Large hydroelectric dam on the water with mountains surrounding.

The Wells project has ten generating units rated at a combined 840 megawatts. Eleven gated spillway openings release 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
  • Avista Corporation
  • Okanogan County Public Utility District

Safe Fish Passage

The Wells Project was built with fish ladders 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 the 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 using the existing spillway. No expensive screens were required. The migration success rate for these juvenile salmon and steelhead exceeds the level sought by fishery 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.

Wells Hatchery

Ariel picture of the hatchery with several pools adjacent to the hydroelectric plant structure over the water.

The Wells Hatchery is dedicated to the production of steelhead and summer Chinook to enhance natural production and provide harvest opportunities. We have a white sturgeon restoration program, and recreational fishing opportunities in regional waters for trout, kokanee and land locked Chinook.

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. The adjustment enables more accurate estimates of the number of juvenile fish passing through the Project. 8,000 steelhead were 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
  • 20,000 pounds of trout, kokanee and land locked Chinook

The programs include steelhead conservation programs for Omak Creek and the Twisp River. We also operate two safety-net steelhead programs in the Methow and Okanogan rivers to provide additional steelhead returning adults for harvest or conservation. A fifth safety-net steelhead program operates 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 focuses on enhancing the sturgeon population in the Columbia River upstream of Wells Dam.

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 are 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. Yearlings are released into the Twisp, Methow, Okanogan, and Columbia rivers and 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. Douglas PUD operates the hatchery with internal funding 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.

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.