2001-691-677. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Portland District, public information pamphlet distributed at the Bonneville Lock and Dam visitor centers.
  1. ^
  2. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places.  
  3. ^ a b c "Bonneville Dam Historic District". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Retrieved 2007-11-18. 
  4. ^ "The Columbia River System Inside Story" (PDF). pp. 14–15. Retrieved 17 July 2010. 
  5. ^ a b c General Interest, Built 1934
  6. ^ "Model of Bonneville Dam Aids in Study of River" Popular Mechanics, April 1935
  7. ^ Workers at Bonneville Dam
  8. ^ Bonneville Dam Brochure [3] accessed 24 Dec 2010
  9. ^ Stephen Dow Beckham and Donald C. Jackson (n.d.). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination: Bonneville Dam Historic District / Bonneville Project" (PDF). National Park Service. Retrieved 2009-06-22.  and Accompanying 2 photos, from 1982 and undated. PDF (469 KB)
  10. ^ "Elevators for Fish to Save Salmon Canning Industry" Popular Science Monthly, March 1935
  11. ^ [4] Archived April 14, 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ Slide 1
  13. ^ Mackie, Richard Somerset (1997). Trading Beyond the Mountains: The British Fur Trade on the Pacific 1793-1843. Vancouver: University of British Columbia (UBC) Press. pp. 191–192.   online at Google Books
  14. ^


See also


Power production is the primary function of the Bonneville Dam. The two Bonneville powerhouses generate about 5 billion kWh of electricity each year. The Bonneville Dam supplies nearly 500,000 homes with electricity, assuming each household consumes 10,000 kWh of electricity per year. Its current generation costs are about 1.2 cents/kWh, which is much higher than historic costs mainly because the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) is still paying off the second powerhouse which was built in 1982. Consumers are charged $2.3 cents/kWh to account for transmission and other costs.[14]

Creating electricity was a sensitive issue at the time of the Bonneville Dam's construction, which was funded with federal dollars. The Franklin D. Roosevelt administration wanted the electricity produced to be a public source of power and prevent energy monopolies. Advocates for private sale of the electricity were opposed to this, and they did not want the government to interfere. In 1937, the Bonneville Project Act was signed by Roosevelt, giving the dam's power over to the public and creating the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA). A rate of $17.50 per kilowatt-year (about .2 cents/kWh) was maintained by the BPA for the next 28 years.[5]

Electricity controversy


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