$150,000 approved for water protection program
June 19, 2016
EUGENE: EWEB commissioners took another look at ways to implement and maintain a comprehensive drinking water source protection program last week. At the June 7th meeting of the Eugene Water & Electric Board, staffers Karl Morgenstern & Steve Newcomb gave a presentation covering the McKenzie watershed plans and budget, including an expansion to the Coast & South Forks of the Willamette to cover Alternative Water Supply drainage areas.
Currently, the utility draws its drinking water from a single source - the McKenzie River. Under study are plans to, “Measure the balance between watershed health and human use over time and to implement actions that maintain a healthy balance for production of exceptional water quality,” according to the report. EWEB is also exploring options that would include a water intake from the North Fork of the Willamette River.
A primary goal of the program will focus on measuring “The balance between watershed health and human use over time and to implement actions that maintain a healthy balance for production of exceptional water quality.”
Objectives identified for the McKenzie area include developing a “Pure Water Partners” program and supporting land acquisitions.
Some of the potential partners could include about a dozen agencies or entities that have Willamette water interests and meet several times a year. Morgenstern said members of the group include representatives from Wilsonville, Tualatin, and Corvallis who might support source water protection of the Willamette system.
Among the highest priority threats to water quality EWEB has identified in the McKenzie include hazardous material spills from transportation accidents and releases from commercial or industrial facilities, as well as pollution runoff from east Springfield’s urban stormwater system, which has five outfalls immediately upstream of EWEB’s Hayden Bridge intake. Also on the utility’s list were the cumulative impacts associated with development along the river (septic systems, chemical use, vegetation removal in riparian areas, and loss of agricultural and forest lands to future development), along with agricultural impacts associated with pesticide and fertilizer use, livestock access to waterways, and vegetation removal in riparian areas. Climate change, too was identified as contributing to possible larger and more frequent flooding events, longer dry seasons, more frequent and severe wildfires, and increasingly volatile weather patterns.
The Commissioners decided that no active protection efforts should begin before a thorough investigation of the new watershed has been completed and authorized beginning baseline work at a funding level of approximately $150,000.
McKenzie River Reflections