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Massive EWEB project aims to keep the lights on during winter storms

EWEB is in the middle of a 4-year overhaul of some of its infrastructure city-wide to better protect its customers from losing power during winter storms.

Posted: Dec 6, 2019 9:34 AM
Updated: Dec 6, 2019 11:16 AM

EUGENE, Ore. -- Nearly three years ago to the day, a devastating ice storm made history in western Oregon. Tens of thousands of people lost power, with utilitiy companies' infrastructures taking a beating.

"We know that our customers don't think of us until the lights go out," said the Eugene Water & Electric Board's Public Information Officer Joe Harwood. "But when the lights do go out, we want to get them back on as soon as possible."

That's why after that 2016 storm, EWEB launched a massive effort to better protect the most hard-hit areas, roughly 2,700 customers, including Don Wilbanks in the Harlow neighborhood. 

"We've lived here for over 40 years. And this is the first time they (power poles, utlities, etc.) have been replaced. So, it's about time," Wilbanks said. 

It's a $2.7 million, four-year endeavor covering 16 projects. FEMA grants are covering 75% of the work. EWEB is picking up the remaining 25% balance. Many of the projects are already done. But EWEB said it should have it all wrapped up by next year. 

A reminder of the need for these upgrades came earlier this year when the historic February snowstorm hit. Entire neighborhoods were again sent into the dark. 

"If you live in the Pacific Northwest, winter time, you are going to see some power outages. It's our goal to reduce those power outages and reduce the duration of those power outages," Harwood said. 

Put simply, EWEB said its mission with this project is "service through the storm." 

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