June 12, 2024

Whole Community News

From Kalapuya lands in the Willamette watershed

EWEB honors Laura Farthing with its highest award for East 40th project

5 min read
EWEB recognized Jennifer Connors and Laura Farthing for their work on the East 40th water storage project.

With water in the East 40th storage tanks, EWEB approaches the end of a long and difficult project by celebrating those who successfully brought it this far. On March 5:

Frank Lawson (EWEB general manager): Commissioners, as I think you’re aware, we have water in our tanks at East 40th, and so we appreciate that. But I wanted to take an opportunity to specifically thank a few staff members. There’s a number of different ways that we recognize our workforce and employees for their contributions or their hard work, and we have an ‘Extraordinary Effort’ award that we give out as part of that recognition.

[00:00:43] This particular project involved an incredible amount of communications, as you all know. We’ve done pretty much biweekly newsletters. We’ve had multiple meetings. We’ve had—all the way back—years’ worth of walking commissioners through the beautiful forest and incredible amount of outreach and transparency—in particular with the neighbors—which we can apply to other projects. And so, we have an ‘Extraordinary Effort’ award to go to Jen Connors. There you go.

[00:01:17] John Q: After waiting for the applause for Jen, another award from General Manager Frank Lawson:

[00:01:23] Frank Lawson (EWEB general manager): Another form of recognition that we have, it’s really the highest honor at EWEB, and it’s really entitled the ‘Integrity In Achievement Award.’ And so the General Manager’s Award is the highest honor achievable at EWEB, and it’s my pleasure to present it to Laura Farthing.

[00:01:42] John Q: As East 40th wraps up, Laura’s role has changed from senior civil engineer to water tanks project manager. Presenting the General Manager’s Award, Frank Lawson.

[00:01:52] Frank Lawson (EWEB general manager): So Laura found her calling as a water engineer during a period of volunteer work when she was in Africa where she saw the effect that clean water and reliable water had on individuals in the community. And following that she got her degree at Oregon State. (Nice job.)

[00:02:09] And then joined EWEB in 2008 as a senior civil engineer in the water utility, bringing with her not only engineering expertise in water infrastructure, planning, design and construction, but also an appreciation for reliable drinking water and its required infrastructure.

[00:02:28] Throughout her time at EWEB, Laura has taken the role of project manager for many critical infrastructure projects affecting the safety and reliability of our water system. These include numerous pump stations, the upgrade of EWEB’s river intakes, and the new onsite disinfection system at Hayden Bridge.

[00:02:49] In 2015, the water master plan identified the need for EWEB to focus on distributed water storage, and an approach of which she started working some point after that on East 40th. While on the surface, this project may look like many other water infrastructure projects Laura has already successfully taken on as a senior engineer, the reality of the project is that it’s unlike any other that EWEB has completed for a number of decades.

[00:03:19] EWEB owned this property for 60-plus years. It was a mature neighborhood that enjoyed the open space throughout its history, and she had to construct two 7.5-million-gallon water tanks. While Laura had excellent support from her project team, she assumed ownership of the project, resolving issues and making decisions daily to keep the project moving, knowing the importance of the East 40th storage project to reduce the public health risk posed by the College Hill reservoir.

[00:03:52] Laura demonstrated strong leadership skills in her management of the project by keeping all stakeholders up to date on the status, anticipating and daylighting the challenges the project faced, while taking actions to mitigate those risks. Laura even kept our youngest customers’ interests in mind by ensuring safe places to watch the tank construction.

[00:04:15] For all this and so much more, thank you, Laura, for your professionalism, empathy, and caring, and ‘Integrity in Achievement.’ So proud of you.

[00:04:26] John Q: Winner of the highest honor at EWEB, the General Manager’s Award: Laura Farthing.

[00:04:31] Laura Farthing (General Manager’s Award winner, 2024): It’s a great project, and I appreciate all the trust everyone in this room had for me to finish it. The whole community gets to benefit and it’s so exciting. It’s in service. So, thank you.

[00:04:44] John Barofsky (EWEB commissioner): I’d also like to say ‘Thanks, Laura’… Lessons that we learned doing this will translate to our next projects coming out on College Hill and either Hawkins or the other ones. Again, the public outreach, it was fantastic. That’s something that we heard. We’ll bring up later when we talk about our liaison with the city of Eugene. They’re very interested in dovetailing with us on that because they get calls just like we do. And so, again, thank you Laura, for putting that together. Look forward to it being all finished up and done and a thing for our South Eugene community to enjoy for decades.

[00:05:23] Sonya Carlson (EWEB commissioner): I just want to say, on behalf of some of the little ones, I brought my little one there and it was really remarkable to get to see you in action and just see what a remarkable job you did with the community to bring people in and really make it a teachable opportunity, because it is a legacy project that we’re going to enjoy for so long.

[00:05:45] So thank you. I’m very teary in support of you and so much, I’m glad you’re doing this. I think this is the first time that I’ve seen us in the seven years that I’ve been here actually give out this award. So it’s a really high honor and I’m so appreciative that you are doing this.

[00:05:59] John Q: EWEB honors its own for exemplary work on the East 30th water storage project. With the two big tanks now in service, the focus shifts to the next big project on College Hill.

The other two recipients of the General Manager’s Award for Integrity in Achievement were Daniel Huang (March 2022) for making significant improvements to EWEB’s Dam Safety Program; and Karl Morgenstern (February 2023) for his lifetime achievements and over 20 years at EWEB, protecting the water quality of the McKenzie River and Eugene’s sole source of drinking water.

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