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Reenergized McKenzie River Valley transmission lines allow EWEB crews to restore power upriver

January 19, 2024 Aaron Orlowski, EWEB Communications

A majority of EWEB crews traveled up the McKenzie River Valley first thing Friday to restore power for customers, some of whom have been without power for days.

On Thursday, the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) reenergized power lines the federal agency owns in the McKenzie Valley. That progress allowed EWEB crews on Thursday to restore power to the customer-owned utility’s Holden Substation, which feeds customers from approximately the town of Walterville to Vida. And that restoration, in turn, allowed Friday’s effort in McKenzie Valley to repair and restore EWEB customers’ power. 

“With BPA’s lines energized, we’re able to make a dedicated push into the McKenzie Valley to restore power for our customers there, who have been patient as we get the system online,” said EWEB electric operations manager Tyler Nice. “A majority of our crews are dedicated to the effort upriver today and with BPA’s transmission system up we have a clear path to restoration for circuits and customers that did not suffer extreme damage. Now it is a matter of grinding through the work with full horsepower.”

In anticipation of Friday’s big push to begin restoring power upriver, EWEB crews and support staff spent Thursday conducting assessments to ensure that crews had what they needed to start getting the power back on Friday as a first priority. Crews focused their restoration efforts in the Deerhorn, Thurston, Camp Creek, and Walterville areas. 

“We have been grateful for these customers' patience as they are some of those hit the hardest as they rely on power for well water, agriculture and livestock. They also have less access to amenities such as fuel and food, since the entire towns of Leaburg, Walterville and Vida have been out,” Nice added. “We have appreciated BPA’s coordination and partnership as they have worked hard to restore these important lines as soon as possible. The partnership helped us respond without delay after energization.”

Richard Shaheen, BPA senior vice president of Transmission Services, added, “Our crews stepped up and answered the call. Transmission linemen traveled from across the Northwest to Eugene to help our local line crew with repairs.”

On Thursday, EWEB estimated that crews would complete power system restoration within one week. A large majority of customers are likely to see their power restored far sooner than one week, but some customers may still be without power for up to a week. And a small number of customers in areas with difficult repairs and severe damage, such as more remote areas upriver, should prepare for more than a week before EWEB can restore power.

EWEB has been grappling with outages caused by the ice storm since Saturday, when all crews started working 16-hour shifts. On Tuesday night, however, a second round of ice coupled with the immediate thaw erased nearly all the utility’s progress restoring power. Outages peaked on Wednesday morning at 24,000.

Since then, EWEB crews have made rapid progress. On Wednesday, crews restored power for 10,000 customers and on Thursday crews restored power for another 6,000 customers. Sporadic falling tree limbs since Wednesday have caused scattered additional outages. As of Friday mid-day, about 7,600 customers remained without power.

In the days ahead, the pace of restoration numbers will slow, even though all crews will still be fully dedicated to the effort. That’s because EWEB repairs the largest equipment that serves the most customers first, then moves on to smaller equipment serving clusters of homes. Repairs to small equipment often takes just as long as repairs to large equipment. 

Customers can check EWEB’s outage map for more details: eweb.org/outagemap