Make the McKenzie Connection!

Utility pledges to put more lines underground

LEC says 52% have already been buried

During a Monday night online meeting, Lane Electric Cooperative General Manager Debi Wilson said the utility is planning to put more of its lines underground to offset the impacts of natural disasters. “We’re committed to rebuilding the McKenzie community stronger than before,” Wilson said. “There are many more hazards that exist now than before the wildfire,” she noted, listing “landslides, rockslides, and flooding.”

Currently, the Coop is working with a consultant to develop a rebuilding plan that will be submitted to the Federal Energy Management Agency. Federal grant funds, combined with $5.7 million already committed by the Coop’s board will be combined to cover the estimated $15.5 million costs to bury lines.

Plans call for coordinating with phone and Internet providers to see if they can put their lines underground at the same time.

“Members living in the McKenzie area lost almost all forms of communication during the 2019 snowstorm and again during the 2020 windstorm and wildfire,” according to the general manager. “It’s our goal to work collaboratively to protect all those vital services in the communities we serve,” she said.

Wilson also addressed news reports of a recently filed $107 million lawsuit in which both Lane Electric and the Eugene Water & Electric Board had been named as defendants.

“What you’re reading and hearing are different pieces of what happened,” Wilson said. “When the U.S. Forest Service and the Dept. of Forestry have completed the investigation, their report will tell the whole story of what happened on September 7th. The investigation is still ongoing and we are giving our full cooperation.”

Although no timeline has been given yet on when a final report on the fire will be released, Wilson said, “At this time we’re unaware that any of our equipment contributed to the cause of the fire.”


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