The Wells Hydroelectric Project is the chief generating resource for the Douglas County PUD, the Project's owner and operator. Wells produced its first commercial generation on August 22, 1967.
The Wells project has ten generating units rated at a combined 840 megawatts. Eleven gated spillway openings can pass a flood of over 8,800,000 gallons of water per second. In 1990, Douglas PUD completed installation of modern high efficiency replacement turbine runners on all ten units. The hydrocombine structure is 1,165 feet in length and the dam is 4,460 feet long overall. The unique hydrocombine design incorporates the powerhouse, spillway, switchyard and fish facilities into one unit instead of separate structures.
Entities receiving power from Wells Dam along with Douglas PUD include Confederated Tribes of the Colville Indian Reservation, Puget Sound Energy, Portland General Electric Company, PacifiCorp, Avista Corporation and the Okanogan County Public Utility District.
Fish ladders aid the upstream passage of migratory fish.
Safe Fish Passage
The Wells Project was built with fish ladders like you see here on both ends of the Dam. Adult salmon and steelhead migrating upstream locate the ladders as they travel along the shoreline. One of the ladders is equipped with a trapping mechanism to aid biologists in their study and enhanced propagation of the fish.
During the 1980s, Douglas County PUD developed a system to guide young salmon and steelhead away from moving turbines and safely through Wells Dam. The unique hydrocombine design of the Wells Dam allowed for a juvenile bypass system utilizing the existing spillway at the project. No expensive screens were required. The migration success rate for these juvenile salmon and steelhead exceeds the level sought by fisheries agencies and is the highest on the Columbia River. Of the remaining small number of fish that pass through the turbines, a high percentage travel safely through large turbine water passages.
The Wells Hatchery is dedicated to the production of steelhead and summer Chinook for enhancement of natural production and to provide harvest opportunities, white sturgeon for a restoration program, and trout, kokanee and land locked Chinook to provide recreational fishing opportunities in regional waters. Wells Hatchery was constructed by Douglas PUD in 1967 and is adjacent to the Wells Hydroelectric Project.
In 2012 the Douglas PUD steelhead program was adjusted to account for improvements in survival at the Wells Hydroelectric Project and to account for more accurate estimates of the number of juvenile fish passing through the Project, resulting in 8,000 steelhead to be produced to achieve no net impact (NNI). Currently, annual production at the Wells Fish Hatchery includes 408,000 yearling ESA-listed summer steelhead, 804,000 yearling and sub-yearling summer Chinook, 5,000 juvenile white sturgeon, and 20,000 pounds of trout, kokanee and land locked Chinook. The programs include steelhead conservation programs for Omak Creek and the Twisp River, and two safety-net steelhead programs that take place in the Methow and Okanogan rivers to provide additional steelhead returning adults for harvest or conservation purposes. A fifth safety-net steelhead program is operated in the Columbia River downstream of Wells Dam. This program provides fish for harvest and conservation purposes.
The summer Chinook program augments the important upper Columbia population of summer Chinook and provides substantial ocean and in-river harvest opportunities. The white sturgeon program is focused on enhancing the sturgeon population in the Columbia River upstream of Wells Dam, and the trout, kokanee and land locked Chinook programs provides excellent angling opportunities in numerous central Washington waters.
Adult summer Chinook are collected for broodstock in July, August and September. During these months adult Chinook can be seen in the hatchery holding ponds. Juvenile summer Chinook are released from the hatchery in April and May. Adult steelhead are collected for broodstock in the fall and spring, and yearlings are released in the Twisp, Methow, Okanogan, and Columbia rivers as well as into Omak Creek in April and May. Juvenile sturgeon are released into the Wells Reservoir in late spring.
The Wells Hatchery was built and funded by the Douglas County PUD. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife operates the hatchery with funding provided by Douglas PUD and Grant PUD. Grant PUD is funding the steelhead programs in the Okanogan Basin and Douglas PUD is funding the steelhead programs in the Methow Basin and Columbia River below Wells Dam.
See also the Methow Hatchery.
Wells Dam is located in North Central Washington state between Seattle and Spokane at river mile 515.8 on the Columbia River. It can be reached by driving north from Wenatchee along Highway 97 up the Columbia River to Chelan then continuing north another 15 minutes. The Methow River joins the Columbia just north of the dam site at the Town of Pateros.
One of the original 150 ton runners can be seen on display at the dam.
Boat launching, recreational facilities and a municipal park can all be found in Pateros, Brewster and Bridgeport, towns located upstream from the Wells Project. The improvements at these parks were made possible with Wells Project funding.