“Territory transfer” gets cool reception
LEABURG: Eugene Water & Electric Board chairman John Simpson made the case last Tuesday for why the utility was considering shedding some 3,000 of its McKenzie area customers. ”It’s not about making money. It’s about creating better internal savings over the long term,” he said. Simpson also stressed improved storm response times for the majority of EWEB’s customers if the utility didn’t have to send three crews for 14 customers upriver at the same 7,000 people were without power in the metro area.
At issue was a proposed territory transfer that if approved, could take effect next April, with the Lane Electric Cooperative becoming the new power provider.
Questioning whether efficiency or economics was the driving force was Vida resident Scott Rohter. “I was told EWEB was broke,” he said. “We’re getting the run around. You own the dams, how can you be losing money?”
EWEB’s general manager Roger Gray responded that things have changed since local hydropower plants were built. He cited substantial cost increases tied to the relicensing of the Walterville and Leaburg facilities. Gray said in the past those plants could produce power for 1 cent per kilowatt hour. Today the cost has risen to 3 to 4 cents. With the relicensing price tag for the Carmen Smith plant estimated at $120 to $150 million, power generated there may be in the 5 cent range, he added.
The mood of the audience was supportive of EWEB, with several saying they were impressed with the professionalism of line crews while questioning why the proposal was even being considered.
“We’ve been loyal customers for years,” Rohter said. “You built this system, you know it like the back of your hand. There’s nobody that does it better than EWEB. I’m not faulting Lane but they would have a hard learning curve while I’m freezing.”
In a show of hands, supporters of a transfer were outvoted 2 to 1.
Image above: Turnout was close to 100 when the EWEB commissioners asked for public comment last Tuesday on a plan to sell off their McKenzie River customers.
McKenzie River Reflections