High Pricetag To Fix Old McKenzie Dam

Apr 2, 2014

The Eugene Water and Electric Board hopes to start repairing Leaburg Dam as soon as May. The cost to fix the 83-year-old structure on the McKenzie River is projected to be $2.8 million. That's about twice the previous estimate.

The Leaburg Dam on the McKenzie River.
Credit USGS

The motor in one of the dam's three roll gates failed in 2012. The gate has been in the down position ever since.  The roll-gates regulate how much water flows through the dam, which generates power for about 10-thousand homes. Joe Harwood is spokesman for EWEB. He says it's not surprising the first cost estimate of $1.2 million was off.

Harwood: "The thing about hydro-dams in particular is every one is a little bit different and in fact there's no other dam like this in Oregon. I think there's three total in the United States.  So there's not of people that are experts on this."

EWEB had a single bidder on the project -- Knight Construction. The plan is to complete a bulkhead installation in May. In late September they'll start work in earnest. The job will require closing the road over the dam, which will affect some residents and a fish hatchery. Harwood says EWEB has worked closely with the community, including McKenzie Fire and Rescue, to ensure people are safe and have access.