Board directs staff to postpone Willamette filtration plant and pursue emergency water supply program

The emergency water supply program would include several permanent distribution sites located throughout the community using groundwater wells, as well as mobile water trailers.

Management received clear direction from the board at last week’s meeting: when it comes to disaster planning and recovery, EWEB’s first priority should be emergency water distribution. The guidance represents a change of course for the utility, at least in the short term, as plans to build a water filtration plant on the Willamette River will now be put on hold.

After receiving a water permit on the Willamette River, the water utility has been moving ahead with plans to construct a second filtration plant in case a natural or human-caused disaster compromises our water source or Hayden Bridge filtration plant operation. The board adopted a three percent water rate increase in 2014 for projects related to a second water source. In 2015, commissioners approved an updated Water Master Plan that included a filtration plant on the Willamette, and since then the water utility has purchased land for both the intake and the plant and completed much of the preliminary design for the plant, with the goal of beginning construction in 2019 and having the plant up and running by 2022.

However, the board began signaling concerns about the new filtration plant at a strategic planning work session in May 2017. Commissioners are cautious about a single, large investment that may or may not be capable of delivering water to our community following a major disaster such as a Cascadia Subduction Zone Earthquake.

Last week, the board gave staff a green light to redirect efforts toward a diverse, less expensive, and more expeditious solution.

An emergency water supply program would focus on developing our capabilities to deliver water at a number of permanent distribution sites designated as Community Points of Distribution (CPOD). These CPODs were identified by the county as the locations where emergency resources including food, medical aid and shelter would be available following a disaster.

The water would come from existing or new wells—a handful of schools, including Sheldon and North Eugene already have existing wells and others have pending water rights for wells. Each distribution site would be configured as a joint water and electric facility with the following infrastructure:

•An existing, new, or refurbished well
•A water treatment system
•A standby generator systemA microgrid system to provide reliable standby power
•A building to house piping and equipment

This solution would supplement other emergency supply efforts already underway, including:

•Portable treatment trailer – We have purchased the components and plan to start construction on a treatment trailer later this year.
•Water distribution trailers – We currently have three trailers than can be hooked up to a functioning, pressurized potable water supply and deliver water from 100 nozzles.
•Delivered water – We currently have one 500-gallon and two 2,000-gallon blivets (a collapsible rubber bladder used to transport liquids) ready for deployment.

Commissioners directed staff to work with school districts, public agencies, other utilities and perhaps private industry to identify ground wells and other potential water sources, and indicated a sense of urgency to develop an emergency water supply program as soon as possible.

“Thousands of lives depend on our ability to deliver drinking water in short-order following a disaster,” said Commissioner John Brown.

While commissioners indicated continued interest in a second filtration plant on the Willamette at some point in the future, they instructed staff to postpone planning and funding for that work at this time. Last month, the Board directed staff to move forward with planning a 2018 budget that assumes the utility will rescind the three percent water rate increase that took effect in 2015.

“I think we need a better sense for what we’re trying to mitigate with a new plant,” said Commissioner Dick Helgeson. “There are lots of scenarios—fire in the watershed, hazardous spills, breaking of transmission lines—and the solutions can vary depending on our assessment of those individual risks.”

Commissioners seem to be open to postponing construction on the plant for anywhere from three to 10 years, and also indicated willingness to consider a smaller, scaled-back plant that could be designed to operate only in a disaster situation.

Staff committed to bring back a matrix of risks and strategies for future discussion with the board, which will be used to determine the timing, size and funding for a future Willamette filtration plant.

Postponing the second plant also will give staff additional time to explore potential partnerships with other utilities or agencies on a second plant. General Manager Frank Lawson indicated he has already begun discussions with Springfield Utility Board about jointly developing a water treatment plant, with the next step being a feasibility analysis.

“There are roles the Willamette plant will play with respect to disaster recovery and other scenarios, but we have heard feedback from the board that we need to focus on life safety and show progress and results at a faster pace,” said Frank. “Through partnerships with schools and other utilities, we can implement an alternative water source and a water reliability plan in a way that gives us the most flexibility and the quickest results.”

Community Connections

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

Volunteer opportunity: EWEB Night at Food for Lane County, July 26
Join us for fun, friendship, family and fighting hunger in our community. Wednesday, July 26 from 6-9 p.m. Contact, Customer Service, to sign-up.

MEN OF EWEB – Your Life Experience, Guidance, and Wisdom are Greatly Needed
There are many male youths in our community without father figures in their lives that are very much in need of positive guidance and attention from responsible, caring adult men. A Family for Every Child’s mentor program helps identify such adults in our community who can cultivate meaningful and consistent relationships with youth who are in foster care and/or who are at-risk. While both male and female mentors are needed to help these children realize their goals and dreams, there is a significant shortage of male mentors for the program. There is a waiting list for male youth eagerly awaiting the day they are matched up with a male mentor and the timeframe for such a match is usually about 6 to 8 months long.

EWEB is an organization that hires many of the best and brightest in our community. Have you ever wondered how you can contribute back in appreciation for your own good fortune and success? Have you ever experienced the fulfillment of making a powerful difference in a child’s life? Contact in Risk Management for information.

American Water Works Association Pacific Northwest Chapter Annual Golf Scramble – July 27 from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.
The event takes place at RiverRidge Golf Course in Eugene. Cost is $65 and all proceeds benefit the local AWWA subsection. More information at

Water for People Cascade to Coast Chapter 9th Annual Wine for Water Event – July 27 from 6-9 p.m.
This fun event at Sweet Cheeks Winery features a silent auction, live music, wine and craft beer tasting, a presentation, appetizers and a local food cart for additional food options. Event profits go to Water For People, a non-profit organization that helps support the development of locally sustainable drinking water resources, sanitation facilities, and hygiene education programs in developing countries. More information at

GM, Board close to finalizing 10-year plan for EWEB

At the July 11 board meeting, commissioners endorsed General Manager Frank Lawson’s draft strategic plan, and provided guidance to staff for developing the 2018 budget.

Commissioners suggested some minor modifications to the draft strategic plan, and commended the GM for creating a document that is simple and consistent with the Board’s direction and views on where EWEB should be heading. In the plan, Frank defines the two most critical issues facing the utility in the next decade and outlines a high-level, three-phase roadmap for the next 10-12 years.

“Over the last year, I’ve been listening to issues the board has brought forward, working with staff in a variety of areas, and all of that has been building into this plan.” said Frank. “The document will help staff focus our work, and will provide a basis for the board to evaluate decisions moving forward.”

The most significant decisions confronting EWEB in the next decade–what Frank refers to the two “Big Ones”–involve, (1) our electric resource portfolio, including the renewal, replacement or termination of major electric generating resource contracts, and (2) emergency preparedness/disaster recovery efforts for both water and electric.

“Defining the issues is only part of the work,” Frank said. “There are things we have to do to position ourselves over time, and build toward addressing these issues.”

To that end, the draft strategic plan defines a sequence of efforts that move EWEB toward what Frank describes as a “resilient delivery” business model. “Our future success depends on our ability to synchronize power and water resources with changing customer needs under a variety of conditions, including emergencies and natural disasters,” he said.

The three strategic phases are defined as:

1.Foster customer confidence through focused performance, especially related to costs and service responsiveness
2.Create consumption flexibility through smart infrastructure investments, and by enlisting customer involvement in specific programs and services
3.Create a more resilient grid and water network to better synchronize supply and demand

For the next 3-5 years, the focus will be on the first two phases, particularly efforts to foster customer confidence.

“We need customers to help us understand and potentially adjust consumption patterns in the future,” Frank said. “Widespread customer trust is essential.”

A critical piece of building that widespread trust is cost improvement.

“We need to deliver our products safely and reliably, and for a cost that’s affordable and aligned with what our customer-owners expect,” said Frank.

As staff begins the annual budget process, initial indications are that 2018 will be another step in that direction.

At the July 11 meeting, staff presented and commissioners supported, a set of financial assumptions that will allow the utility to begin building a 2018 budget that includes no overall average electric price increase, a dividend to electric customers, and a 3 percent water decrease.

Commissioners were enthusiastic about the possibility of stable or decreasing prices next year. Commissioner Mital applauded, saying “It’s kind of an amazing thing that we’re talking about a $5 million dividend to customers.”

If approved, commissioners will provide direction on the dividend amount and how it will be distributed among our approximately 83,000 residential customers.

Discussions will continue over the next several months, and will include opportunities for public input. Commissioners will approve the final budget in December, and price changes will take effect in February 2018.

In addition to the budget process, there are several big questions for the GM, staff and commissioners to tackle during the next several weeks and months, including:

•What is the future of our efforts to develop alternative water sources?
•What community programs will EWEB offer and how will those programs be structured and funded?
•Should the utility consider alternative implementation strategies for the Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) project that could be more affordable and efficient?
•How do results from the Early Voluntary Retirement Incentive (EVRI) affect the workforce transition plan and what are the next steps?

The Executive Team met for an all-day retreat on Friday, July 14 to review the early retirement requests and work through resulting adjustments to the workforce transition plan. Staff can expect to learn more about any revisions to the transition plan and next steps within the next few weeks, according to Frank.

At the next board meeting on Aug. 1, Frank will bring back the updated strategic draft, and ask commissioners to formally approve the plan.

The Aug. 1 meeting will also include a discussion of alternative water sources. The 3 percent decrease in 2018 water prices is based on a staff proposal to defer construction of a Willamette River water filtration plant. Commissioners will discuss the AMI project again in the fall, and the GM plans to address the future of EWEB’s community programs as part of the budget process over the next few months.

ALL EWEB Picnic at Lloyd Knox Park in Leaburg on Saturday, August 5

The picnic is co-sponsored by EWEB’s own Retired Employees Inc., and the EWEB Employees Federal Credit Union. As always, there will be lots of food and festivities to be enjoyed by all ages! There will be BINGO, games and prizes, a 50/50 raffle drawing, and lots of food and laughs to be had by all!

To assure there is enough food for this event, we need a head count ASAP!

If you plan to attend, send an email to: Please include your name, your current department, number of adults and number of children.

· The Picnic is FREE to EWEB Employees, Retirees, Credit Union Members and household members.
· Please bring a non-perishable food item(s) or cash donation for Food For Lane County
· Please leave your pets at home, unless they are certified service dogs.
· Reminder: no alcoholic beverages are allowed in the park.

Saturday, Aug. 5
“Doors” open at 10 a.m.
Meal served 11:30 -12:45
Bingo at 1 p.m.

Volunteers are needed! If you can volunteer the day of the event, please contact Misty Fisher to sign up, at

EWEB Partners with City, UO to Rate Rentals for Energy Efficiency

Did you know that rental units comprise half of the available housing in Eugene? A 2017 study by the University of Oregon Business Consulting Group identified that more than 6,000 of those rentals are likely in need of energy upgrades. For this reason, our Customer Solutions team launched a new program this year to help tenants and property owners better understand the energy costs associated with their rentals, and to highlight savings opportunities from improvements such as duct sealing, insulation, and high efficiency heating systems.

Read more.

Fitness Center Update

Human Resources recently shared the Safety Working Group’s decision to decommission the two onsite fitness centers at ROC and HQ by year-end. Now that we have a little more information regarding the future of the Midgley space, we have found opportunities to extend the timeline to allow for maximum use.

The sale of EWEB’s riverfront property, including the Midgley Buidling, is moving forward. We originally stated the fitness equipment would be decommissioned between now and year end. We now know there is opportunity to potentially use the Midgley space beyond December 2017. Rather than allowing the space to sit idle, we will continue to service the current equipment for as long as practical. We do know the equipment in the Midgley center is older and is starting to require more costly repairs to maintain for the safety of our users. You should expect to see pieces be removed over time as they become too costly to repair.

We will continue to communicate with employees, retirees and others as new information is available. Thank you for your patience and understanding. If you have questions please contact or in Human Resources.

Calling all thirst-quenchers!

Track Town’s Fourth of July tradition, the Butte to Butte, is a few weeks away and EWEB will once again host water stations along the route.

We are looking for several fabulous volunteers to help with set-up and to hand out EWEB’s valuable and appreciated product to thirsty walkers and runners. This is a super fun event, a great way to socialize with EWEB friends, and is early enough so that you have the rest of your holiday to continue festivities. Shifts are about two hours, and start at around 7:30 a.m. Rise and shine!

Eugene’s most popular road race is now in its 44th year. We wouldn’t be able to make the water stations happen without EWEB volunteer support. We’ll do a raffle for awesome $25 gift cards to add to the fun and as always, family members/kids are welcome to help out.

Contact if you want to volunteer or have any questions.