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EWEB electric and water crews support other utilities through mutual aid agreement

January 19, 2023 Rachael McDonald and Robyn Smith, EWEB Communications

EWEB crews fill water jug for Mapleton resident

If someone needs help and you have the tools, the experience, and the availability to assist, what would you do?

At EWEB, we do what we can to help others in need. That’s been the reality for several of our electric and water crews over the past few weeks as we’ve responded to mutual aid requests for storm response and drinking water restoration, locally, and out of state.

EWEB was able to provide this assistance because we did not foresee or experience any severe weather events effecting EWEB territory, and we felt comfortable with the current workload and system maintenance to send crews to assist others in need.

"There's times when we're not able to lend help due to brewing weather in EWEB’s territory or priorities that can’t be delayed, but this was one of those times when we could,” said Tyler Nice, EWEB electric operations manager.

Doing this also keeps our crew workers connected with others in the industry and builds relationships should we ever need such support in the future.

“In the 2016 winter storm we had over 30 crews that came to our aid. Opportunities like this strengthen relationships with other utilities should we need help again down the road,” said Nice.

 

January 5 – EWEB crews aid California storm response

After an atmospheric river caused widespread outages in northern California at the beginning of January, several utilities requested mutual aid to restore, at one point, more than 400,000 outages. They needed help and EWEB answered. EWEB sent a 5-man crew to assist with storm restoration near Redding. EWEB crew members Brian Read, Justin Woods, Matt Groff, Jeramie York, and Garrett Littrell have spent the first part of 2023 away from their families, helping others to get the power turned back on. The crew finished up near Sacramento on the 15th and returned home.

This is a glimpse into the crew's world of storm response - removing damaged power poles, installing new poles, clearing debris on private property and replacing electric transformers, all while being far from home.

EWEB responded to this request through the Western Region Mutual Assistance Agreement (WRMAA), adopted by many utilities throughout Western North America to support one another in the event of emergencies affecting generation, transmission, distribution, or other business operations.

December 29 – Line Crews assist PGE in Wilsonville

Shortly after Christmas, we experienced relatively few outages from a 48-hour windstorm that blew through the Willamette Valley. Our crews were able to respond and restore power within a few hours. Other utilities in the area did not fare so well.

Because EWEB had minimal equipment to repair from the wind event, and tree related damage was manageable within one workday, we were able to respond to a request for aid from our neighbors to the north, Portland General Electric (PGE), after the initial impact of the windstorm left over 100,000 PGE customers without power. With our local outages restored, EWEB sent two, two-person crews to help PGE with outage restoration.

Line workers Matt Groff, Caleb Robbins, Jeramie York, Ryan Oosthof worked on power restorations through the night and finished the next morning in the Salem area. PGE expressed gratitude for our assistance and mutual aid partnership.

 

December 27—Water crews assist the town of Mapleton

EWEB’s water utility helped Mapleton when it lost drinking water late last month. The small community between Eugene and Florence experienced a double whammy with the ice storm followed by heavy rains, which caused some leaks and put its water treatment plant out of commission.

All 260 Mapleton customers were without running water a couple of days after Christmas.  EWEB sent troubleshooters to help identify the leaks and also sent out a team with our mobile water distribution trailer to get drinking water to Mapleton residents right away.

“We’re talking about a community with no drinking water,” Hunt said. “When it comes to drinking water, that’s public health. And when a small community loses water, it can really affect that area. Kudos to the EWEB team and EWEB management who said, yes, go out and do what we can do.”

Hunt said EWEB plant operators were able to assist in getting Mapleton’s water treatment plant back up and running.

“It was an outstanding response from our team at every level. From management, supervisory, administrative and staff level,” EWEB Water Operations Manager Mike Masters said. “We’re really proud of the opportunity and the ability to help out a neighbor like that.”

Jeremiah Hunt, Jeanine Parisi, Wallace McCullough, Ray Leipold, Lucus Moran all assisted on the administrative level. Ron Oosthof, John Franklin, John Stevens, Justin Valley, Justin Doan, Toby Dixon, Aaron Eisele, Steve Groat, Hunter Hamilton, and Shane Buck were all boots on the ground assisting with the Mapleton water crisis.

EWEB got the request to help Mapleton through what’s called the Oregon Water/ Wastewater Agency Response Network (ORWARN) Mutual Aid Agreement. ORWARN member utilities assist each other during emergencies.

Masters said EWEB is fortunate to be in a position to assist other utilities which speaks to our resiliency, resources, and preparedness.