April 21, 2024

Whole Community News

From Kalapuya lands in the Willamette watershed

EWEB offers septic grants, hopes to prevent harmful algal blooms on the McKenzie

4 min read
EWEB is encouraging everyone in the area affected by the Holiday Farm Fire to apply, after securing $3 million for grants to repair or replace fire-damaged septic systems.

from Aaron Orlowski, Eugene Water and Electric Board

EWEB has secured over $3 million to help McKenzie Valley homeowners repair or replace septic systems damaged in the Holiday Farm Fire.

Eligible grantees can receive up to $35,000, depending on the type of septic systems and household income qualifications. The grants are retroactive to March 3, 2021.

“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.”

Improperly maintained septic systems threaten the McKenzie River – the sole source of drinking water for nearly 200,000 people in the Eugene area. Septic systems that leak can contaminate the watershed with unsafe bacteria, provoke harmful algal blooms, and harm fish and wildlife.

EWEB has worked with McKenzie Valley residents for decades to incentivize responsible septic maintenance. With over 535 properties impacted by the Holiday Farm Fire, EWEB is eager to provide this new program with robust, direct financial assistance to help people recover and get their lives back in order.

“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.”

EWEB is able to offer these Septic System Repair and Replacement Grants thanks to a collaboration with Lane County and the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality Onsite Financial Aid Program. Lane County also received federal funds from the American Recovery Plan Act 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 this septic system grant funding, 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.

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 will deploy 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,” said EWEB Environmental Specialist Nancy Toth. “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, interested landowners can go to the Landowner Assistance page at eweb.org/septic.

About the Eugene Water & Electric Board

The Eugene Water & Electric Board is Oregon’s largest customer-owned utility. Founded in 1911, EWEB provides water and electricity to approximately 96,000 customers in the Eugene-Springfield area. EWEB’s service area covers 236 square miles with a population of more than 200,000 people, including major institutions such as the University of Oregon.

A five-member elected Board of Commissioners governs the utility, which does not operate to earn a profit or to serve the investment needs of stockholders. Employing approximately 500 people, EWEB serves the people of Eugene by embodying core values of safety, reliability, responsibility and community.

Around 20 percent of your power comes from community-owned or co-owned projects, including hydroelectric projects on the McKenzie and Clackamas Rivers, the Harvest Wind Project, and International Paper Biomass/Natural Gas.

EWEB leads watershed protection measures with local landowners and environmental organizations. With one of the greenest energy supplies in the nation, approximately 90% of EWEB’s power comes from carbon-free sources, and EWEB is committed to achieving a 95% carbon-free energy portfolio by 2030.

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