Baker River Hydroelectric Project
What’s coming up at Baker Hydro?
Puget Sound Energy is testing its early-warning siren system at the Baker River Hydroelectric Project August 5-8 from 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. The purpose of this test it to conduct siren and operational assessments as a follow up to the early-warning siren system that was installed in 2018.
As part of PSE's Dam Safety Program, PSE upgraded the early-warning siren system last year, expanding the sound coverage warning area and increasing the siren system from three sirens to eight. In the unlikely event of a dam breach, the siren system would provide early-warning and immediate mass notification to the town of Concrete and the surrounding communities of Van Horn, Grasmere, Cape Horn, and Birdsview. Exact locations of the sirens and siren tone and verbal messages can be found on this webpage below.
During the sound testing, the sirens will produce a tone and two verbal messages. This is a scheduled test and only a test of the siren system. If the sirens sound during this timeframe, residents are not called to evacuate.
If the sirens sound at any other time, without prior notice to the local media, it is not a test. Residents are to evacuate and head for higher ground, in the north and south direction, away from the Skagit River.
Modernization and safety work
In an effort to ensure continued public safety and reliability in the operation of Lower Baker Dam, PSE will embark on safety and modernization work at the dam in early 2020 lasting for approximately five years. We’ll be sharing more information about this project with the community in the coming months.
Puget Sound Energy's largest hydropower facility is the Baker River Hydroelectric Project, located on a tributary of the Skagit River in northwest Washington. The project includes two concrete dams and their associated powerhouses and facilities. The project reservoirs, Baker Lake and Lake Shannon, are fed by runoff from the flanks of Mount Baker and Mount Shuksan.
The Baker River Hydroelectric Project covers almost 300 square miles in Washington state. Several entities own land within the Baker River basin, including the U.S. Forest Service, the National Park Service, the Washington Department of Natural Resources and PSE.
Starting upstream on the Baker River system is the Upper Baker Dam, a 312-foot-high concrete gravity dam completed in 1959 with 107 megawatts of power-generating capacity. Downstream is the 285-foot-high Lower Baker Dam, a concrete arch dam completed in 1925, which has a generating capacity of 111 megawatts. The power project also contains extensive salmon-enhancement systems, including a fish hatchery and innovative facilities for moving migrating fish both upstream and downstream around PSE's two dams.
The project creates more than 7,203 acres of water surface that provides public recreation, fisheries, flood control and hydropower benefits for the communities in the Skagit River Valley and the greater northwest. To ensure public safety in the operation of its facilities, PSE complies with strict federal regulations, and has developed a comprehensive Dam Safety Program. PSE was awarded a 50-year federal operating license for the project in October 2008.
Baker River Dam early-warning siren system
As part of PSE's Dam Safety Program and Emergency Action Plan, PSE upgraded the early-warning siren system for the project in 2018. The upgrade increased the sound coverage area, taking the system from three sirens to eight. Additional information is provided in PSE's pamphlet on public safety around dams.
The sirens are tested once a month. During the siren test, the sirens sound for less than one minute. The siren test occurs on the second Monday of every month at 6 p.m. To hear the siren messages and tone, download the audio files below:
Explore the interactive map below to see the locations of the sirens.