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EWEB: Walterville Canal will be empty into the summer

An aerial photo of the forebay of the Walterville Canal
An aerial photo of the forebay of the Walterville Canal

The Eugene Water and Electric Board drained the Walterville Canal east of Springfield late last month to look into why there was a spike in water seeping out of it. EWEB says the waterway is likely to remain empty into the summer.

In an email, EWEB Engineering supervisor Mark Zinniker told KLCC there are a number of reasons the 1910-era earthen embankment could be leaking, including a failing joint near the downstream end or internal erosion.

Because EWEB couldn’t find the source, it’s now working with an engineering consultant, and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission needs to approve any repair plans. EWEB expects the process will take into the summer.

All public trails near the Walterville Canal are open, and the utility says there’s no safety danger.

While the canal is empty, its hydropower station is off-line. Zinniker said the Walterville power plant generates less than two percent of local power demand and EWEB is ready to adjust its supplies to this unplanned loss.

Several farms along the drained, four-mile stretch have agreements with EWEB to use water from the canal. On its website, EWEB said it must prioritize safety and, “cannot accommodate requests to open the canal intake to provide water to neighbors.” The utility said the water agreements are interruptible, and that the primary purpose of the canal is hydropower generation.

The Walterville Canal outage is not related to the planned decommissioning of the Leaburg Hydroelectric Project. EWEB expects to begin that project by 2033.

Karen Richards joined KLCC as a volunteer reporter in 2012, and became a freelance reporter at the station in 2015. In addition to news reporting, she’s contributed to several feature series for the station, earning multiple awards for her reporting.
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