Make the McKenzie Connection!

EWEB's McKenzie River dinner

The Eugene Water & Electric Board hosted a customer appreciation dinner at the Walterville Community Center on May 23rd in place of its yearly upriver board meeting. Instead of the typical format, where people are limited to three minutes of speaking time, the utility tested a new format that included an open house combined with facilitated discussions during dinner, and more time afterward to follow up with specific people. An EWEB spokesman said changes to the meeting structure were meant to support this year’s theme of “improving communications with the community.”

EWEB Communications Specialist Adam Spencer, who used to live in the McKenzie Valley, introduced topics of conversation ranging from threats to the River to EWEB’s ice storm response as well as ways to share and receive updates during power outages, or learning more about decommissioning the Leaburg Hydroelectric Project.

Despite some serious topics, laughter could be heard. Notetakers at each table jotted down key points, which they then reported to the entire group at the end of the dinner and will be brought back to EWEB for further consideration.

Rainbow Water District Superintendent Jamie Porter, an EWEB customer in the McKenzie Valley, described what it was like to attend the event.

“Responding to and recovering from the January winter storm was a huge challenge for EWEB. Choosing to decommission the Leaburg Dam was a difficult and controversial decision for EWEB. I respect the amount of work that EWEB put into hosting the upriver meeting,” Porter said. “They created a new format that allowed EWEB representatives to meet with upriver customers on a more personal level to better understand how people have been and will be impacted by these big events.”

“I walked away from the meeting appreciating the opportunity I had to learn new information, to share my own concerns, and to hear the perspective of others in my community,” Porter added.

EWEB Commissioners and staff have also responded positively to the new format.

“I appreciated getting to talk with people one-on-one in a way that I couldn’t at some of our regular meetings,” EWEB Commissioner Mindy Schlossberg said at the utility’s June board meeting. “It was nice to be able to sit down with them and listen to what they had to say. Overall, it felt much more respectful.”


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