Big decisions and challenges for the board as it considers the future 08/12/2022

“This is the biggest decision I’ll ever make, and this board will, I think, ever make,” said President John Brown at the EWEB Board of Commissioners meeting on August 2, 2022. 

Brown was referring to the future of the Leaburg Canal.

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The canal helped power the development of the McKenzie Valley and Eugene, serving our community with clean and reliable hydropower for nearly 100 years. Built in the late 1920s, the canal today unfortunately has structural deficiencies that must be addressed. Therefore, EWEB’s elected Commissioners have directed the utility to determine the most appropriate future for the facility.

EWEB staff has prepared a Triple Bottom Line Assessment of four alternatives for the board (considering the impact on economics, people, and planet.)  We’re also gathering public input by holding listening sessions in Leaburg this summer with more planned for Eugene in the fall.

As they draw toward a decision, Brown said he’d like to know what EWEB staff recommends.

“I’d like an assessment and a recommendation,” said Brown, who represents Eugene Wards 4 and 5. “We’re lay people. To me, we’re supposed to reflect community values. But I don’t know anything about the technical stuff per se. You guys do. You and your staff. Just because you make a recommendation doesn’t mean we have to follow it.”

While commissioners are elected to represent their constituents, they rely on the expertise of EWEB engineers, technicians and other skilled professionals to inform their decisions.

“It really helps me to hear how you all think about it as well because your perspective is so different than ours,” said Commissioner Mindy Schlossburg, who represents EWEB customers at-large.

EWEB General Manager Frank Lawson responded.

“I think what we’ll do is we’ll position this that, based on discussions and feedback from the board, based on information from the community as well as internal analysis, that we can provide some guidance and some recommendations to the board fully knowing that you’re the board making the decisions ultimately on this direction,” he said.

Lawson added that he wants to ensure the board has what it needs to make its decision, including technical assessments, financial analyses, and public input.

EWEB Board meetings are open to the public and customers provide comment and also contact commissioners directly.

Other major decisions on the docket for EWEB commissioners include 2023 budget and rate planning, the potential sale of our riverfront property, development of EWEB’s next Integrated Resource Plan, which will analyze possible energy resource portfolios for long-term electricity supply planning, and investment in a second water treatment plant to increase the resiliency of our community’s water supply.

As they anticipate a busy few months to come, Brown, who has served on the EWEB Board since 2007, expressed appreciation to his fellow commissioners.

“The dialogue we have challenging each other and having this back and forth,” he said.  “I think we push each other, and we challenge each other. Thank you very much. Because I think we get to better decisions doing that.”

The board’s next meeting is on September 6th.