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District hydropower team conducts Fort Peck Dam site visit

Published Nov. 25, 2020
Members from the Omaha District's hydropower team prepare to enter a penstock to inspect a butterfly valve and turbine during a site visit to the Ft. Peck Dam in Montana, Oct. 29, 2020.

Members from the Omaha District's hydropower team prepare to enter a penstock to inspect a butterfly valve and turbine during a site visit to the Ft. Peck Dam in Montana, Oct. 29, 2020.

Ryan Brockman (left), District project manager, hydropower, and Dale Pugh, Ft. Peck Dam operations manager, inspect a turbine during a site visit, Oct. 29, 2020.

Ryan Brockman (left), District project manager, hydropower, and Dale Pugh, Ft. Peck Dam operations manager, inspect a turbine during a site visit, Oct. 29, 2020.

Built in 1933 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as part of Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal program, the Fort Peck Dam in Montana is still functioning today as originally designed almost 90 years ago. 

The first of six mainstem dams along the Missouri River operated by the Omaha District, this hydropower plant supplies electricity to both the western and eastern power grids and generates enough electricity for approximately 100,000 homes.                                                                                               

Recently, members from the District’s hydropower branch traveled to Ft. Peck to conduct a site visit and to meet with operations and maintenance personnel.

According to Ron Beyer, hydropower project manager, the hydropower program is responsible for helping to upgrade and maintain the district’s hydropower facilities on the mainstem dams which includes: Fort Peck in Montana, Garrison in North Dakota, and Oahe, Fort Randall, Big Bend, and Gavin’s Point in South Dakota.  

“We’re out here to try to get an idea of the scale of the projects that we are currently working on,” Beyer said. “We’re upgrading transformers, some high resistance ground equipment, which is like a breaker box, and also installing new digital governors that help monitor and control the turbines and power generation.”

New to the hydropower program since January, Beyer said that it’s also great to get out and meet with Fort Peck personnel and to strengthen professional relationships.

The site visit began with a morning safety briefing followed by a tour of the facilities. With several contracts recently awarded for new generators, monitoring equipment and diagnostic testing, the district’s program managers had the chance to discuss the upcoming work projects with the Fort Peck team.

Gary Hinkle, chief, maintenance and engineering management support branch, explained that the District hydropower program receives congressional appropriations for the routine operations and maintenance of the District's six power plants.  Power customers contribute by funding major contracts required to maintain and rehabilitate these aging facilities. The project managers in the planning's civil works branch guide these contracts through design, contract award, and construction completion. 

With the water inlet pipe drained in powerhouse number one to allow for ultrasonic testing on the butterfly valve the team had a unique opportunity to enter the pipe to visually inspect the valve and the turbine. When closed, this valve shuts off water to the turbine in the event of an emergency or routine maintenance.

“It was a great experience for me. It was the first time I’ve been to Fort Peck and most importantly I got to meet the people that I’ve been working with for the past year,” said Ryan Brockman, project manager, hydropower. “It also helps me build a rapport with the project team and lets me get a better understanding of the size and scope of the projects that we’re working on.”

Brockman says that his role as a project manager is multifaceted – he works with the project site personnel, the district’s hydropower team, and with the designers at the hydroelectric design center to help maintain and upgrade the powerplants for the customers.

USACE is one of the largest single producers of hydroelectric power in the U.S., operating and maintaining more than 75 hydropower projects nationwide.