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EWEB will close public access to College Hill Reservoir Monday

The College Hill Reservoir in Eugene will be closed to the public for good as of Monday morning, July 8. Eugene Water & Electric Board will demolish the more than 80-year-old structure and build new modern earthquake proof water tanks on the property.

EWEB Principal Engineer Laura Farthing told KLCC the College Hill Reservoir is not earthquake safe or up to health codes. She said the new pair of 7.5 million gallon tanks that will be constructed in its place is designed to withstand seismic events and should last for the next century.

“The first step is demolition of the existing structure. And then we’ll move into earthwork and then we’ll begin tank construction,” she said. “So, from beginning to end, it will be about a three year process.”

The reservoir, with its vast concrete roof atop College Hill, has been a beloved community space for the neighborhood.

Farthing said she understands there is a sense of loss.

“And I think the thing to remember is, at the end it will still be a public space that will be just as cherished by future generations,” she said. “So, we’ll be a part of what the next generations get to see and what College Hill means to them.”

Once construction is done there will be a public process to develop part of the property into a community park.

Rendering of what the new tanks will look like once constructed.
Rendering of what the new tanks will look like once constructed.

“And in the end, we’ll be restoring the site. And we’ll have a public process in order to reimagine what the site can look like at the end,” she said. “So, we’ll bring it back to a public open site.”

Farthing said EWEB is in communication with neighbors about the project and they’ve been very understanding. But it is a major infrastructure project and it will have a big impact.

“They will be loud. There will be dust. There will be noise,” she said. “We take all measures that we can to mitigate them.”

EWEB recently completed construction of new 7.5 million gallon tanks at east 40th Avenue and Patterson in South Eugene. That was on a 10-acre property purchased in the 1950s by EWEB for future water storage.

At College Hill, the project will include removal of the concrete structure. She said the concrete will be recycled and used as fill in other projects.

“We are salvaging parts of the reservoir and using them on site,” said Farthing. “The handrails are all made out of concrete from 1939, so we’ll be salvaging the handrails and working them into interpretive paths around the new site.”

Rachael McDonald is KLCC’s host for All Things Considered on weekday afternoons. She also is the editor of the KLCC Extra, the daily digital newspaper. Rachael has a BA in English from the University of Oregon. She started out in public radio as a newsroom volunteer at KLCC in 2000.
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