June 12, 2024

Whole Community News

From Kalapuya lands in the Willamette watershed

Crews race to restore power to water filtration plant

4 min read
As conditions thaw on Wednesday, another barrage of outages is possible. Tree limbs that are currently suspended by a layer of ice may cut loose as the ice melts, leading to more trees falling on power lines.

by Aaron Orlowski, Eugene Water & Electric Board

With all three sources of electrical power down at Eugene’s only water treatment plant, EWEB crews are diligently working to restore service at the plant and ensure reliable water during this multiday ice storm.

EWEB’s Hayden Bridge Water Filtration Plant is currently operating on generators that can produce 1,500 kilowatts of power, with a robust fuel supply that is being refilled every 24 hours. For comparison, 10-20 kilowatt generators are used to power a whole house.

Other EWEB crews are assessing outages and restoring power for customers across Eugene, focusing on making progress before another ice storm rolls in on Tuesday. Current forecasts expect around another one-third inch of ice accumulation Tuesday, Jan. 16, with temperatures staying at or below freezing until late Tuesday.

The customer-owned utility is warning customers that the additional ice could cause another round of outages.

“All of us here at EWEB are grateful for the support and patience of our customers as we work to restore power in these challenging conditions,” said Tyler Nice, EWEB electric operations manager. “We understand how hard it is to be without power when it’s so cold. Our crews are doing their best to fix outages as safely and efficiently as possible. This storm has brought with it a steady dose of outages and we expect these to continue. We are trying to be in the best place we can by completing as much work and planning as we can before tomorrow.”

As conditions thaw on Wednesday, another barrage of outages is possible. Tree limbs that are currently suspended by a layer of ice may cut loose as the ice melts, leading to more trees falling on power lines.

Crews have so far focused their restoration efforts in town. Conditions in EWEB’s upriver territory, where multiple transmission lines are down, have been too severe for crews to even travel there. As soon as conditions allow travel again, EWEB crews will head upriver to assess the situation and begin restoring power.

“We have a long road ahead of us. Whether this ice storm will enter the record books is yet to be seen, but it is some of the worst damage we have experienced, especially in the McKenzie Valley territory. A lot of it depends on how Tuesday’s forecasted ice storm shakes out,” Nice said. “We are hoping for the best but preparing for the worst.”

Some relief arrived on Monday, with five additional crews of contractors joining EWEB staff crews in the field restoring power.

As of mid-day Monday, approximately 5,100 EWEB customers were without power. On Sunday afternoon, crews restored power for about 1,200 customers in South Eugene served by the Hilyard substation. On Monday morning, crews restored power for another 1,200 customers served by the Jessen substation in North Eugene. But dozens of scattered outages remain around town and multiple large outages east of Thurston are affecting upriver customers.

The “hierarchy of repair” ensures EWEB focuses high-impact repairs first.

EWEB General Manager Frank Lawson issued an emergency declaration for the utility, effective at 6 a.m. Sunday morning. All crews have been working since Saturday morning to assess power outages, make safe any situations that are dangerous, and restore power.

EWEB follows a “hierarchy of repair” when restoring power after major outages. This system is used throughout the utility industry to get power turned on the fastest to the highest number of people.

The order of priority means first repairing downed transmission and distribution lines that will restore power to the greatest number of people, then focusing on repairing lines that serve fewer customers.

For example, repairing one large transmission line can restore power to thousands of customers, while repairing a small “tap” line that serves a few people in a neighborhood often is more time consuming. The repair of the individual service line that provides power to a single home is often last on the restoration priority list.

The damage sustained at the service line is the most time-consuming to repair. A crew might spend the same amount of time restoring power to a few customers as it takes to restore power to several hundred customers.

Customers can speed up your own personal restoration process by checking to see if there is damage to their weatherhead or meter base. If they find damage, they can contact a licensed electrician to make those repairs and then have the electrician provide a supervisory letter to EWEB.

Always check the outage map for progress at eweb.org/outagemap.

UPDATE (Jan. 16, 2024): Crews restored electric power to the Hayden Bridge water filtration plant Monday evening, Jan. 15, allowing operators to switch off the generators and rely again on the grid. The water treatment plant is well-stocked with fuel and equipment, including the on-site chlorine generation technology. But the restoration of electric power marked a victory for EWEB crews, all of whom have been in the field since Saturday assessing outages, making safe any dangerous situations and restoring power.

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