Pending Application - Wells Dam Project, Washington

Project Name Wells Dam
LIHI Certificate No.
LIHI Certificate Term
Owner Public Utility District No. 1 of Douglas County
State Washington
Location River Mile 515.6 on the  Columbia River.
Installed Capacity 843.6 MW
Average Annual Generation 4,262,714 MWh
Facility Type Run-of-river
FERC No. P-2149. License issued 11/09/2012, expires 10/31/2052

The Wells Hydroelectric Project is located on the Columbia River in Chelan, Douglas, and Okanogan Counties in Washington. The project is owned and operated by Public Utility District No. 1 of Douglas County (Douglas PUD). Douglas PUD began operation in 1945 as a locally owned distribution system. In 1957 construction began on the Wells project and the first power was generated in 1967.

The Project is located near the cities of Pateros, Brewster, and Bridgeport on the Columbia River at river mile 515.6. The upstream dams are Chief Joseph, operated by US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), at river mile 454.1 and Grand Coulee, operated by US Bureau of Reclamation, at river mile 596.6. The immediate downstream dams are the other Mid-Columbia projects owned and operated by Public Utility District No 1 of Chelan County and Public Utility District No 1 of Grant County; Rocky Reach Dam (Chelan) at river mile 473.4, Rock Island Dam (Chelan) at river mile 453.4, Wanapum Dam (Grant) at river mile 415.8, and Priest Rapids Dam (Grant) at 397.1. The dams farther downstream are the federal projects, all managed by USACE; McNeary Dam at river mile 292, John Day Dam at river mile 215.6, The Dalles Dam (LIHI Certificate #71) at river mile 191.5, and the Bonneville Dam at river mile 146.1.

The project consists of a dam, reservoir, tailrace, switchyard, transmission line, upstream and downstream fish passage facilities, a fish hatchery, and recreational facilities. The dam is a 1,165-foot-long, 160-foot-high, hydrocombine structure with 10 vertical Kaplan turbines, 11 spillways, upstream and downstream fish passage facilities, and a switch yard. The hydrocombine is a unique design that incorporates the powerhouse, spillways, switchyard, and fish facilities all in one unit instead of separate structures. Six of the generating units have been refurbished and each has a nameplate capacity of 89 MW, four are yet to be upgraded and each currently have a nameplate capacity of 77.4 MW, with upgrades are expected to be complete in 2027. Each of the 10 units has a hydraulic discharge range from 13 (minimum load) to 22 kcfs (full hydraulic capacity). Each spillway is 46 feet wide with spill controlled by a 66 foot high gate.

The fish passage facilities include two upstream fish ladders and a downstream juvenile bypass system. One fish ladder is located at each end of the hydrocombine, and each ladder includes a pump system for providing attraction flows to the ladder entrance, a counting station, a fish trap and sorting facility, and Passive Integrated Transponder (PIT) tag detection equipment. The downstream juvenile bypass system consists of fabricated steel barriers that are seasonally inserted into spillway bay numbers 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10. The steel barriers are 72 feet high and block all but a 72-foot-high by 16-foot-wide vertical slot through each spillway entrance; they are designed to collapse when the spillway gates are opened more than six feet.

The project also includes the Wells Hatchery, located on the downstream side of the west abutment of the Wells Dam.

Certification History

May 28, 2024: The Low Impact Hydropower Institute has received a complete application for Low Impact Certification of the Wells Dam Hydroelectric Project.  LIHI is seeking public comment on this application.  Specifically, we are interested in knowing whether you think the Project meets the LIHI Low Impact Certification Criteria, as revised in the 2nd Edition Handbook.  Please review the program and criteria in LIHI’s revised Handbook and then review the Project’s application materials below. Comments that are directly tied to specific LIHI criteria (flows, water quality, fish passage, etc.) will be most helpful, but all comments will be considered.  Comments may be submitted to the Institute by e-mail at with “Wells Dam Project Comments” in the subject line, or by mail addressed to the Low Impact Hydropower Institute, 1167 Massachusetts Avenue, Arlington, MA 02476. Comments must be received on or before 5 pm Eastern time on July 27, 2024 to be considered.  All comments will be posted to the web site and the applicant will have an opportunity to respond.  Any response will also be posted.

Certification Files

Key Documents