Make the McKenzie Connection!

No solutions for sunken Kia

Chuck TannenbaumLEABURG: “At present one could consider the river as essentially at the beginning of becoming a used car junk yard,” was the way Walterville resident Chuck Tannenbaum summed up his feelings. He was testifying about concerns regarding a Kia sedan that hasn’t been retrieved since it entered the water and sank after being involved in an auto accident last May.

Tannenbaum wasn’t alone in telling the Eugene Water & Electric Board commissioners how he felt about the situation when they met in Leaburg on September 9th.

Others talked about the role the utility should play in protecting water quality as well as dangers the wrecked car might pose to boaters.

“As stewards of the river I ask you to do something either unilaterally but hopefully with other governmental entities in solving that problem,” David Jensen of Vida told the board. “That Kia is not going to stay in the position it is now. Surely in the next high water event it’s going to migrate downstream.”

Presently, the wrecked car is located in about 20 feet of water in a pool east of the Ben & Kay Dorris Park. If floodwaters break it loose, Jensen reminded EWEB of what lies just downstream, Marten Rapids. “The jaws of Marten Rapids are dangerous,” he warned, “and if a vehicle ends up down there it’s going to be a deadly hazard.”

Leaburg resident Will Rutherford presented the board with a print out of agencies ranging from Lane County to the state Marine Board that he felt should care about the issue. The list, Rutherford said, amounted to, “A list of who’s who and who is not doing anything. My appeal to you is that we form a strong partnership with those interested in getting it out of the river and move that thing somehow.”

From the other side of the table EWEB board chairman John Brown said he understood the frustration the situation has generated. He cited a similar situation a few years back when a change in the channel caused the lower section of the McKenzie River to eat away land supporting a house near the stream bank. Realizing it would soon collapse, he decided to take action, spending his own money to remove the structure. “Sometimes you have to go out and seek forgiveness before permission,” he noted.

Brown said it was unfortunate that the utility didn’t have the authority to act in removing the car but added that, “This organization is proactive.” As an example, he talked about a recent action that few people had known about – the relocation of a 1,000-gallon fuel tank at Clear Lake.

The 35-year-old single wall steel tank was located about 50 feet from the water’s edge, Brown said. “We didn’t want a tanker truck to come down and off the road there with 10,000 gallons of diesel into the lake. We relocated it and the propane tank up by the highway at our own expense.”

Brown said he shared people’s interest in keeping the water pristine, saying he’s participated in the annual McKenzie River Cleanup, taking beer cans out of the river from “Deerhorn to Hendricks.” He said EWEB will continue to support efforts to remove the car.

Karl Morgenstern, the utility’s drinking water source protection supervisor, said he was involved in talks with the sheriff’s office concerning efforts to convince owners of two nearby properties to allow access on their land for the Kia’s removal. “We’ve also talked with the Army Corps about maybe conducting an exercise to bring a helicopter in,” he added. “We’re keeping those conversations going with our partners.

Image above: Chuck Tannenbaum was among the local residents concerned about a wrecked car that remains in the McKenzie River


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