Hydropower Intern Program Mission

The Hydropower Intern Program supports the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Pacific Region of the Northwestern Division, to develop and continue education for maintenance engineers. The Hydropower Intern Program recruits, hires, and trains Maintenance Engineers to staff Technical Sections at multipurpose hydroelectric power plants in the Portland, Seattle, & Walla Walla Districts in the Federal Columbia River Power System.

Lower Granite Dam Powerhouse (left) is 656 feet in long and has six 155 megawatt generators for a total generating capacity of 930MW. Construction began in 1965 and three turbine units were operational in 1975. Three additional turbine generators were installed and began operating in 1979. Bonneville Dam Powerhouse 1 (right).
Bonneville Dam Powerhouse 1 is 1,027 ft long and has two 53.4MW and eight 62.1MW generators for a total generating capacity of 603.7MW. Construction began in 1933 and completed in 1938 making it the oldest powerhouse in the Federal Columbia River Power System.
Generator: 135 megawatt; 0.95 power factor; 434 inch rotor diameter; 480 ton rotor weight ------ Turbine: Kaplan type, 6-blade; 312 inch runner diameter; 90 RPM; 212,400 horsepower
The 674 ft long, 86 ft wide,122 ft high navigation lock at Lower Granite Dam has a water volume capacity of appx. 46M gals. The gravity filled lock drains w/ a series of submersible tainter gates. Annually 1,500 lockages transport millions of tons of cargo b/w Clarkston, WA & the Pacific Ocean.
Chief Joseph Dam is located on the Columbia River near Bridgeport, WA. The powerhouse contains sixteen 88 megawatt generators and eleven 95 megawatt generators for a total capacity of 2,453 megawatts making it the largest powerhouse in US Army Corps of Engineers. The penstocks (left) supply water to the 27 Francis–type turbines. The spillway (right) is 980 feet long and has 19 gates.
Many types of cranes are used at our hydropower facilities. These gantry cranes are used for the maintenance and movement of the turbine intake gates (right), fish screens (left) and bulkheads that are used during operation and maintenance of the turbine-generator systems.
Governors control the speed at which the turbine runner rotates by regulating the flow of water through wicket gates. Once synchronized with the grid, the governor controls the megawatt output of generator. Mechanical governors (left) have been used for over 100 years, but in recent years are being converted to a modern digital governor (right).
The Libby Dam near Libby, MT, is 422 ft tall & 3,055 ft long. Construction began in 1966 w\ 4 generators completed by 1975 & a fifth online in 1984 for a total capacity of 525MW. The 7.6 million tons concrete dam forms Lake Koocanusa on the Kooenai River.
USACE recognizes fish have significant cultural, natural, economical & recreational importance. Many dams have fish ladders & juvenile bypass systems, & investments continue to be made to improve fish passage. Bypass systems collect & move juvenile salmon & steelhead to the Pacific Ocean.
McNary Dam is a run-of-the-river dam located on the Columbia River near Umatilla, OR. The McNary spillway is a concrete, gravity-type spillway dam, 1,310 feet long and contains 22 vertical lift gates. The powerhouse has fourteen 70 megawatt generators for a total capacity of 980 megawatts.

The are 21 USACE-owned and operated hydroelectric dams producing more than 14,500 Megawatts of clean, renewable energy, in the Pacific Northwest.

At these plants, there are approximately 55 Maintenance Engineers who support reliable operation and maintenance of the facilities. The NWD Hydropower Intern Program is a paid internship providing specialized training and careers for Mechanical and Electrical Engineering students to develop a career as a Maintenance Engineers at one of these dams. These internships offer full-time career positions as well as the many benefits offered to Federal employees. College students are expected to work part-time during the school year, as their schedule allows, and upon graduation will work full-time completing training rotations.

Meet Our Interns

Adrian Mariscal Arellano

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Ceyel Clark

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Bennett Moore

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Robert Jones

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​Noel Wise​

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Click the three bars (top right corner) to view the playlist of hydropower videos. \/        

Intern Program Duration

  Hydropower Intern Program timeline
Click to enlarge

Although flexible, the program duration is normally four years and is dependent upon college graduation. The program typically begins following one's sophomore year of college, allowing interns to participate for two summers before graduation.

After graduation, program interns participate an additional two years while completing training rotations for the Construction, Engineering and Infrastructure Career Field. These rotations are paid learning opportunities for engineers and scientists providing relevant training, experience, and networking opportunities.

Upon program completion, engineers are typically offered full-time employment with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at a multipurpose hydropower dam.

Year One: College Juniors – summer at Lower Granite Lock and Dam
  • Hydropower 101 training – introduction to systems and equipment
  • Tour Federal hydropower dams around the FCRPS
  • Introduction to maintenance practices
Year Two: College Seniors – summer at a second USACE-operated dam within the FCRPS
  • On-Job-Training (OJT) working with a Technical Support Section
Year Three: College graduates - CEI-CF rotations begin
  • Conversion to GS-7 after college graduation (or GS-5 for graduate GPA <2.95)
  • Permanent dam assignment
  • Assignment Locations
Year Four: Complete CEI-CF rotations and begin OJT at permanent dam in the Pacific Northwest
  • Conversion to GS-9 after one year as a GS-7
Typical Rotations

Dam Operations, Specifications, Electrical/Mechanical Design, Cost Engineering, Hydroelectric Design Center, Project Management, and Construction.

Specialized Rotations

Generator Testing for electrical engineers and Structural Design for mechanical engineers. Rotations are very flexible and tailored for each intern.

Program Completion: Two years after college graduation

Federal Pathways Programs

The Hydropower Intern Program is among the specialized Federal Pathways Programs used for attracting talent and filling key competency gaps. More information regarding the Federal Pathways Programs may be found at OPM.gov

The Hydropower Intern Program office is located at Lower Granite Lock and Dam near Pullman, Washington, which also serves as the permanent duty station for all interns in the program. During the program, interns will learn hydropower fundamentals, maintenance practices, and agency processes and policies. After college graduation, interns begin on-the-job training rotations through various sections around the Pacific Northwest and typically concludes with full-time employment with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Who we are looking for?

The Hydropower Intern Program seeks highly motivated Electrical and Mechanical Engineering students who aspire to work at a multipurpose hydroelectric dam.

Typical candidates are sophomores entering their junior year of college and seeking a career with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Juniors entering their senior year of college and recent graduates (up to 2 years after college graduation) may also be considered on an as-needed basis.

Mechanical Engineer
Understand the principals, systems, and equipment necessary to convert hydraulic to mechanical energy, e.g. turbine, governor, bearings, piping, valves, pumps, lubrication.  Equipment and turbine oil distribution for a typical hydropower turbine generator system.
Equipment and turbine oil distribution for a typical hydropower turbine generator system.
Electrical Engineer

Understand the principals, systems, and equipment necessary to convert mechanical to electrical energy, e.g. generator, exciter, transformer, motors, controls, switch gear.


Power generation, transmission (230 KV), distribution (115 KV), and consumer’s load demand in a simple power system.
Power generation, transmission (230 KV), distribution (115 KV), and consumer’s load demand in a simple power system.


Maintenance Engineer

Maintenance Engineers are responsible for systems and equipment reliability within the hydropower dam. They also provide technical support to powerhouse Mechanics, Electricians, and Operators. Other duties include assessing equipment condition, building maintenance plans, analyzing data to identify maintenance cycles, conducting failure analysis, and performing system and equipment improvements.

Program Questions

Am I eligible to apply?

Prospective interns must be U.S. citizens who have completed two full academic years in an ABET accredited level mechanical or electrical engineering program and maintain full-time enrollment. College transcripts are required to determine program eligibility.

Interns must also:

  • Meet the definition of a student throughout the duration of the intern program
  • Meet the qualification standards for the intern position
Is military service required?

No. Interns participating in the program are considered Department of Defense – Army civilian employees. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is part of the DoD and U.S. Army however, military service is not required.

How do I apply?

Job announcements are posted on Handshake with instructions for applying through the site or resumes and cover letters may be emailed to the Hydropower Intern Program Manager. Hiring occurs annually in the February/March timeframe.

Do I pay travel and lodging expenses for CEI-CF rotations?

No. The Hydropower Intern Program fully funds all travel expenses allowable under Federal travel regulations. A per diem is provided to cover lodging, meal, and incidental expenses.

What is required for Program Completion and Conversion to full-time status?

Interns may be converted to a permanent position (or, in some limited circumstances, to a term position lasting 1-4 years) within 120 days of successful program completion.

College graduates with a GPA ≥ 2.95 are converted to GS-7 employees. Failure to meet the minimum GPA requirement will result in conversion to GS-5.

Additional conversion requirements include:

  • Complete at least 640 hours of work experience acquired through the Intern Program
  • Complete degree requirements
  • Meet qualification standards for conversion to the employment position
  • Meet Agency requirements specified in the Participant's Agreement
  • Successful job performance
What Federal employee benefits are offered?

Benefits are a large part of an employee’s compensation:

  • Special Salary Rate for Hydropower Engineers
  • Paid annual vacation, sick leave, and federal holidays
  • Federal Employees Retirement System Basic Benefit Plan (Pension)
  • Thrift Savings Plan
  • Federal Employees Group Life Insurance
  • Family & Medical Benefits
    • Health Insurance
    • Dental/Vision Insurance
    • Flexible Spending Accounts for health and dependent care
How does hydropower compare to other energy sources?

Of the energy sources available in the U.S., Hydropower supplies 7%. The three largest suppliers are Natural Gas (38%), Coal (23%), and Nuclear (20%).

Of the energy sources available in the U.S., Hydropower supplies 7%. The three largest suppliers are Natural Gas (38%), Coal (23%), and Nuclear (20%).

Do all USACE, NWD hydropower dams produce the same amount of electricity?

No. The amount of power generated at each hydropower dam depends on the number of generators, the flow rate of water, and the elevation difference between the upstream and downstream pools. Each dam has a maximum power generating potential based on these factors. The chart below compares the total power generated by each dam in the Northwestern Division.

Dams can have a different number of and different types of turbines, Each dam has a maximum potential for generating power however, the actual power generated varies depending on how much water is in the reservoir behind the dam and how much water flows through turbines among other variables. The chart below shows how each dam contributes to the total power generated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Northwestern Division's inventory of hydropower dams in the Pacific Northwest.