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FEMA provides $3.5 million to EWEB to help with ice storm recovery costs

May 30, 2017

Power lines sagging under the weight of ice and damaged trees

The Federal Emergency Management Agency awarded $3.5 million to EWEB in late May to help offset the financial costs of the devastating ice storm that struck Eugene on Dec. 15, 2016.

The ice storm was among the most severe faced by EWEB and our customers over the 106-year history of the utility. The trees and wires brought down by the ice, along with damage to poles, transformers and other infrastructure, affected approximately 22,000 customers.  

We spent approximately $4.7 million restoring service to customers and making repairs to our electric transmission and distribution system from Dec. 15 through Dec. 24. The FEMA grant of $3.5 million covers about 75 percent of our costs.  

We maintain a $2 million operating reserve to cover unanticipated costs. We covered the destruction caused by the December ice storm with working cash that had accumulated throughout the year.  

The $3.5 million from FEMA will go back into the working cash fund. We will absorb the $1.2 million not covered by the FEMA grant without raising electricity prices - customers have not, and will not, incur any additional costs resulting from the storm and the recovery efforts.  

We did not increase residential electricity prices in 2017. In addition to the $1.5 million EWEB budgets for low-income assistance each year, we added another $100,000 following the ice storm to help customers cover bills due to the prolonged cold snap.  

"The December ice storm was devastating for EWEB and our customers in many ways. From a financial perspective, this was the largest restoration effort in EWEB's 106-year history," said Susan Fahey, EWEB's chief financial officer. "The FEMA grant will help our customer-owners, who already endured extensive and prolonged power outages, avoid further financial impacts."

There were more than 1,600 tree incidents affecting EWEB infrastructure during the ice storm and its aftermath. City-wide, there were more than 3,200 trees removed or pruned due to storm damage. The ice also caused significant damage to streets and private property, including homes and vehicles   As the ice storm hit, our emergency managers began calling in outside electric repair crews to help with restoration.

In addition to the five EWEB crews, 24 crews from other utilities and private contractors helped restore service. EWEB and the outside crews repaired 135 linear miles of wire, 185 poles or cross arms and replaced 44 transformers.

Learn more about what to do if your power goes out.