Controversy over EWEB's plan to build new massive water storage facilities

Harwood said there are a lot of rumors going around about this project. Some are not ready to say goodbye to two acres of this forest and hello to two new water tanks, even though they will provide cleaner water.

Posted: Jul 5, 2021 7:14 PM
Updated: Jul 6, 2021 3:27 AM

EUGENE, Ore.—EWEB’S plans are set to build two 7.5-million-gallon new water tanks on their undeveloped property at Patterson and Donald in south Eugene.

Construction will begin late this summer and will last until 2023 when the College Hill reservoir needs to be out of service.

EWEB has invested close to $1 million over the past decade on temporary fixes to the College Hill reservoir.

It’s the ‘backbone’ of the water system needed after an earthquake to meet essential community needs like fire suppression, emergency response, and drinking water distribution.

Roughly 80 thousand people in Eugene rely on the 15-million-gallon College Hill reservoir for clean drinking water.

But it’s 80-years-old and nearing the end of its useful life-- it doesn’t drain and fill effectively, which impacts water quality.

Joe Harwood, EWEB External Communications Director, said that once they’ve completed the storage tanks at 40th and Donald, they plan to decommission the water tank at College Hill.

“There are approximately 2 acres that will be used for the tanks. The rest we are going to leave in a natural state,” Harwood said. “It’ll be like an unimproved park, if you will.”

Harwood said there are a lot of rumors going around about this project. Some are not ready to say goodbye to two acres of this forest and hello to two new water tanks, even though they will provide cleaner water.

Others are saying the plan goes against the city’s climate goals.

“There are people all over town who ratepayer owners of EWEB started coming up and saying ‘why would they cut this mature forest area,’ Eugene resident Sandra Bishop said.

Bishop said those who live in the area want EWEB to go back to their original plan.

“I’ve heard people saying who live in this area—why don’t they just stick with the original plan to build one tank now, get it serviced, then go to College Hill and deal with the failing reservoir there,” Bishop said.

Harwood said that there are notable advantages to this new plan of building both tanks simultaneously.

“It would actually save more than $1 million, I think it is about $1.4 million. It would consolidate the work into a single disruptive period-- meaning we do it all at once,” Harwood said.

The construction will disrupt the site for about two to three years as opposed to doing it years apart with four years of disruption total.

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