EWEB workers with protective face coverings peforming transformer replacement
Crews Restart System Reliability Work 06/05/2020

As our community attempts a slow and steady recovery from the health and economic crises of COVID-19, you will see more electric and water crews in the field performing essential reliability work.

Since mid-March, EWEB has delayed reliability and maintenance projects to minimize the number of customer outages that are often needed to perform the work. We recognize that even brief power and water outages are no longer simple inconveniences, but major disruptions as most of our community are sheltering-in-place, teleworking, and distance learning.

Crews have continued their 24x7 response to emergency outages, as well as legally required compliance work, and customer-requested activities such as move-in/move-out connections. EWEB staff and contracted crews have also kept up on tree-trimming efforts, which includes wildfire-related trimming upriver and in south Eugene as well as customer requested trimming.

But instead of a full complement of crews at work across the community, only a handful of electric and water crews have been in the field at any given time. This strategy has been important to limit potential transmission of the virus and ensure crews are safe, healthy, and ready to respond should a major event like a wind storm arrive and disrupt services across the community.

"Like everyone, when this crisis was first evolving, we didn't know what to expect," said Electric Operations Manager Tyler Nice. "But we do know our number one goal is to safely keep the continuity of service as much as we can."

Watch a short clip of Tyler describing EWEB's approach during the initial weeks and months of the pandemic.

Now, as the state continues to loosen stay-at-home orders, crews will resume critical reliability work such as replacing damaged utility poles, upgrading meters, rebuilding power lines, and replacing aging water mains.

At this time, electric crews are limiting their projects to those that will disrupt fewer than 500 customers and take no longer than six hours to complete. Water projects are also limited to outages of six hours or less.

Here are some examples of critical maintenance projects that are resuming in the coming days and weeks:

South hills underground service conversions: Projects in the areas of Blanton Road and Fox Hollow, west of Saratoga to Donald, will convert 3-phase overhead lines to underground. This is part of the electric system reliability projects for which EWEB received FEMA funding following the 2016 ice storm.

Willow Creek substation upgrade: Replacing an ailing transformer that serves multiple neighborhoods and several thousand customers in west Eugene.

Chambers St. water main replacement: This project is part of EWEB's strategy to replace and renew the water system to increase water reliability and system resiliency. The work is being done ahead of the City of Eugene paving project for this portion of Chambers. There will be scheduled water outages, traffic impacts, and construction noise during the project that is anticipated to last eight weeks.

Willamette St. and Laurel Hill pump station upgrades: Replacing and upgrading equipment to keep these pump stations, which deliver drinking water to thousands of customers in south Eugene, reliable and operationally flexible.

As an essential service provider, we know that now, more than ever, electricity and water are foundational to all other areas of the economy, healthcare, and public safety.  These are just a few examples of vital work needed to maintain safe, reliable electricity and water services to Eugene homes and businesses.

In this clip, Tyler Nice describes the importance of managing a backlog of maintenance work.

With many customers still working from home or taking online classes, we understand the need for advance notice of planned maintenance work. Customers will be notified ahead of time if crews need to shut off your power or water. These notices will provide information such as the reason for the outage and the expected duration.

EWEB crews continue to follow social distancing guidelines while in the field. The public can help promote a safe work environment by not approaching utility crews in the field or entering their work zones. For everyone's health and safety, please be sure to maintain appropriate physical distancing of six feet if you happen to encounter EWEB crews in the field.