The project was authorized by the River and Harbor Act of 1945.
Construction of the Ice Harbor Project began in January 1956. Generators one through three were put in operation in December 1961. Powerhouse units four through six were later installed, with all units producing power by January 1976. The entire project including recreational facilities is now complete.
This project consists of Ice Harbor Dam, powerhouse, navigation lock, two fish ladders, a removable spillway weir and a juvenile fish bypass facility. It provides navigation, hydroelectric generation, recreation and incidental irrigation.
Ice Harbor Lock and Dam
Located upstream of McNary Lock and Dam and Lake Wallula, Ice Harbor Dam is 2,822 feet long with an effective height of 100 feet. It is a concrete gravity type dam, with an earthfill embankment section at the north abutment. It includes a navigation lock with clear dimensions of 86 by 675 feet. The dam has a 10-bay spillway that is 590 feet long and includes ten 50 foot tainter gates.
Lake Sacajawea, created by Ice Harbor Dam, extends upstream about 32 miles to Lower Monumental Lock and Dam and has a surface area of 9,200 acres.
This is a single-lift lock, 86 feet wide by 675 feet long, with a 100 foot vertical lift. In 2015, traffic through the navigation lock consisted of grains, petroleum products, fertilizer, wood products, and miscellaneous cargo that amounted to more than 2.3 million tons.
The powerhouse has three 90,000-kilowatt units and three 111,000-kilowatt units – 603 megawatt total powerhouse capacity. The first of two new, advanced-technology turbine runners designed to improve fish passage is being installed and should be operational in 2017. The work also includes structural modifications to the turbine draft tube exits, wicket gates and stay vanes to improve hydraulic conditions for fish. Small-scale model testing of the new fixed-blade runner design indicates it may also increase power generation by 3 to 4 percent. During fiscal year 2015, more than 1.53 billion kilowatt hours of electricity were produced.
Two fish ladders provide adult fish upstream passage through Ice Harbor Lock and Dam. In 2005, a spillway weir was also installed to improve passage conditions for juvenile salmon downstream out migration. Because of significant declines of Pacific Lamprey throughout its range during the past three decades, in 2009, modifications were made to one Ice Harbor fish ladder to improve adult lamprey passage. Those modifications included a lamprey fish ladder entrance weir, lamprey passage structures, ladder improvements and installation of metal plating to assist lamprey upstream.
There are 3,576 acres of project lands surrounding Lake Sacajawea. These project lands include fee lands that are federally-owned and managed by the Corps, as well as easement lands to which the Corps has specific rights or easements (i.e., flowage or access). There are 3,517.30 acres of Corps-managed lands at Ice Harbor used for public recreation, wildlife habitat, wildlife mitigation and water-connected industrial development. The project maintains four habitat management areas, four developed recreation areas and three public access areas. Public boat launching facilities are available at seven locations around the lake. In 2015, Ice Harbor recreation areas hosted more than 345,000 visits.
More than 80 Walla Walla District employees work at the Ice Harbor Project. They serve as electricians, mechanics, lock operators, welders, riggers, painters, utility workers, heavy equipment operators, park rangers, environmental resource specialists, biologists, administrative support staff, engineers and maintenance workers. Together, they manage the safe and continuous operation of the project.
During fiscal year 2015, total expenditures were about $11.5 million for the Ice Harbor Project.