EWEB's 100-year history
Leaburg Power Plant

Since the very first meeting of the Eugene Water Board on March 11, 1911, EWEB's vision has been to serve its citizen-owners with reliable electricity and healthy, clean water.

It's the water

A typhoid epidemic that struck Eugene more than 100 years ago provided the catalyst that led to the creation of today's Eugene Water & Electric Board. When the outbreak was traced to the private, for-profit water company, outraged citizens sprang into action, voting in 1908 to buy the system and create a municipal, citizen-owned water utility.

The Eugene City Council ordered the construction of a hydroelectric power plant that would power the pumps necessary to ensure adequate water pressure. When the Walterville Hydroelectric Plant on the McKenzie River was completed in February 1911, the City Council transferred control of the utility to a separate citizen board, which met for the first time on March 11, 2011.

The Walterville Power Plant, which was built to power pumps for the water system, generated plenty of surplus electricity. First, the city decided to power its streetlights. Then, a handful of businesses started buying power. The Eugene Planing Mill on Lawrence Street, currently the site of the REI store, was the first electric customer. In 1916, the board purchased the private Oregon Power Company's electric system, positioning the utility as the full-service provider it is today.

The utility's name was changed to the Eugene Water & Electric Board in 1949, reflecting its broader role.

More power and water

The McKenzie River became the source of our drinking water in July 1927. This marked a significant shift from the original treatment facility along the Willamette River, near where the steam plant is located today. This new source of water has continued to provide residents with some of the cleanest, purest drinking water in the nation.

By 1932, the Leaburg Dam and Powerhouse were completed, providing even more electricity for our growing community.

The 1940s through the 1960s brought a major expansion of EWEB's primary source of electricity — the Bonneville Power Administration. This federal agency is responsible for allocating to the Northwest's public utilities the output from more than two dozen federal hydroelectric dams in the Columbia River system. Today, BPA provides EWEB with about two-thirds of its electricity.

In September 1963, Carmen-Smith Hydroelectric Project was dedicated, to much fanfare. This project, located at the upper reaches of the McKenzie River, is the largest source of EWEB-owned power generation. In all, EWEB-owned projects account for about 13% of the utility's energy needs. But these power projects also provide a source of revenue for EWEB. Surplus power is sold to other utilities on the wholesale market in the region, generating income to keep EWEB customers' rates lower.

The age of conservation and renewables

EWEB was among the first utilities in the nation to embrace energy conservation in the mid-1970s following the first Middle East oil embargo. As a first step, the utility established EWEB's Conservation Center in 1977, and by the early 1980s, EWEB launched a large-scale effort to weatherize nearly every existing and new home in town.

Year Homes weatherized
1986 10,000
1991 25,000
2011 More than 50,000

In addition, EWEB offers nearly two dozen programs for residential and commercial customers to help reduce electricity use through better lighting, heating, cooling and other efficiency measures.

EWEB now spends about 5% of its retail electricity revenues on conservation efforts.

EWEB also has embarked on a plan to build or buy wind, solar and other renewable energy sources. EWEB was the first public utility in Oregon to own part of a wind farm — the Foote Creek Rim project in southeast Wyoming.

Since then, EWEB has signed agreements to purchase wind power generated in central and eastern Oregon (Klondike and Stateline), and is a part-owner of a wind farm in south-central Washington state (Harvest Wind). EWEB purchases solar energy generated locally on rooftops.

It's the people

Because it is owned by the citizens, EWEB has always had a strong commitment to the community. EWEB employees donate time each year, volunteering at dozens of organizations and for civic causes. In addition, the utility: