The Walla Walla District operates and maintains multi-purpose infrastructure assets, and plans and executes engineering and water resource services across the Inland Northwest and the Nation to safely maximize public and environmental benefits.
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The history of Walla Walla District is closely linked to the development of water resource projects on the Columbia and Snake rivers. Establishment of the District in 1948 coincided with the start of work on McNary Dam
on the Columbia River near Umatilla, Oregon, slightly downriver from the Tri-Cities area in Washington.
The District is commanded by a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officer, assisted by his civilian and military deputies and a work force made up of approximately 800 engineers, scientists, technicians, special and administrative support staff. The District's civil works boundaries generally follow the Snake River drainage and include approximately 107,000 square miles in six states - Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, and small parts of Nevada and Utah. The District staff operates dams, plans projects, provide engineering services, coordinate emergency management efforts and provide a range of administrative and logistical support to the entire organization. About 350 of these civilians work at the District headquarters office. The rest of the staff works at area and project offices.
The Walla Walla District also provides engineering, environmental and planning services to the region under the continuing authorities program, and has established an office in Boise, Idaho, to assist local and state governments in Idaho with using these services.
The Walla Walla District is the second largest hydropower producer in the Corps of Engineers, providing a total generating capacity of 4,413 megawatts to the Federal Columbia River Power System
. McNary Lock and Dam can produce 980 megawatts of electricity from its 14-hydropower turbines. The four lower Snake River projects have a combined total generating capacity of 3,033 megawatts from 24 turbines. Dworshak Dam, near Orofino, Idaho, has three hydroelectric turbine units, which can generate 400 megawatts of power for the region.
The District operates and maintains the federal navigation channel from McNary Dam on the Columbia River, through the four lower Snake River projects, providing a navigable waterway 400 miles inland to Lewiston, Idaho. Agricultural products are the most important commodities shipped downstream. Especially noteworthy is the "Inland Empire's" wheat, which is sent to countries throughout the Pacific Rim. Petroleum products are the most important upstream cargo.
Dworshak Dam is a flood risk management and storage reservoir on the North Fork of the Clearwater River. The Walla Walla District operates two other flood control facilities, which include Lucky Peak Dam, near Boise, Idaho, and Mill Creek Dam (and its Bennington Lake), near Walla Walla, Wash. Protecting lives and property from flooding is a key mission for the District. Levees on the Snake and Gros Ventre rivers in Jackson Hole, Wyo., protect developments in the river valleys.
District disaster-related activities include emergency preparedness and flood-fighting assistance to local governments within the District's boundaries. Recent activities include the floods of 1996 and most recently, advance measures were completed in Atlanta, Idaho, after the forest fires raged through the area in the summer of 2000.
The District is responsible for regulatory functions governing activities affecting the region's waters and wetlands in Idaho. Permits to work in wetlands and the waters of the United States are administered by the Districts regulatory field offices in Coeur d'Alene, Boise and Idaho Falls.
District members are also responsible for managing wildlife habitat management areas and recreation facilities at sites throughout the District's geographic area of responsibility.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is one of the leading providers of water-related recreation access in the country. The Walla Walla District has more than 8 million visitors a year to its eight lakes and recreational areas. Outdoor recreational opportunities include boating, fishing, hunting, camping, fish viewing, swimming, hiking and more.
The District has numerous environmental challenges and opportunities. One important responsibility is improving fish passage at Corps dams to aid the recovery of endangered anadromous fish species (born in fresh water, migrate to the ocean to mature, and return to fresh water to spawn) through the addition of spillway weirs, fish passage is now available at all Walla Walla District dams. The Walla Walla District also has expertise in hazardous and toxic waste cleanup and has partnered cleanup activities at the Department of Energy's Hanford Site
near Richland, Wash.
One of the District's contributions is the juvenile fish transportation program which was begun in 1968. Commonly called "fish-barging," this program uses specially equipped barges and tank trucks to carry migrating salmon and steelhead fingerlings around dams on their way down the Snake and Columbia rivers. In 2011 9.7 million juvenile salmon were transported down stream in barges. In recent years, the District has modified dam spillways to increase fish survivability and added specially designed screens to guide most migrating fish around turbine intakes.