Eugene Water & Electric rates still up for review

2021 Holiday Farm Fire recoverty costs to total $4.27 million


September 23, 2021 | View PDF

EUGENE: The price of power came up again at the September 7th virtual meeting of the Eugene Water & Electric Board. In a report to the utility, chief financial officer Deborah Hart asked commissioners to consider switching from an annual cost of service analysis (COSA) to one covering a three-year period.

“The shift from a single year to multi-year analysis provides management and the board in-sight into estimated costs for a longer period of time that is better aligned with the time frame of strategic initiatives,” according to the report.

Wondering whether the utility could reduce the amount of energy it purchases by incentivizing solar and weatherization programs was board member John Barofsky.

Adam Rue, the utility’s fis-cal services supervisor noted there are philosophical issues for commissioners to consider when looking at specifics like solar subsidies that go beyond discussions related to service costs.

General manager Frank Lawton agreed, saying that, “Those are absolutely policy decisions that we want to get to in the next few years when it comes to construction and how pricing and rates are formulated.”

“I want to see as many people as possible invest in solar or alternative energy or weatherization,” according to board president Mindy Schlossberg. She said she favored reducing energy use or finding alternative energy sources to cut back on EWEB’s carbon footprint.

Cautioning about how the fate of the Leaburg hydroelectric plant could affect the utility’s bottom line was EWEB’s at large commissioner John Brown. Decisions about whether to repair that facility’s canals or decommision the project haven’t yet been made. Brown also reminded the board they would have to consider the costs of constructing another potential drinking water source as well.

Rue said EWEB’s staff is currently looking at, “A three-year trajectory that doesn’t include those investments.” He said by switching to a three-year COSA, “It will give us an opportunity internally to see how effectively we’re tracking with a longer tern, more detailed view.”

Updating the board on EWEB’s McKenzie Watershed and Restoration Plan was that program’s manager, Karl Mor-genstern. He outlined a three-phase approach for 2022 - 2023 that was designed to protect the metro area’s drinking water.

A water user’s surcharge is generating the $2.15 million the utility will spend on what it calls risk-based actions scheduled for next year. Activities in this part of the program are focused on properties in and around severely burned areas affected by the Holiday Farm Fire.

EWEB plans to work with the Northwest Youth Corps and contractors to deal with erosion issues, fuel loads, invasive weed problems and revegetation. In addition, the utility is offering up to $7,000 in grants to encourage people to rebuild their homes in areas outside riparian zones or in the floodplain.

EWEB is also open to purchasing lands from people who don’t plan to rebuild. Morgenstern said these would include property owners who, “See an opportunity to give towards conservation.” Once a sale was completed, EWEB would remove the burned homes, along with septic systems and driveways before restoring the area.

Other work for the upcoming year centers around restoring ground in floodplains and along the streambanks of tributaries feeding the McKenzie River.

Morgenstern said placing logs and other large sections of wood in a waterway acts so well, that, “We’re now calling it ‘catcher meds,’” because it effectively slows flows to the point where sediment settles out.

The proposed 2022 - 2023 Restoration budget totals $4,275,000 and is split between the restoration and resiliency projects.

In addition to restoring the scorched landscape, Morgenstern said, “The floodplain projects work as a good firebreak. The trees and vegetation take up nutrients and create shade,” he added.


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