EWEB unanimous for dam removal
Utility ends all plans to generate power at Leaburg
January 12, 2023 | View PDF
EUGENE: Green could be the color to describe some of the reasoning behind the Eugene Water & Electric Board commissioner’s decision to decommission the Leaburg Hydroelectric Project. The pigment, often used in reference to clean energy production, was pitted against ongoing impacts to the environment.
But it was the amount of greenbacks involved - $117 to $230 per megawatt hour (to bring the generators back into full service) versus $33 MWh to buy power from the BPA - that helped assure a unanimous vote by the board on January 3rd.
In pointing out producing power at Leaburg has become economically unviable, the utility’s Chief Operations Officer, Karen Kelley, reminded the board that it could be 2033 before any construction activity actually occurs.
Details of the decommissioning plan included permanently ending electricity generation at Leaburg, removing the dam, and restoring the McKenzie to a free-flowing river through the project area. EWEB also plans to repair the Leaburg Canal to function as a stormwater conveyance, while keeping open an option to completely restore the area to what existed before the project was built in 1928.
In addition, EWEB says it will work with water rights holders and the Leaburg and McKenzie fish hatcheries that have been affected by dewatering the Leaburg Canal.
General manager Frank Lawson said an in-depth assessment of the Walterville Hydroelectric Project is planned for the early 2030’s.
Commissioner John Barofsky, who represents Eugene’s Ward 2 and 3, noted that the decision to shut down Leaburg might not be “a done deal.” He was concerned that at some point in the future new information might come forward that says, “Don’t do this.”
Lawson said the staff would be keeping the board updated at “various milestones along the way.” He added that the decision to decommission the project was “based upon what we know today. If new information is discovered,” he cautioned, “we need to have the humility to take a step back and look at that in a new light.”