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EWEB moves closer to removing Leaburg Dam

The Leaburg Dam
Brian Bull
The Leaburg Dam on the McKenzie River.

EWEB is moving closer to removing the Leaburg Dam. Commissioners voted Tuesday to move ahead with recommendations that were originally made in December by the utility’s director.

The dam has not generated electricity since 2018.

EWEB spokesperson Aaron Orlowski told OPB’s Think Out Loud that decommissioning the dam and eventually removing it is the most cost-effective option.

“It would cost a lot of money to fully repair the canal, and then the electricity that we would generate again from the canal would be many times more expensive than electricity that we can buy from the Bonneville Power Administration, which is where we already get most of our electricity,” he said.

The dam, located on the McKenzie River east of Springfield, isn’t going anywhere in the short term. EWEB says it could be a full decade before work begins to remove it.

The decision is supported by the Eugene-based conservation group Cascadia Wildlands.

“We are incredibly pleased to see the Eugene Water and Electric Board move forward with its plan to remove the antiquated Leaburg Dam and restore this stretch of the McKenzie River to its free-flowing state," said Grace Brahler, the group's "Wildlands Director."

Chris Lehman has been reporting on Oregon issues since 2006. He joined the KLCC news department in December 2018 and became News Director in March 2023. Chris was born and raised in Pennsylvania, and graduated from Temple University with a degree in journalism. His public broadcasting career includes stops in Louisiana and Illinois. Chris has filed for national programs including “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered.”
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