Save EWEB Forest in the news!
EWEB water reservoir construction in South Hills set to begin despite neighborhood concerns
by Adam Duvernay, Register-Guard (7-18-21)
EWEB’s water reservoir project in an urban forest in south Eugene is set to begin next month, but some residents are pushing back
As soon as August 2021 the Eugene Water and Electric Board (EWEB) is planning to destroy a beautiful, mature forest habitat at 40th Avenue and Patterson Street, containing more than 300 mature trees. A decision to move forward with this costly and environmentally destructive project was made hastily in April of this year following a unilateral recommendation by EWEB’s general manager Frank Lawson. A proper alternatives analysis was never done, and only the residents who live in the immediate vicinity of the project were notified about the proposal–less than 1/10th of 1% of EWEB’s roughly 200,000 customers. In addition, this 11th-hour change is in conflict with a key element of EWEB’s Water System Master Plan which was created in 2015 and amended in 2020.
EWEB’s process of decision-making and communication are anything but open. For example: EWEB says only 25% of the trees on the property (the entire more than 10 acre site?) will be cut. True? Maybe. But which 25%? This characterization gives the same value or weight to a tree 3 years old as a 150 year old tree! It does not consider the density of the forested areas to be removed. We understand that 340+ trees are to be cut on the Patterson site to enable construction of two tanks, including the largest and oldest trees. And, what percentage of the firs and native Willamette Ponderosa Pines will be cut? We have not been told these numbers.
All the trees, 100% of the trees and growth of any kind, will be removed from one to 2.25 acres of land, an area the size of the water storage reservoir and additional space needed for construction activity. The size depends on whether one or two reservoirs are built. No trees will be left standing in footprint of the reservoir where blasting will be done to fracture bedrock beneath, excavate and then haul the rock off the hill. This is called clear-cutting. It’s misleading and confusing when EWEB claims 25% of the trees will be removed.
If you are concerned about the decision to destroy the valuable, mature urban forest at the top of the hill near 40th Avenue and Patterson Street or this inappropriate, non-inclusive process, please consider taking one or more of the following actions:
- DOWNLOAD our newest Talking Points (PDF) Using the points from this document, please contact your local elected representatives. You can also talk to friends, family members and neighbors and recruit them into the cause.
- Send an email to the EWEB Board of Commissioners to demand a public hearing on this subject. You can message all five commissioners simultaneously by going to this website and let them know of your concerns.
- Call city councilor Matt Keating, who represents the South Eugene district where the proposed project is located and tell him what you think. Mr. Keating can be reached at: 541-515-3819. Also, call EWEB Commissioner John Barofsky: 541-685-7719.
- Visit the site of the proposed massive construction and experience this beautiful, mature forest yourself. See this map to find the forest. It’s just south of the end of Patterson (take 40th Avenue and turn South on Patterson until you see an open field at the end of the street).
- NEW! You can now make a tax-deductible donation in support of our effort by sending checks for any amount made out to “Eugene PeaceWorks” for the Save the EWEB Forest project, and mail it to PO Box 11182, Eugene, OR 97440.
- Volunteer to make a “literature drop” in your neighborhood by calling Michael Carrigan at 541-844-4677.
EWEB purchased this property in the 1950s with the expressed intention of constructing a single water tank on it at a future time when there was a need for additional water storage. EWEB’s Water System Master Plan, as amended in 2020, calls for a single 7.5 million-gallon water tank to be constructed on the Patterson St. hill in 2021-2022, followed by the decommissioning and replacement of the College Hill and Hawkins Hill reservoirs from 2023 to 2028. If needed, construction of a second Patterson hill water tank was proposed to begin in 2030, and additional storage at the College Hill and Oak Hill sites was proposed to begin in 2032. These decisions are documented in the March 12, 2021 memorandum from Karen Kelley, Water Operations Manager to Frank Lawson, General Manager, which is part of the “Record of Decision” for the current project proposal (which is available on EWEB’s website).
The recommendation to change the previous carefully planned build-one-tank-now plan for the Patterson site to a simultaneous construction of two tanks now was apparently unilaterally made by General Manager Frank Lawson. It appears to be an engineering decision for expediency with little to no regard for environmental value of the existing ecosystem.
The only alternatives that were analyzed by staff were: (1) Construct one tank at the Patterson site beginning this year, and construct a second tank there beginning 10 years later or (2) Construct two tanks at the Patterson site beginning this year. It does not make sense to move forward with this $19.9 million, two tanks on Patterson proposal without first considering and analyzing other options, such as constructing additional storage facilities on the College Hill, Hawkins Hill, Oak Hill, or other sites, particularly considering the fact that these latter options are in the current EWEB Water System Master Plan.
Furthermore, these other options would not require the removal of a beautiful mature forest, which is important both for its habitat values and because it sequesters carbon to reduce the threat of climate change. Additionally, since Eugene’s urban forests have previously been reduced in size considerably below state and local goals for urban forests, it does not make sense to now reduce them still further absent a critical, demonstrated need to do so.
Two of the seven pillars of Envision Eugene read as follows:
• “Protect, restore, and enhance natural resources,” and
• “Plan for climate change and energy uncertainty.”
EWEB’s mission statement, as described in its 2017 Strategic Plan, states: “Our mission is to enhance our community’s vitality by delivering drinking water and electric services consistent with the values of our customer-owners. We exist for the benefit of our local community.” [emphasis added]
EWEB’s proposal to destroy the forest on the Patterson site for the purpose of constructing two large tanks there is not consistent with its own mission statement and Water System Master Plan, or with the pillars of Envision Eugene. Other alternatives must be examined first and given a fair hearing, including the emergency use of the Willamette River and an updated, city-wide water conservation program. Please contact EWEB board members who “endorsed” the General Manager’s decision, and other elected representatives and make your voice heard on this important matter!
PRESS RELEASE (PDF) – For Immediate Release Tuesday, July 6th, 2021Contact: Samuel Schmieding: Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- A recent NY Times article (“What Technology Could Reduce Heat Deaths? Trees.” July 2) underscored the importance of trees in the urban landscape to mitigate the extreme heat threats we face in this climate crisis.
- Every year, urban trees offer American society an estimated $18.3 billion in air pollution removal, carbon sequestration, lowered energy use in buildings and reduced emissions from power plants. (Source: USDA Forest Service)
Images – Please credit photographer when possible
- See the Facebook photo album of the forest and adjacent meadow
- Google map of EWEB forest area near 40th and Patterson (low res)
- Jack Cooper drinks in the beauty of one of hundreds of mature trees (low res; Photo by Marco Elliott)
- EWEB forest stand of mature trees – High Resolution, Vertical (Photo by John Jordan-Cascade)
- EWEB forest stand of mature trees – High Resolution, Horizontal (Photo by John Jordan-Cascade)
- Stand of trees in the EWEB forest – Hi Res (Photo by Dr. Samuel J. Schmieding, Ph.D.)
Like us on our NEW Facebook page! Save EWEB Forest->>
Who we are
Save EWEB Forest is an all-volunteer group of residents from around the city concerned with climate issues and the value of mature tree ecosystems as natural cooling areas, and sound public planning. The group came together to shed light on EWEB’s rushed plans to cut down a natural forest grove of mature trees on public land near 40th and Patterson in Eugene.