US Army Corps of Engineers
Northwestern Division Website

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 length and has six 135 megawatt generators. Construction began in 1965 and three turbine units were operational in 1975. Three more turbine units were installed and operational in 1979. Bonneville Dam first powerhouse (right).
Bonneville Dam 1st powerhouse is 1,027 feet long and has two 43 megawatt and eight 54 megawatt generators for a total capacity of 518 megawatts. Construction began in 1933 and was completed in 1938 and is the oldest powerhouse in the Federal Columbia River Power System (FCRPS).
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 navigation lock at Lower Granite Dam is 674 feet long, 86 feet in wide and 122 feet high with a water volume capacity of 46,000,000 gallon. The lock is gravity filled and drained by operating a series of large radial gate style valves. Annually, the lock services over 1500 lockages transporting millions of tons of cargo (fertilizer, petroleum, wood products, grain, etc…) to and from the inland port in Clarkston, Washington to the Pacific Ocean.
Chief Joseph Dam is located on the Columbia River near Bridgeport, Washington. The powerhouse contains sixteen 64 megawatt generators and eleven 95 megawatt generators for a total capacity of 2069 megawatts. 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.
The governor is responsible to control the speed at which the turbine runner rotates by controlling the flow of water. Mechanical governors (left) have been used for over 100 years, but in recent years are being replaced to a modern digital governor (right).
Libby Dam, located on the Kootenai River near Libby, Montana, is 422 feet tall and 3,055 feet long. Construction began in 1966 with 4 generators completed by 1975 and a fifth put online in 1984 for a total capacity of 525 megawatts. The dam was built with 7.6 million tons of concrete and holds back the water of the Kootenai River forming Lake Koocanusa.
Fish in the Pacific Northwest have cultural, natural, economical and recreational value that the Corps of Engineers recognizes and strives to protect. Many dams have fish ladders and bypass systems installed and investments are being made to increase the passage and survivability of juvenile and adult fish. The upgraded juvenile bypass system installed at Lower Granite Dam, similar to the systems at many other Corps dams, collects juvenile salmon and steelhead, which are then loaded on barges and transported down the Snake and Columbia Rivers to the Pacific Ocean.
McNary Dam is located on the Columbia River near Umatilla, Oregon. 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 of 980 megawatt capacity.

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.

Intern Program Duration

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

After graduation, program interns participate an additional two years while completing training rotations for Career Program-18. These rotations are paid learning opportunities for engineers and scientists providing relevant training, experience, and networking opportunities.

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

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

 

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

  • Hydropower 101 training – introduction to systems and equipment
  • Tour Federal hydropower dams around the FCRPS
  • Introduction to maintenance practices
  • On-Job-Training (OJT) working with a Technical Support Section
  • Conversion to GS-7 after college graduation (or GS-5 for graduate GPA <2.95)
  • Permanent dam assignment
  • Conversion to GS-9 after one year as a GS-7
  • Conversion to GS-11
  • Transfer to permanent dam as a full-performance Engineer
Hydropower Intern Program timeline

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.

Understand the principals, systems, and equipment necessary to convert hydraulic to mechanical energy e.g. turbine, governor, bearings, piping, valves, pumps, lubrication

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

Hydropower Maintenance Engineers are responsible for system and equipment reliability and 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

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

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.

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.

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.

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

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