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2023 EWEB Year in Review: 12 Months of Community Investment

December 01, 2023 EWEB Communications Team

In 2023, EWEB invested in our community with grants, rebates and an array of other programs and measures aimed at fulfilling our core values of safety, reliability, affordability, environmental responsibility and community/culture.

January

Our mission is to keep our community and workers safe so we can continue delivering reliable and affordable water and power. In 2023, the Northwest Public Power Association awarded us first place for safety performance among public utilities our size in the Northwest. Safety is foundational to EWEB’s origin story. EWEB’s water utility was originally formed after an outbreak of typhoid fever in 1906 that was traced back to poor operating conditions at the privately owned water utility. The electric utility was formed soon after to provide electricity for treating and moving water. Also in January, we offered aid to residents of Mapleton, who were left without water after a leak in their system disrupted water to 260 homes. 

February

Our Electric Mobility Community Grant awarded nearly $125k to promote electric mobility projects and reduce community carbon emissions. Grants were awarded to Lane County Public Works, University of Oregon, Shift Community Cycles, Lane Community College, Cascadia Mobility and McKenzie School District for EV charging stations, electric bike sharing programs, and more. Our Community Grant project gives special consideration to projects that serve communities that are commonly underserved or with limited access to public charging. In 2023 we also launched our third GoForth electric car-sharing station in downtown Eugene, in partnership with Lane Transit District, City of Eugene, St. Vincent de Paul, and Forth Mobility.

March

We launched an e-newsletter, Current Connections, which reaches more than 60,000 customers each month. In our 2022 survey, we heard that customers prefer to learn about EWEB programs and services through digital channels, with email being the top choice. We created Current Connections to deliver important information about the reliability, safety, cost, and sustainability of your power and water right to your inbox. Also in March we began a complete rebuild of Currin Substation to increase capacity and improve reliability and released our annual Drinking Water Quality Report, which showed that your drinking water once again met safety standards for every type of contaminant regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Oregon Health Authority. 

April

EWEB awarded this year’s Greenpower Grant to Friends of Trees Eugene on Earth Day. Friends of Trees will use the $50,000 grant to expand their Neighborhood Tree program to areas in Eugene with low tree equity scores. Friends of Trees uses mapping tools to prioritize tree planting and outreach to areas in the city lacking canopy cover. They also focus on areas with higher rates of people with low incomes as well as in more racially diverse areas of the city. EWEB Greenpower subscribers vote to select the local non-profit organization that wins the Greenpower Grant. This is the third time Friends of Trees has won the award since 2018. In other exciting news from April, EWEB began our efforts to replace the 80-year-old College Hill Reservoir with new earthquake-proof drinking water storage. 

May

EWEB employees take our tagline “rely on us” to heart. We are proud to provide our customers with safe and reliable water and electricity every day. But we also know that some within our community need additional help outside our scope. EWEB employees pledged nearly $17,000 to local non-profits in our annual employee giving campaign. EWEB’s employee engagement team, SPARK, also organized multiple internal fundraisers to raise an additional $2,500 for Energy Share bill assistance program. We also launched Community Partner Care, our new bill assistance program for non-profits that serve the unhoused population in Eugene.

June

We finalized the sale of our former riverfront headquarters site to the City of Eugene. The City will use the buildings as a new city hall after more than a decade without one. For the past few years, EWEB has consolidated staff and operations at the Roosevelt Operations Center in West Eugene. As part of the sale, however, EWEB will be able to maintain about 1,000 square feet of shared public-facing space at the downtown site where customers can make an appointment to conduct EWEB business. The City bought the two buildings on 4.4 acres for $12 million and expects to open the buildings to the public in 2024. In June, EWEB also began major work to upgrade water pipelines. 

July

By July, customers had claimed all of the $125,000 of that EWEB offers for people who want to install solar panels on their roofs. The incentives come from EWEB’s Greenpower program, which is funded by EWEB customers who volunteer pay a little extra on their bills each month to support rooftop solar, grants for local nonprofits and educational events for students K-12. Also in July, EWEB’s Board of Commissioners approved the action items for the 2023 Integrated Resource Planning (IRP) process, which assesses future energy needs and potential resources to meet those needs. 

August

In August, EWEB distributed 300 free, three-gallon water storage containers during a demonstration event of our Emergency Water Station at the Prairie Mountain School in Eugene’s Bethel neighborhood. The station is one of five that EWEB has built to pull water from deep underground for use during an emergency, like the Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake which could damage water distribution pipelines that deliver water to all Eugene homes and businesses. In addition to the water wells, EWEB tested our mobile water treatment trailer that can treat as much as 100 gallons of water per minute from various surface sources such as the Willamette River. These are just two of the many water resiliency efforts underway at EWEB. 

September

This year, the McKenzie River Trust, U.S. Forest Service, the McKenzie Watershed Council and EWEB finished our floodplain restoration project at Finn Rock Reach, transforming 170 acres of riparian forest to become part of the McKenzie River again. The McKenzie once naturally flowed through multiple channels and wetlands across the entire valley. The restored floodplain at Finn Rock Reach recreates its messy, braided maze of logjams with water flowing at different speeds, restoring natural functions to help the watershed self-regulate water quality and habitat health, and be more resilient to natural disasters and stressors of a changing climate. EWEB and partners will continue by working on Quartz Creek, restoring natural ecosystem functions that will filter sediments to protect the McKenzie. 

October

Over 270 fifth graders competed in EWEB’s annual Public Power Week poster contest. In addition to the contest, EWEB engages with local schools by providing $500,000 in grants for education programs. The grants enable schools to provide hands-on curricula around how water quality affects salmon, how different energy sources can power our lives, and how we can reduce waste and conserve resources. Also in October, EWEB’s Board voted to adopt a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion policy after several months of work and refinement.  

November

This year was the 17th anniversary of the Run to Stay Warm. This annual event donates a portion of all registrations to EWEB’s Energy Share Program, which helps customers struggling to pay their utility bill. This year more than 1500 people participated in the fundraiser 5k/10k/half marathon!. We'd like to give a big thank you to everyone who came out to support neighbors in need this winter season. 

December

By year-end, we will have contributed around $13 million to the Cities of Eugene and Springfield General Funds to help pay for services such as police, fire, and parks, invested more than $2 million to help customers save energy and money by upgrading things like windows, insulation, water heaters, and heating units, and delivered approximately $1.5 million in bill assistance to limited income customers. We also enhanced our efficiency incentive programs by adding Smart Thermostat and Smart Sprinkler rebates.