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Waneta Dam


Waneta Dam
Completed: 1954
Operator: Teck Cominco
Type: Concrete gravity dam


Built by the Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company of Canada Limited (now known as Teck Cominco) in 1954 to generate power specifically for use at its smelter located in Trail. When Waneta was completed it produced as much power as the Kootenay River Dams combined. It is built near the mouth of the Pend d'Oreille River before it enters the Columbia River just north the Canada- US International Border.

Waneta was looked at for hydro development as early as 1897 with the incorporation of the Pend d'Oreille Power and Light Company. The rapid development of the Kootenay River dams and the lack of significant demand for electricity resulted in the demise of the company.

As World War II increased the demand for electricity at Cominco and the surrounding mines and resources, the need for new power generation facilities re-opened the possibility of the development of the Pend d'Oreille as a power source.

Construction of the Waneta Dam began in 1951 and by its completion in 1954 would employ over 1,200 people. The dam is a total of 76 m (250 ft) and formed a reservoir 6 km (3.7 mi) long. The two installed generators had the capacity of 120,000 horsepower (89 megawatts) and in 1963 the third unit was installed and increased the capacity of the plant to 360,000 horsepower (268 Mw) and a fourth unit was installed in 1966. Currently it generates 450 megawatts a year, enough to power a city of 250,000 people for a year.

From a press release following the opening of the Waneta Dam in March, 1954 :
"In the closing hours of 1953 the controlled fall of four large gates sealed the sluiceways and the Pend-d'Oreille stopped flowing into the Columbia. Behind the dam a new lake formed. Nineteen hours later a crest of water swept down the spillway and the river ran again. Aside from installation, testing of equipment and tidying up around the site, the Waneta power plant project was finished . . . "

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