EWEB powerhouse rebuild will close public access to Trail Bridge, Lakes End campgrounds and Smith Reservoir for five years

Beginning March 27, and continuing for the next five years, EWEB will launch a project to retrofit, refurbish and upgrade equipment at the Carmen-Smith Hydroelectric facility.

In order complete the project safely, EWEB will close public access to Trail Bridge and Lakes End campgrounds, the Trail Bridge Reservoir boat launch and Smith Reservoir. In addition to the campground, reservoir and boat launch closures, Forest Service Roads 690, 730, and 689 will be closed to all public use during the reconstruction project. Trail Bridge and Smith reservoirs are popular fishing spots.

The five-year closure – through 2021 – is necessary because it is not possible to maintain safe public access through or around the construction areas. See attached closure map for more information.

“It’s unfortunate that we have to close the road during this long-term construction project,” said Mike McCann, EWEB’s generation manager. “But with an active construction zone at the Powerhouse, this is the only way to guarantee public safety and the safety of our staff and contractors.”

The McKenzie River Trail and associated trailheads will remain open throughout the reconstruction period. However, in the vicinity of Trail Bridge Reservoir, trail users will be restricted to the McKenzie River Trail.

In order to provide for visitor safety, access to Trail Bridge Reservoir will be blocked by fencing. Fishing in Trail Bridge Reservoir will be allowed via pedestrian access over the dam located on the south side of the reservoir and along the banks of the reservoir adjacent to Highway 126.

In addition to modernizing and replacing equipment at the Carmen Powerhouse and elsewhere throughout the hydroelectric generation project, we will also make significant improvements to fish passage facilities and habitat, and upgrade Trail Bridge and Lakes End campgrounds. The utility expects to invest approximately $100 million modernizing the project and making the habitat and recreation improvements.

For more information, visit www.eweb.org/carmen-smith.

EWEB and SUB Boards affirm shared interests for Eugene-Springfield communities

Commissioners from both utilities met on March 21 for the first time in decades.

The meeting was an opportunity for EWEB and Springfield Utility Board to discuss main strategic issues for the next two to three years, to acknowledge areas where we currently collaborate successfully, and to surface opportunities for future partnerships. Although there’s a good deal of staff interaction, the governing bodies of the water and electric utilities rarely communicate on issues of mutual concern, such as infrastructure, legislation and economic development.

“This meeting was a significant event,” said GM Frank Lawson. “It was an opportunity to get the boards together to compare notes, get to know each other, and ‘bless’ the idea the we can talk to our neighbors across the river, and take advantage of opportunities to work together.”

Like EWEB, SUB is a community-owned water and power utility with a five-member elected board of commissioners. SUB serves about 31,000 electric customers and 20,000 water customers (compared to EWEB’s 80,000 and 50,000 respectively). SUB does not own any generation resources; they buy all their power from Bonneville Power Administration (BPA). Another key difference—at least for now—is our water supplies. SUB has a diversified supply but is running into capacity constraints. EWEB currently has just one drinking water source but has treatment capacity at Hayden Bridge Filtration plant. By 2022, we also will draw water from the Willamette River, just upstream from Eugene and Springfield, near the confluence of the coast and middle forks of the Willamette.

Water is a key issue of mutual interest for the two utilities in terms of regional disaster readiness. Members of both Boards acknowledged that upcoming water capital projects such as EWEB’s new water filtration plant can have mutual benefits to both communities. But first, the Board’s need to have a foundation of a relationship and trust-building so new partnerships can emerge.

At the close of Tuesday’s meeting, each board member was asked to identify their sense of highest priority moving forward. Here’s a few issues that rose to the surface:

· Joining forces in state and federal lobbying to increase the effectiveness of our efforts
· Continuing discussions on how to work together on resiliency and disaster preparedness projects
· Establishing a common approach with BPA, particularly in the light of rising power costs
· Conducting due diligence as we consider major capital projects to test if a collaborate approach is possible, looking for metro-wide benefits
· Acknowledging our common interests and establishing a shared agenda for water resource planning

The Boards did not establish specific next steps, but there seemed to be interest in reconvening in the fall to debrief the 2017 legislative session and plan other activities of mutual interest.

Downtown fiber project connects our community’s past with our future

More than 60 years ago, EWEB planners and engineers were preparing the community for high-speed fiber optic internet.

EWEB crews install the downtown electric network (underground), circa late 1950s.

In the late 1950s, Elvis Presley appeared on the Ed Sullivan show for the first time, Dwight D. Eisenhower was re-elected president, and EWEB crews laid the groundwork for Eugene’s world-class gigabit internet.

At a time when color television was the hot new technology, “streaming media” wasn’t even a concept yet and a “bit” was half the cost for a shave and a haircut. Back then, EWEB was investing in a modernization project to move downtown Eugene’s electric distribution system underground. Crews installed conduit beneath the city streets to house electrical wiring, and with a characteristic eye toward the future, included an extra conduit marked, “communication.”

Today, that conduit is being used to connect downtown businesses to world-class, affordable high-speed internet. The 10-gigabit internet service is the largest publicly-owned, open-access fiber optic network in Oregon.

With funding from the City of Eugene, and support from Lane Council of Governments (LCOG) and the Technology Association of Oregon (TAO), EWEB in 2016 installed high speed fiber from the Willamette Internet Exchange (WIX) to five downtown buildings via our underground electric conduits. Using existing infrastructure—installed by those EWEB crews more than 60 years ago—saved millions of dollars in construction costs by not having to tear up the streets for new utility trenches.

EWEB crews in 2016 installed fiber optic cable in existing conduit.

At a ceremony in Eugene’s first high-rise, the Miner Building, General Manager Frank Lawson and Eugene Mayor Lucy Vinis on last week connected two halves of a fiber optic cable, illuminating the cable and officially kicking off a construction project that will make the network available to businesses in 120 buildings downtown.

Here’s Frank speaking to a packed house at the lighting ceremony on March 21.

Watch video

The fiber network will be constructed by EWEB, the city and Lane Council of Governments, and will be owned by the public. Private Internet Service Providers (ISPs) will lease the fiber strands from EWEB and then provide services to individual businesses.

This unique ‘open-access’ model of public ownership partnered with private ISPs helped Eugene earlier this month earn the title of Gigabit City by the nonprofit Mozilla Foundation. Eugene joins Austin, Kansas City, and Chattanooga in this prestigious distinction. In addition to the national recognition, the honor comes with $150,000 of grant funding for local initiatives that increase participation in technology innovation.

Nick Nevins and Mel Damewood (Engineering and Operations) at the fiber lighting ceremony in Eugene’s historic Miner Building.

“As a citizen-owned utility, EWEB has a long history of investing in the community,” says Frank Lawson. “Sixty years ago, EWEB planners installed infrastructure that would eventually enable technology those early planners hadn’t even dreamed of. The fiber project is great reminder that decisions we make today will affect our community for generations to come.”

Technology has changed drastically since those crews placed an empty “communications” conduit beneath the city streets. But EWEB still operates with an eye to the future. Today, modernization projects like our new drinking water filtration plant on the Willamette River will benefit Eugene residents for decades into the future. The new plant, expected to come on-line in 2022, will be built to current seismic standards to increase our community’s resilience during emergencies.

Construction on downtown Eugene’s high-speed fiber internet will begin later this year.

Mozilla picks Eugene as their next Gigabit City

Eugene joins Austin, Kansas City, and Chattanooga in this prestigious distinction. In addition to the national recognition, the honor also comes with $150,000 of grant funding for local initiatives that increase participation in technology innovation.

Eugene’s unique approach to bringing world-class gigabit internet to the region stood out among the competition. Community partners including EWEB, city of Eugene, the Lane Council of Governments and the Technology Association of Oregon, for years have worked collaboratively to create an environment that supports high growth tech companies and jobs.

EWEB’s primary role included construction of a publicly-owned high-speed fiber network that connects about 120 downtown Eugene buildings to world-class internet.

This economic development project builds on the success of a two-year pilot, which brought fiber to seven downtown buildings. EWEB crews installed high speed fiber from the WIX (Willamette Internet Exchange) to five downtown buildings via our underground electric conduits. Using existing infrastructure saved millions of dollars in construction costs by not having to tear up the streets for a new utility trench. The pilot demonstrated the benefits of the publicly owned fiber network, partnered with private providers.

Downtown businesses are now able to choose from several internet service providers (ISPs), which are offering faster speeds at significantly lower prices than before the pilot in downtown Eugene.

Eugene’s Mayor, Lucy Vinis, noted “The City of Eugene has a long history of innovation. We are the birthplace of Nike, the home of a world-class university and the heart of the region’s tech and creative sector, known as the Silicon Shire. With Mozilla’s partnership and our emerging gigabit infrastructure, we look forward to ushering in our next generation of entrepreneurs, innovators, artists, and educators. We are excited to make new connections with other Mozilla Gigabit cities across the nation and to share our successes with the world”.

Mozilla — the nonprofit behind the Firefox web browser — believes the Internet should be a global public resource that is open and accessible to all. Eugene, along with Lafayette, Louisiana, was selected from 48 cities across the country that applied. Eugene’s supportive startup ecosystem, collaborative tech community, and unique approach to bringing world-class gigabit internet to the region stood out among the competition.

Eugene’s technology sector continues to gain recognition nationally, including being named ‘Top 10 Up-and-Coming Cities for Tech Jobs’ in the nation by ZipRecruiter in 2015.

On March 21, from 5 to 7:30 p.m., the public is invited to attend a Fiber Project Launch Celebration, at 132 E. Broadway.

This event will include demonstrations of 10 Gigabit internet access, from internet service provider XS Media, utilizing the ‘open access’ fiber network. The event will also be an opportunity for the community to celebrate this milestone, downtown building owners to learn more about getting connected, and tech enthusiasts to get hands on with 10 Gigabit internet access. Tickets can be purchased for $20 in advance at http://techoregon.org Ticket proceeds will benefit Springfield Education Foundation and Looking Glass Community Services.

Community Connections

Community Connections is where we feature opportunities for employees and retirees to get involved in volunteer projects, fundraisers, gatherings, and good-cause projects happening around the community.

Earth Day river cleanup and beer tasting, April 22

Earth Day is coming up on April 22, and EWEB has partnered with several organizations to participate in a river cleanup event and post cleanup beer tasting where EWEB will be hosting a table. We are looking for volunteers!

The Oregon Brewshed Alliance (OBA) believes that, “Great Beer Begins with Clean Water.” OBA has officially adopted a stretch of the Middle Fork Willamette River from Clearwater Park to Dorris Ranch Park–just upstream from EWEB’s new Willamette River drinking water intake site.

They are organizing a cleanup event starting at Clearwater Park in Springfield from 9-11 a.m. on Saturday, April 22. We think it would be great to have our own EWEB team sign up for a segment of the river.

In addition, OBA is hosting a fun tasting event Sprout! in downtown Springfield from 2-9 p.m. The Brewshed Alliance seeks to connect the beer-drinking public with advocating for the protection and restoration of watersheds. EWEB would like to host an informational table at Sprout! to help raise awareness of groups in the area who help protect and restore watersheds from 2-6 p.m.

If you are interested in either the cleanup or helping host an EWEB table on Earth Day (Saturday, April 22), contact Jen Connors in Communications, 541-685-7342.

Volunteer opportunity: EWEB Night at Food for Lane County, March 29

Join us for fun, friendship, family and fighting hunger in our community. Wednesday, March 29 from 6-9 p.m. Contact Amanda Lane in Customer Service to sign-up, 541-685-7059.

Find Board meeting agendas and more on eweb.org

With the transition to the new and improved eweb.org, we have decided to maintain a revolving five years of historical board documents on the web.

Have you seen the new Board of Commissioners’ page on eweb.org? If not, now’s a great time to check it out!


The new site has information about Board meetings, Commissioner profiles, by-laws, policies, and more.

We are currently in the process of rebuilding the portion of the site that contains agendas and minutes from the last five years. Meanwhile, community members may obtain historical board records by calling Holly Shugart in the General Manager’s office, 541-685-7108.

Annual report highlights community giving and service

The second annual Community Investment Report is a reflection back on some of the important programs the utility, and our employees, were involved in during 2016.

EWEB’s Community Investment Program includes mandated investments, fundraising activities, employee volunteerism, community service projects, events, sponsorships and donations.

EWEB invested more than $16.4 million back into the community in 2016. The vast majority of that investment is either mandated (by our charter, FERC license agreements, etc.), or Board-directed. A small annual budget is allocated for “discretionary” giving with guidelines to ensure consistency and transparency for how we invest our customers’ dollars for the betterment and well-being of the community we serve.

There were many opportunities for employees and retirees to get involved last year. EWEBers answered the call to help with Food for Lane County, Run to Stay Warm, McKenzie River Clean Up, Butte to Butte, Day of Caring, Power Readers, and many more events.

The goal of this report is to summarize and highlight the outstanding work we do to improve the quality of life in the community by supporting schools, helping people regain stability in times of hardship, protecting drinking water, promoting energy efficiency and renewable energy, encouraging personal emergency preparedness, and more.

We do this work because, as a customer-owned utility, our role in the community is more than a provider of water and electricity. We are committed to strengthening the community and enhancing the quality of life for the people we serve.

View the 2016 Community Investment Report.

Signing up for the Eugene Marathon? Want to join TEAM EWEB?

With the Eugene Marathon around the corner, if you plan on participating in the half or full race by using the EWEB Discount: CWC17EWEB you can receive $10 off your participating fee.

Signing up as a member of TEAM EWEB through the discount code, it helps EWEB earn points for the Corporate Wellness Challenge.

Corporate Wellness Challenge

If you’re interested in joining an EWEB team for the marathon, half-marathon or 5K, contact Taryn Johnson in Human Resources at 541-685-7328 for more information.

Understanding estimated reads, cold weather & high electric bills

Due to the December ice storm and the snow we had in January, meter readers were not able to complete all of their regular routes to read meters. In addition, several days of freezing and below-freezing temperatures in December and January caused electric heaters to work harder than usual. As a result, many customers are experiencing very high bills, and looking to EWEB for answers.

Here is some information that might be helpful to EWEB customers. Customer Service and Communications staff developed these messages for our conversations with customers in the lobby and over the phone, as well as for our social media and traditional media communications. We have also provided a hand-out version of this information in the lobby.

I kept my thermostat set at the same temperature, so why is my bill higher?

When temperatures drop to freezing or below, heating systems have to work much harder, resulting in higher electric usage. Even if you keep your thermostat at 68 degrees all year, you may see your electric bill increase dramatically after just a few days of freezing weather.

The average temperature in Eugene between Dec. 15 and Jan. 31 was 34 degrees. There were more than 20 days during that time period when temperatures plummeted below freezing. According to the National Weather Service in Portland, the 39-degree average temperature in the Eugene area for Dec. 21-Feb. 21 was the coldest since 1984. Many heat pumps turn to backup electric resistance heating in such extreme cold in order to maintain warm temperatures indoors, and these systems can use up to three times as much electricity on the coldest days.

In addition, the increased electric usage during extremely cold weather can move you into a higher energy price category. Current prices are 5.948 cents per kilowatt hour for the first 800 kWh, and 7.435 cents above 800 kWh. We did not increase electric prices in 2017, but the combination of extreme cold temperatures, heating systems having to work harder in general to keep up with the cold, and the possibility of being moved up into the higher usage category could all be reasons for your higher-than-average bill.

If you think your insulation isn’t good enough or your heating system is outdated, remember that EWEB offers free home energy audits, no-cost and low-cost energy-saving tips, rebates and zero-interest loans to help customers upgrade to more energy-efficient equipment. Just visit eweb.org for more information and an online program application.

Why does EWEB sometimes estimate customers’ bills?

Meter readers can’t always complete their scheduled routes due to weather conditions, including the December 2016 ice storm and the heavy snowfall in January 2017, which caused safety issues, made driving difficult and/or created time constraints. Fallen branches and frozen water meter lids may have blocked access to a meter, for example.

Are estimated bills higher than actual bills? If so, why?

Some could be, but in general, estimates tend to be lower than actual usage. The estimates are based on historical usage at the address, so multiple factors would contribute to bills being higher or lower due to an estimated meter reading.

These estimates are calculated by looking at the prior month and the same and prior months last year. For example, estimated usage/consumption for some December 2016 bills was calculated by looking at November 2016, December 2015 and November 2015 actual bills at those addresses.

So, if anything had changed between then and now, and if outside temps were very different this year compared with last year, the estimates will be skewed. As it turns out, electric usage indeed was higher overall this year: average electric usage/consumption in Jan. 2017 was about 371 average megawatts for all EWEB customers. By comparison, in January 2016, our electric load was 323 aMW.

In addition, a customer who may have received an estimated bill this winter may also have received an estimated bill for the same month in the previous year.

How many customers received estimated bills so far this winter?

There were estimated December bills issued to customers on 37 meter reading routes and to customers on 76 routes in January due to ice and snow events in those months. In addition, there were some other meter reading routes that were only partially completed for safety reasons; so, some reads were estimated, but not all. Overall, thousands of customer bills had to be estimated in those two months.

How will EWEB reconcile or “true up” the difference between estimated and actual meter readings on customers’ bills?

Your meter reading is a cumulative, ongoing total of the amount of electricity or water consumed at your residence, similar to how an odometer shows total miles driven in a car. The true-up occurs the next time the meter is read and the customer gets a bill reflecting the latest actual meter reading.

How long will that take?

Most likely just one bill cycle, barring any extreme weather events. The bill cycles that were estimated in January were not the same cycles as the ones that were estimated in December.

Will EWEB notify customers they are receiving estimated bills?

Yes. If your usage/consumption was estimated, you will see the word “estimated” after the meter read on your bill.

Will EWEB work with customers who received higher than normal bills that were estimated?

Yes. Please call EWEB at 541-685-7000 to discuss your situation with a Customer Service representative. We will gladly make arrangements on a case-by-case basis.

We also offer a Budget Billing Program to help balance out the seasonal high and low bills by making the monthly payments more predictable throughout the year. The program allows us to estimate an average payment based on the previous 12 months of actual usage. The open enrollment period begins after you receive your April bill and continues through the end of June.

If you’re struggling to pay your whole utility bill on time, please call us or visit our office. We offer programs to assist customers on a limited income, military households and for those who’ve recently lost their jobs.

Our Customer Care program offers up to $200 to help you pay your bill if you qualify. Help is based on your household income and the size of your household. To apply for the Customer Care program, call the appropriate agency listed below to leave your name and phone number. You will receive a return call when the agency has an appointment available. 

Customers 60 years and older may call Campbell Senior Center at 541-682-5354 

East Springfield and upriver customers may call Catholic Community Services of Springfield at 541-747-8349 

All other customers may call Catholic Community Services of Eugene at 541-345-3642.

Feel free also to direct customers to the new eweb.org Newsroom for information and assistance: http://www.eweb.org/about-us/news.

Water Reliability Team invites you to a habitat enhancement work party

Many hours of volunteer time over the last 40 years have enhanced habitat just upstream of EWEB’s new intake site in the Willamette Confluence Area. Past projects have improved water quality that will benefit our customers when we deliver water from this new source.

There is more work to be done.

Last summer a landowner just upstream of our intake site improved connectivity to ponds and back channels on their land. This winter they are seeking volunteers to help replant riparian forest habitat and continue to clear invasive plants.

Healthy riparian forest shades and cools water which mitigates algae conditions. Planted shoreline naturally filters sediment which reduces turbidity and suspended heavy metals. Connected ponds and back channels provide allow soil particles to settle out before they reach the intake. This restored area will help out the new water filtration plant.

You are invited to join in the fun, rain or shine!

Work party is sponsored by Friends of Buford Park & Mount Pisgah. Saturday, March 11 from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. Contact jennifer.connors@eweb.org for more information and to sign-up.