Canal controversy continues
EWEB hears local community's concerns
May 25, 2023 | View PDF
LEABURG: "My front door would be about five feet from the highway you folks want to put in," was the way Dane Palmer explained his opposition to the Eugene Water & Electric Board's proposal to use the street he lives on. He wasn't the only Leashore Drive resident to tell the utility they were also opposed to plans to remove a bridge and widen their roadway to access properties on Leaburg Dam Road.
During EWEB's May 16th upriver meeting, others like Tammy Felton, also told the utility's commissioners that aspect of plans to decommission the Leaburg Hydroelectric Project would "just destroy our dreams," if widening the road would involve "taking people's property through eminent domain, buying us out and tearing out houses."
Offering another view on traffic impacts was Jim Russell of the Whitewater Ranch, a Southbank property currently accessed via the road over Leaburg Dam. Russell said that following the Holiday Farm Fire, timber salvage operations at the ranch resulted in the generation of over 2,000 logging truckloads. "In another 25 to 30 years another 2,000 trucks will need to come out," he warned based on the typical rotation cycles for timber harvesting. In addition, he noted that the Whitewater Ranch harvested 65,000 pounds of blueberries last year and has a goal of increasing its output to a million pounds per year.
Blueberry harvests would also generate truck traffic which he said would amount to about 100 trips using 52 - 53 foot long refrigerated trucks. Russell said those "are real numbers of what the impact of what these decisions are."
Commissioner Matt McRae answered a question about why the project was being decommissioned by pointing to several sections of the canal that have to have major structural repairs. They were without "the understanding of the serious risks in the 1930s," he noted, adding that "the center of the canal is made out of liquefiable soils and that means if it was wet when an earthquake happened it would just kind of melt away like butter and that's where the cost of canal repair comes from."