BURBANK, Wash. – On Saturday, June 16, Ice Harbor Lock and Dam is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its construction with a commemoration event beginning at 10 a.m. and an open house from 11:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The public is invited to the day’s festivities marking U.S. Army Corps of Engineers efforts to build the dam, navigation lock, powerhouse, fish ladders and recreation areas. The keynote speaker will be announced later.
Ice Harbor was dedicated on May 9, 1962 by then-Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson after several years of construction by the Corps and its contractors. An online photo album of construction from 1956 to 1962 is available on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.383422681691397.93808.136569626376705&type=1. Users do not need to be Facebook members to see the photos.
Ice Harbor construction was authorized by the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1945. It’s known as a “multipurpose” project, one of several on the Lower Snake River. The project provides navigation, hydroelectric power generation, recreation, and incidental irrigation benefits.
Construction of the original project including its first three hydropower generators began in January 1956. The first three power units produced commercial electric power by February 1962. Construction of three additional larger power generating units was started in 1971 and completed in 1976.
The nation’s initial investment in Ice Harbor Lock and Dam was significant. Construction costs for the dam, navigation lock, fish ladders, powerhouse and six generating units totaled about $217 million.
The powerhouse has three 90 megawatt and three 111 megawatt generating units in operation for a total capacity of 603 megawatts. During fiscal year 2011, Ice harbor generated 2.6 billion kilowatt hours of electricity for the region.
The navigation lock was opened for normal traffic in October 1962, initiating commercial traffic in the lower 40 miles of the Snake River. Ice Harbor’s navigation lock is a single-lift type with clear plan dimensions of 86 by 675 feet and a 16-foot minimum depth. Traffic through the navigation lock during calendar year 2011 consisted of grains, petroleum products, fertilizer, wood products and miscellaneous cargo that amounted to 2,631,100 tons.
Lake Sacajawea created by Ice Harbor Lock and Dam extends upstream about 32 miles to Lower Monumental Lock and Dam, has an 80-mile shoreline and surface area of 8,375 acres. Recreation areas on Lake Sacajawea include day-use, picnic, camping, boat launching, swimming and habitat management use areas. The Corps manages lands surrounding Lake Sacajawea utilized for public recreation, wildlife habitat, wildlife mitigation and water connected industrial development. The project includes 32 miles of the 367-mile Northwest Discovery Water Trail that runs from Canoe Camp on the Clearwater River in Idaho to Bonneville Lock and Dam. Total visitation on Lake Sacajawea during fiscal year 2010 was 479,553.
The dam is 2,822 feet long and approximately 130 feet above the streambed. Fish passage facilities include two fish ladders and a spillway weir.
Ice Harbor Lock and Dam was named after a small cove located about 500 yards upriver from the dam. This cove, known as Ice Harbor, did not freeze during the winter months. During the 1860s and 70s sternwheeler riverboats would winter at Ice Harbor until upstream ice jams broke up, allowing seasonal river commerce to continue. The cove is still visible on the south shore between the dam and Charbonneau Park, a popular campground, day use and boating area.
To learn more about the Corps of Engineers and its mission in the Walla Walla District, see the District website at www.nww.usace.army.mil.