$3 million available for septic fixes

$35,000 grants offered in McKenzie River Valley


February 23, 2023 | View PDF

The Eugene Water & Electric Board (EWEB) has secured over $3 million to help McKenzie Valley homeowners repair or replace septic systems damaged in the Holiday Farm Fire.

People who qualify can receive up to $35,000, depending on their type of septic system and household income.

Utility officials say improperly maintained septic systems threaten the McKenzie River – the sole source of drinking water for nearly 200,000 people EWEB serves in the Eugene area. It’s feared leaking systems could contaminate the water source with unsafe bacteria, provoke harmful algal blooms, and harm fish and wildlife.

Over the last few decades, EWEB has offered incentivized programs to support septic maintenance. Over 535 properties were impacted by the Holiday Farm Fire.

“Our friends and neighbors upriver have gone through so many challenges in their long journeys recovering from the fire,” said Nancy Toth, an EWEB environmental specialist who coordinates programs to help McKenzie Valley residents take care of the watershed. “With these grants, EWEB and our partners are able to provide meaningful support and take a large financial burden off their lists of concerns.”

Funds for the Septic System Repair and Replacement Grants were a result of a collaboration with Lane County and the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) Onsite Financial Aid Program (OSFAP). Both Lane County and DEQ OSFAP received federal funds from the American Recovery Plan Act (ARPA) and chose to partner with EWEB to distribute the money to affected residents.

“Lane County and DEQ came to EWEB because of our established track record of enacting meaningful support on the ground,” said EWEB Business Line Manager Anna Wade, who is helping implement the grant program. “Since the Holiday Farm Fire, EWEB has helped folks recover with programs that also protect the watershed and reduce the impacts of future fires.”

To receive Septic System Grant funding through ARPA, applicants must meet the following criteria:

• Applicant must be the current property owner.

• The property must be located within the Holiday Farm Fire perimeter and have sustained structural damage or destruction.

• Septic system repairs or installation must be completed by the property owner or a Licensed Onsite System Installer, certified by the DEQ.

• Completed septic projects must be inspected by Lane County, with permit status listed as “final.”

• Septic system grant funding is retroactive to March 3, 2021

Any changes in ownership that may have occurred after the Holiday Farm Fire may impact landowner eligibility. Applicants who have received other federal disaster assistance may be impacted in their eligibility amounts.

“At this point, we are encouraging everyone in the fire-affected area to apply,” said Misty Merriam, EWEB’s customer programs coordinator, who is helping with applications. “Once you apply, we can match your request to the funds we have available. If we can’t match you with these grants, we can recommend other sources of funding and still help you along.”

EWEB is currently accepting applications and has already matched dozens of people to funds.

For upriver homeowners who have entered into loan agreements with EWEB’s 0% Septic Infrastructure Loan Program since the fire, EWEB says it will provide these grant funds to qualifying homeowners to pay off remaining loan balances where applicable.

“We want to make sure that homeowners who have already taken steps to protect the watershed by repairing or upgrading their septic systems are eligible to receive these funds,” Toth said. “Not everyone will qualify, but we welcome all interested homeowners to contact us to see what we can do to support their good stewardship.”

To learn more about the Septic System Repair and Replacement Grants Program, go to the Landowner Assistance page at eweb.org/septic.


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