Bureau of Reclamation Approves Overhaul of Hungry Horse Dam

Upgrades starting in 2019 will cost between $150 million to $200 million

By Justin Franz
Traffic crosses the road across the Hungry Horse Dam. Beacon File Photo

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation plans on spending between $150 million and $200 million to upgrade the Hungry Horse Dam over the next decade.

Late last month, the bureau released a final environmental assessment that sheds light on what the upgrades will look like. Some of the most visible work will take place as early as 2019, when a number of cranes inside and atop the dam are replaced.

“It’s a big project,” said Dennis Philmon, facilities manager for the dam.

While work at the dam is tentatively expected to begin in 2019, it will continue into the late 2020s, when the biggest aspect of the upgrades — breaking down and rebuilding the four 107-megawatt generators inside the dam — takes place.

Philmon said officials figured it would be best to conduct the work in one effort instead of piecemeal. Some of the work is considered preventative, and Philmon said doing before problems arise would result in fewer shutdowns at the dam.

Although the timetable is subject to change, according to the environmental assessment, crane refurbishment and replacement will take place between August 2019 and March 2020. Each new crane will take at least a month to install. One of the cranes is on top of the dam and can move back and forth over the structure (it’s usually parked on the west side of the dam).

Between March and November 2021, the power plant windows will be replaced with fireproof ones so that the facility can meet current safety standards. The power plant disconnect switches would also be replaced at this time. From January 2022 to December 2023, the governor components inside the power plant at the base of the dam will be rebuilt. Turbine replacement and generator overhauls will take place between March 2025 and February 2029.

Philmon said it isn’t yet known who will be contracted to do the work, but he believes it will benefit the local economy with subcontractors being hired and local restaurants, hotels and grocery stores seeing an increase in business thanks to the activity at the dam. Traffic on the road across the dam could be impacted at times during the overhaul, but Philmon said efforts would be made to ensure that drivers are always able to get across the structure.

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