Nine days without power: My ice storm story as an EWEB customer and employee
While beautiful and peaceful, buying a home on the edge of the forest and surrounded by trees has its tradeoffs. Moving “upriver,” I knew there would be more threats to prepare for, including Mother Nature’s seasonal surprises.Find Out More
EWEB achieves power restoration milestone over the weekend
Crews have so far restored power for 92% of customers who originally lost power at the height of the ice storm.Find Out More
Reenergized McKenzie River Valley transmission lines allow EWEB crews to restore power upriver
On Friday, a majority of EWEB crews tackled power restoration efforts upriver, after federally managed transmission lines were reenergized Thursday.Find Out More
EWEB estimates one week to complete power system restoration
On Wednesday, EWEB crews restored power for about 10,000 customers by repairing large equipment first.Find Out More
Second round of ice and ensuing thaw prompt mass power outages
On Wednesday, all EWEB crews, who have been working nonstop since Saturday, traversed EWEB’s service territory assessing the damage and restoring transmission lines and main power feeders.Find Out More
Power restored at EWEB’s water treatment plant
Crews restored electric power at EWEB's Hayden Bridge Water Filtration Plant Monday evening, allowing operators to switch off the generators and rely again on the grid. Meanwhile, EWEB crews brace for additional outages amidst second round of ice and during the coming thaw.Find Out More
EWEB crews making downed lines safe and restoring power across Eugene and the foothills
As EWEB works to restore electric service to customers affected by the ice storm, the customer-owned utility is following established policies and its “hierarchy of repair” to prioritize repairs that restore electric service to the greatest number of customers.Find Out More
Leaburg Decommissioning Action Plan
Plan details next steps through regulatory processes to begin dismantling Leaburg Dam by 2032.Find Out More
What’s ahead in 2024: General manager’s message to EWEB customer-owners
At the start of the new year, we back at accomplishments from 2023 and look ahead at what's to come in 2024.Find Out More
Start the New Year saving money with energy saving tips
We know that saving money is important to our customers. Using energy and water wisely is a great way to reduce your monthly utility bill, even as the costs of electricity and water rise. EWEB has several steps you can take to reduce your usage and even make your home feel more comfortable.Find Out More
Currin Substation: End of year update
EWEB Engineer Philip Peterson explains what's been happening in the final stretch to complete the substation rebuild.Find Out More
EWEB 2023 year in review
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.Find Out More
EWEB Recognized with Excellence in Communications Awards from American Public Power Association
We are proud to have been recognized with two Excellence in Public Power Communications Awards for 2023 from the American Public Power Association (APPA).Find Out More
Let's talk turkey. If a disaster strikes, is your family ready?
Many of us avoid discussing politics over the dinner table in the spirit of family peace and harmony. But here's a topic that can bring everyone together: emergency preparedness.Find Out More
EWEB To Hold First of Two Public Hearings on Proposed 2024 Budget and Prices
At the Nov. 7 Board of Commissioners meeting, EWEB staff will present a proposed budget that includes rate increases necessary to support utility operations and make needed infrastructure investments.Find Out More
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Women in STEM: Meet the technician who manages EWEB's communication system
March 30, 2023 • Rachael McDonald, EWEB Communications
As a utility, EWEB is known for providing water and electricity to Eugene residents. But EWEB also operates the largest publicly owned open-access fiber network in Oregon.
The infrastructure of underground fiber that connects high-speed internet in downtown Eugene needs to be maintained. Gretchen Lowen is the engineering technician who oversees changes or additions to EWEB’s fiber system.
“I'm responsible for the fiber system, which includes communications for substation relays. It includes communications for our computer system, our internet, phones,” Lowen said. “And then we also have circuits at are for our public partners, the City of Eugene, the school districts. They send all their communication traffic on our fiber as well.”
In 1999, EWEB constructed 70 miles of fiber, initially to connect 25 metro-area substations. It has now grown to more than 195 miles of fiber optic cable. EWEB is also manages EUGNet, the downtown fiber network constructed through a partnership with the City of Eugene, Technology Association of Oregon, and the Lane Council of Governments which connects downtown businesses to affordable high-speed internet. The fiber system was installed between 2014 and 2019 in EWEB’s underground vault system, which was built in the 1950s with an eye toward future communication needs. EWEB’s Water, Generation, Information Systems as well as the City of Eugene, Lane County, ODOT, the University of Oregon, local school districts and multiple commercial customers use EWEB’s fiber.
One of Lowen’s current projects is moving EWEB’s Network Operations Communications Center (NOCC) out of the former Headquarters building downtown since the City of Eugene is moving into the building after purchasing it from EWEB earlier this year. That equipment is moving to the Willamette Substation near downtown. Lowen described rerouting these connections as working a huge puzzle.
“So, what I do is I go in. This is my puzzling,” Lowen said as she clicked on a map of the fiber network on her computer. “I go in and I say I need to go in this direction from say this vault, well here I have this strand available on this cable. But now, I’m looking at what do I have available on this cable.”
Lowen works with a number of software tools, including EWEB’s GIS (Geographic Information System), spreadsheets, and a program called autoCAD, to design and map the fiber network.
“It’s got a huge scope and I'm learning all the time,” said Lowen. “And that's the beauty of working for this organization is that you always have opportunity to grow and learn.”
Lowen is also a people person. She’s on EWEB’s Diversity Team, which meets monthly to discuss diversity, equity, and inclusion. It also organizes activities, like a recent movie screening and discussion. She encouraged a team member grappling with feeling helpless about working for change to go from “I can’t,” to “How can I?”
“Somebody said, well, I'm only here. I could never,” Lowen said. “And I'm like, oh, that's not the way you have to think. You have to say, I can do and just do it.”
Lowen says that’s the attitude she brings to her life and career, and it’s been encouraged at EWEB.
“That's what I like about this organization is if you decide you can, you can. It doesn't mean it's easy,” said Lowen.
Lowen grew up in Hawaii and came to Oregon for school, starting at Lane Community College and then transferring to the University of Oregon.
“In school I was going to be a doctor because I love science,” said Lowen. "Then, I couldn't afford to continue going to school. So, I worked in the restaurant industry for years and I loved that industry as well.”
Lowen got married and had children and was able to not work full time while raising her kids. Once her kids were older, she came back to full time work. Her first job at EWEB was in Human Resources, where she started over 15 years ago. She then worked as an Admin Assistant and as a Distribution Engineering Tech.
“I spent ten years in distribution engineering. So, I learned a lot about our electric distribution system. So, anything between the substation to the meter.”
Then, at a suggestion from her co-worker, she applied for her current position as an engineering technician managing EWEB’s fiber optics network.
Lowen prepares construction designs, including materials needed, contracts, labor, equipment, and permits. She solves technical problems, assists in cost analyses of utility projects, performs field inspections and makes sure the project goals are achieved within budget.
The job requires technical skills such as drafting and surveying, as well as interacting with customers, meeting deadlines, and working both independently and within a team.
Lowen said she feels fortunate to have been happy at a variety of jobs. She encourages people to not limit their options when thinking about a career.
“But I tell you, the thing that I really love most about this job is the connection with my customers and my community,” said Lowen. “Any time I can interact with people, I like that. That's my deal.”