Leaburg Canal drawn down
Commissioners to Hold Upriver Meeting June 15 06/10/2021

On June 15, EWEB Commissioners will host a series of presentations for McKenzie Valley customers along with a general question and answer session. The presentations will begin at 6 p.m. at the McKenzie Fire & Rescue Training Center in Leaburg. The meeting will take place rain or shine.

The presentations will cover five topics:  

  1. McKenzie Generation Project updates, with a focus on Leaburg Canal
  2. Upriver Cost-of-Service Analysis and pricing update
  3. Watershed recovery status and investments
  4. Programs for McKenzie Valley customers
  5. Wildfire mitigation  

Scroll down to read a summary of each topic.   

McKenzie Generation Updates, with a focus on Leaburg Canal   

Leaburg Canal

The Leaburg Canal has been out of service since October 2018 following observations of increased seepage and internal erosion of the canal embankments. During subsurface investigations in April 2019, we encountered areas of low-strength soils, indicating there are portions of the embankment that could become unstable during an earthquake. In response to this new information on safety risks, we initiated a comprehensive assessment of the entire canal in late 2019 to better understand the level of investment that would be required to ensure long-term safe and reliable operation.

EWEB staff, expert consultants, and representatives from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission participated in risk assessment workshops throughout 2020. Based on these results, the required investment to return the canal to safe and reliable service will significantly exceed the expected returns from power generation. As such, commissioners and staff are exploring other potential futures for the canal.

Given the nature and location of the canal, there are many stakeholders who are directly impacted by the decision to either return the canal to service for power generation or continue to operate it as a stormwater conveyance. Although the canal has been out of service since late 2018, it continues to convey tributary creek flow to the McKenzie River. To ensure that conveyance of creek and storm water is safe and reliable, we plan to make improvements in areas of the canal subject to the highest flow levels during storm events. Those investments are expected to take place prior to a final decision on the long-term future of the canal.

To aid in the decision-making process for the future of the canal, staff are preparing a list of the potential environmental, social, and economic issues for each option. Many of these issues will require further investigation to determine the impacts. Issues identified include regulatory requirements under EWEB's federal operating license, irrigation and water rights, water quality, fish impacts, and replacement power, among others. Preliminary findings, along with a proposed roadmap for decision making, will be presented to commissioners this summer.  

Carmen-Smith Improvements

As we enter our third year of operating the Carmen-Smith Project under the new FERC license, there are exciting accomplishments to date and a few challenges ahead. For the past several years, our focus has been on rebuilding the Carmen Powerhouse, including replacement of the two turbine shutoff valves, and rebuilding the Carmen Substation and Plant electrical control system. Turbine runner replacement and rewinding the generators will begin late this summer, with an anticipated mid-2023 completion date. These projects ensure reliable operation for the long-term and maintain our ability to provide clean hydropower to the community.

The proposed upstream and downstream fish passage facilities have progressed through environmental design review and are now undergoing dam safety evaluations. Construction of the upstream passage, provided via a "Trap and Haul" facility at the base of Trail Bridge Dam, is scheduled to begin as early as 2022. Downstream passage will occur through the existing Trail Bridge Dam Spillway once a replacement gate, including a fish passage feature, is installed and improvements to the surface of the spillway are completed in approximately 2025.

In 2021, staff expect to relocate the transmission line out of Deer Creek, rebuild the existing spawning channel, reconstruct the Trail Bridge Campground, and install visibility enhancing devices on the overwater spans of the transmission line. EWEB and the Forest Service have worked closely together on the Deer Creek project to coordinate the transmission line relocation with important habitat restoration work.

The spawning channel project is underway and expected to be complete in early August. Spawning channel enhancements will provide additional spawning habitat and another path for fish to travel through on their upstream migration. Once rebuilt, the Trail Bridge Campground will reopen when the powerhouse projects are complete and vehicle access beyond the Carmen Powerhouse is restored in late 2023.   

Upriver Cost Analysis and Pricing Update

In April 2019, t commissioners requested staff perform a Cost-of-Service Analysis (COSA) on the McKenzie Valley electric service territory to inform discussions related to distinct upriver pricing and potential cross-customer subsidies.

In October 2019, Staff reported that the initial COSA revealed that the McKenzie Valley service territory was more expensive to serve, and that the bill impact of the cost differential associated with the upriver analysis is approximately a 10-15% higher cost for upriver customers, which would correspond with a rate reduction of approximately 0.5% for Eugene customers.

Via Board consensus, support was reached to hire a consultant to develop a more precise COSA for the McKenzie Valley electric service territory.

At a June 2020 Work Session, staff presented the results of GDS Associates' upriver COSA, which indicated 14% residential revenue (rate) shortfall, along with 31% and 16% shortfall for small general service commercial and medium general service commercial, respectively.  The Board discussed several aspects of pricing, and it was determined staff would respond to some additional questions prior to a recommendation in the fall.

In November 2020, staff presented the Board with budget and pricing information for 2021, including the creation of McKenzie Valley rate classes, recommending the prices remain unchanged for 2021. The Board rejected the proposal for a new rate class, siting lack of public process due to COVID and wildfire events. At the meeting, the Board did accept Management's proposal to develop multi-year COSAs and pricing for all water and electric services and customer classes, to be implemented in 2022.

In the fall of 2021, Management may recommend the Board address several pricing issues, including certain subsidies, over the period covered by the multi-year COSA (2022-2024), including differentials between the rural and urban portions of the service territory. These issues will be discussed in public meetings prior to implementation, including specific public rate hearings.  

Watershed Recovery Status and Investments

In response to water quality threats posed from the Holiday Farm Fire, the EWEB Board of Commissioners in late 2020 allocated $1 million in additional funding to support emergency actions to protect the watershed. Initial priorities were to mitigate the risks of ash, debris and sediment from destroyed homes and denuded landscapes from entering the river, while supporting fire-impacted landowners by stabilizing their properties through the winter.

Using the existing Pure Water Partnership as a framework, we were able to stabilize ash and debris on 136 high priority destroyed home sites along the river, and completed 273 burn assessments. This work resulted in the installation of erosion control measures on 123 properties and revegetation on 89 properties. At the same time, we installed enhanced water quality monitoring equipment in the watershed as part of an early warning network to help our Hayden Bridge Water Treatment Plant operators adjust their operations to ensure drinking water quality remains high.

With emergency stabilization work complete, the focus has transitioned to longer-term restoration and resiliency actions. This includes delivering a suite of new landowner incentive programs to support the rebuilding process, planning for large-scale floodplain restoration work to commence this summer at Finn Rock and Quartz Creek, working with the McKenzie River Trust to acquire floodway properties from willing landowners, performing fuels reduction and noxious weed treatment on private properties, and pursuing Firewise programs.

Efforts are also underway to identify priority areas for revegetation and work with landowners to develop replanting plans for the 2022 planting season.

EWEB worked with the USGS to expand the network of real-time water quality stations to include a total of 14 stations (eight USGS and six EWEB). In addition, staff continue to conduct enhanced monitoring during storms and between storms to assess impacts of the HFF on water quality. Results to date show increased levels of some constituents like metals, nutrients and organic carbon during storm events, followed by a return to pre-fire water quality levels after the storm. There has been a continuing improvement in raw water quality with each subsequent storm.

Stable funding is critical to support the on-the-ground activities of our partners and contractors, ongoing data collection and analysis, landowner incentives, and the acquisition of destroyed properties in the floodway with high ecological value. The EWEB Watershed Recovery Fee, which becomes effective in July, establishes a baseline of funding to support these activities over the next five years while the team actively pursues outside grant funding.

Programs for McKenzie Valley Customers

Home Site Relocation Program

EWEB will provide up to $7,000 in grant funding for eligible landowners in the Holiday Farm Fire perimeter who move their building footprints further away from the river, helping to rebuild smarter and better protect water quality.

Property owners who move their building footprints outside of the riparian setback or special flood hazard area will be eligible for $2,000 in advance of construction once Lane County issues land use and building permits.

Additionally, we will offer grant funding for landowners who incur out-of-pocket expenses to relocate their home site in order to minimize risk to the McKenzie River. The grant amount will be 50% out-of-pocket expenses not to exceed $5,000. Landowners who cannot move their home footprint are still eligible for grant funding to install advanced septic systems. For eligibility requirements and more information, click here.

Septic System Assistance

We offer zero-interest loans of up to $20,000 for homeowners who need to replace or make major repairs to their septic systems. (For routine inspections and pumping, we have a $250 rebate program.)  Visit www.eweb.org/septic for more information.  

Underground Electric Service Lines

We intend to invest in underground service lines wherever practical for customers rebuilding within the Holiday Farm Fire perimeter who require substantial repair or full replacement of the service line.

For more information visit our Holiday Farm Fire Customer Support page, or send an email to: distributionengineering@eweb.org.

Additional contact: watershedrecovery@eweb.org

Wildfire Mitigation

EWEB employs several tools to reduce the risk of wildfire in our service territory. This includes ongoing vegetation management and maintenance as well as emergency response and communication protocols. We annually trim approximately 250-line miles of vegetation throughout the system, with an additional 125 miles in 2021 trimmed specifically on circuits with higher fire risk. Maintenance of utility infrastructure that reduces this risk includes ongoing inspections of poles, cross arms, insulators and line clearances. These inspections produce work queues that result in cyclical maintenance of the electric system to maintain reliability and safety.

Specific to "Red Flag Warning" response, we modify certain system operating parameters which reduces the risk of wildfire. This includes changing automatic protections so that lines trip off with more sensitivity and lock out quicker, needing human inspection and intervention to re-energize. Though this may result in reduced reliability during these events, the changes reduce the chance of ignition in high fire risk areas during these events. EWEB also changes response protocols around re-energization patrols, checking for active access issues and fire events through the 911 supervisory number.

In 2021, we will be drafting a Wildfire Management Plan which will formalize and document our mitigation measures related to wildfire. This will include vegetation management, system protections, construction methods, future capital programs, event response, and the development of criteria for Public Safety Power Shutoffs.