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Walterville Canal shutdown to last through this summer

Investigation seeks cause of increased seepage through the levees


Now idle, the Walterville Hydroelectric project produced enough to power nine thousand homes. Dug almost entirely by hand, it was reported that "by the spring of 1910, 55 teams of horses, drawing heavily upon local farms for livestock, were at work in the canal."

WALTERVILLE: The Eugene Water & Electric Board's (EWEB) temporary shutdown of the Walterville Hydroelectric Project is expected to be extended this summer as the utility investigates safety concerns along the Walterville Canal. EWEB dewatered the Walterville Canal last month after detecting an unexpected increase in water seepage near the Walterville Powerhouse.

The issue isn't new. EWEB and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) have known about the seepage in the 110-year-old canal's earthen embankment for years, causing the utility to install several devices to monitor leaks.

An unexpected increase in seepage flow on February 27th triggered an alarm at one of the monitoring devices, prompting the canal to be dewatered as a safety response.

The utility's generation staff have inspected the canal and determined that more information is needed to identify the cause of increased seepage. EWEB is working with a geotechnical engineering consultant to develop plans for further investigation, and officials say they had hoped to resolve the issue and return to regular operation quickly.

According to Generation Manager Lisa Krentz, "Fortunately, the seepage concern on the Walterville Canal is localized to the forebay."

The forebay is located at the lower end of the canal, where water either drops into the powerhouse to power an electric generator or is released through a spillway into the tailrace. "We think we can resolve the seepage issue by developing a solid repair plan for the forebay," Krentz said.

However, further study and repairs may take months, and staff say they anticipate the drawdown will extend into the summer. Moving forward requires a repair plan, federal approval, and contracting for the job.

The Walterville Canal starts near Walterville Elementary School and runs four miles through the middle of the valley. Along the way, it passes under the highway, then parallels Camp Creek Road until delivering water to the powerhouse at Kickbush Lane.

Although the canal's primary purpose is to generate electricity, it has provided an added benefit to the community by allowing neighboring farms to draw water from the canal for irrigation. Approximately seven commercial and one non-commercial irrigator draw water from the canal.

"While we are still determining the next steps, we'd like to notify our neighbors in case they need to prepare to enter the summer season with the canal dewatered," Krentz said.

EWEB will send letters to canal neighbors to advise them of the issue. People concerned about how they may be affected by the dewatering can contact EWEB Generation Planner Jeremy Somogye at 541-685-7439 or [email protected] to learn more.


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