July 30, 2021

Public asks for hearing, city-wide vote on East 40th Water Storage Project

Neighbors gather at the EWEB site near Patterson and East 40th for a tour on March 6, 2021. Speakers at the July EWEB board meeting asked for a public hearing on the decision to build two water tanks at the site now.

Neighbors gather at the EWEB site near Patterson and East 40th for a tour on March 6, 2021. Speakers at the July EWEB board meeting asked for a public hearing on the decision to build two water tanks at the site now.

With logging set to begin in August, public commenters asked for a hearing—and even a public vote—on the EWEB Water Storage Project.

EWEB: [00:00:09] We are going to start with Steven Anderson.

Steven Anderson: [00:00:12] I would like to begin by reading EWEB’s mission statement, which is: “…caring about our community and protecting the environment go hand in hand.” To which I would add: “Except for the water project at 40th and Patterson.”

So here we sit in south Eugene, informed a year ago last March, EWEB would build one tank. Let me repeat: one tank. That’s always been your plan. We had a simple request, save the big grove of heritage trees as long as possible. Sounds pretty simple. They are important for carbon sequestration, habitat, cooling the neighborhood and keeping windstorms from affecting all the trees below the hilltop to the east. EWEB  had a plan years in the making, and it’s been thrown out the window: One tank at 40th and Patterson, rebuild College Hill, rebuild Hawkins Heights, and then return to 40th and Patterson around the year 2030.  Do not do this to your community. We’ve never felt so mistreated by a public entity. Please stop this ill-considered change and commissioners walk this land with us and hear the other side of the story. You’ve only heard one side. 

Marilyn Block: [00:01:24] I’m Marilyn Block. As of March you were only going to build one tank and then got some input from some neighbors. And in April you decided to build two tanks. And so it’s fairly recent that this change has happened and it seems reasonable and fair to involve more public input in this decision. And so I request a public meeting regarding this change in the plan before anything else happens. That’s it.

Joann Corravio: [00:02:04] My name is Joann Corravio. I live in Ward Three and I just learned about this plan on June 3rd. While I’m not opposed to a reservoir plan, I’m strongly opposed to cutting the trees down that are existing here and not including them as infrastructure, which they are. They’re infrastructure like roads and curbs and everything else. They absorb radiation from the sun. They filter out pollution, they suck up storm water, they store carbon. They spread moisture through their leaves, they nurture wildlife and they improve people’s mental and physical health and scientists say they can lower urban temperatures 10 degrees.

It’s getting hotter out there and trees need to be seen as something that will help EWEB, it will help Eugene. It will help that neighborhood. It will help the planet. There must be a way to have a reservoir and keep those trees. They are functional. They’ve been quietly doing this job for years. Please don’t consider them unimportant. We need to have more public input before the decision to build two reservoirs and this site is done.

Steven Goldman: [00:03:24] My name is Steven Goldman. I was a natural resources program manager for the California Tahoe Conservancy, which is a State of California agency charged with saving Lake Tahoe from environmental destruction.  When I read the Record of Decision for the Patterson Hill water tank projects, I was greatly disturbed by the quality of your public process, which I believe is inadequate in several respects. I want to first urge the board to hold an in-person public hearing, to allow everyone in this community who is interested, concerned, or has questions about this project to be heard and to have all the questions and concerns responded to thoroughly openly and honestly, this has not happened.

I learned from your staff, which has been helpful by the way, that building a filtration plant on the Willamette river is in, in consideration.  I think that project needs to be fast tracked. I also learned from your staff that that you have developed five wells recently that are intended to serve the community and that you then have a disruption of our water supply, but the community does not know where these wells are. How are people gonna know where to go to get this emergency water? No one I talked to has any idea that these exist.

Jenna: [00:04:40] Hi, I’m Jenna and I am well about to turn 12 on the 16th. That is super unfair to everyone that they’re putting two water tanks in this beautiful forest. That is one of the only ones closest in the town that has neighborhoods surrounded by it that it is super unfair to destroy and cut down all those trees with all the animal homes in them. The trees are super old and these animals need those, especially when they’re in town, because once we cut down those trees, they don’t have any home.  Every year it keeps getting hotter and hotter which means more trees are burning down. So at some point every tree is gonna count. At some point, I want to be able to go there with my children in the future, and I want them to be able to go there with their children in the future.

Joseph Hubble: [00:05:40] My name is Joseph Hubble. I live a half a block away from Tugman Park, just down the street from the project. And until this last Sunday, I had not heard of this. Now, granted, I’m not as well connected as some to local matters, but you would think that being this close I’m a bit of a stakeholder here and that somehow EWEB would have found a way to inform me, give me a chance to, to have some input here. I believe government should be more inclusive rather than exclusive. And the job that’s been done so far is woefully poor.  

We need to use more of our, the collective minds of all the people here to come up with plans that are more outside of the box than just building a huge tower up there, full of water. There must be alternatives that we can consider.

Victor: [00:06:43] . This is Victor (last name).  I want to quote Jason Simon on NextDoor.com. He said from an engineering standpoint, College Hill is actually a much better site to expand the water supply for the entire City of Eugene. It is much higher; it already has the old growth trees removed; there is enough room up there to put more water capacity than the 40th and Patterson site. The three existing reservoirs up there could be upgraded each in sequence, and with minimal disruption to services.

EWEB says it’s a publicly owned utility owned by us, yet we have never had the opportunity to vote directly on anything in the entire history of EWEB. We need to put a statement in the next bill, real simple. Do you support redoing the three College Hill water tanks in phases to make them earthquake proof and provide water for Eugene for the next hundred years? You vote yes or no. Second question. Do you support stopping any cutting of trees on the 40th street and Patterson streets? This includes halting all work on any water towers there. You answer yes or no. You put it in with everybody’s bill paper, email, or however they get it. EWEB must listen to the people and allow them to vote directly.  We are asking for a truly democratic EWEB.

Dr. Samuel Schmieding: [00:08:27] My name is Dr. Samuel Schmieding and I’m a native Eugenean who lives two and a half blocks from the forest above 40th avenue, and played in those woods as a kid. I knew nothing of this massive project despite being a journalist and historian who follows such thing. Not till I saw a flyer on my porch last week did I know anything about the biggest infrastructure project in decades for EWEB in this end of town. Almost no one I know knew either. How could a project this huge and impactful not be properly announced, in Eugene, Oregon of all places. The lack of proper public notice that you made on something this major, goes against the spirit, if not the letter of most land use planning, laws and social norm in the post-Earth Day era. Modern culture has been guided by the principle of transparency for public decisions on land use and natural resources planning. This is a major disturbance project and, not to be debated in the open, we really urge the EWEB board to revisit this decision and hope for really, truly open public meetings.

Janell South: [00:09:23] Good evening. This is Janell and I am an elementary school teacher in this county.  I am opposed as everyone else so far on this call to taking out this well-established forest. Other alternatives need to be examined, and given fair hearings. There needs to be, I’m requesting, a public hearing.

Instead of taking out an elder community of trees that has habitat for birds, like the pileated woodpecker here, sleep there, deer give birth here, deer nurse there, they play there, they forage there. And beyond the animals that these trees give such a wonderful habitat to, children, we need a place for children to have a regular diet of nature in their life, rather than Fortnite and Roadblock. You need to get them off their screen. We need to have them in nature. We can’t replace a community of elder trees. The baby trees, young trees can’t give oxygen. They can’t give nuts or seeds or shade or shelter to animals and insects and people.

We need to not be thinking about the next 10 or 20 years. That’s too shortsighted. We need to be thinking about 150 years from now. What will be the impact for future generations? Where is the environmental impact statement? How is this sustainable? These consider what you’re doing carefully. It’s important.

Jana Thrift: [00:10:52] Hello. I want to say that I oppose the plan to destroy the little part of the forest at 40th and Patterson to create the water tanks there. I just can’t believe there are no alternative places to put the needed water tanks. I really believe that as a human race, we need to find more creative ways to prioritize issues like whether we should be taking out more trees for anything. Our need for every tree to fight climate change is one of the most important issues of our time… I was honestly offended when I read your response to my granddaughter about why our generation should have the right to decide to destroy any old forested area, still left for our future generation. With all the great minds in our world, I believe we can come up with a better solution than this.

Sandra Bishop: [00:11:43] My name is Sandra Bishop.  The abrupt decision on April 6th to double the size of a massive infrastructure project was a real breaking point for the neighborhood. Doubling the size of the infrastructure projects of this magnitude, that is not something that can be done overnight, or shouldn’t be done overnight without any public process. Since the decision on April six to build two reservoirs, rather than the original one, there’s been no opportunity for public participation of any kind. And now we’re being told that on August 2nd, the logging begins. We need your help. Our elected officials, we are in this together. We are not right. You are not wrong. We have a situation here where you’re asking the neighborhood to endure an incredible change in one of the largest infrastructure projects that will be built in at least probably a decade around here.  There’s time to have a public airing of this situation. You can hear from people testifying, what they don’t know about our water system. We need an additional reservoir. You can have that without pushing this through and destroying a forest. So it’s possible, it’s doable, it’s the right thing.

So you do not have to slow down the construction of one reservoir to have an open public process. So that’s really what people are asking for. So please work with us, allow yourself to relax. Don’t keep yourself separated from your neighbors, friends who are asking you to reconsider building two up here. It’s unconscionable. Go back to the original plan that’s in all the planning documents, to build one reservoir now.

Charlie Rojas: [00:13:40] I only received notice of this project about a week or so ago, or a little less than that. So you did a very poor job of notifying your over 200,000 customers that you were going to be doing this major project.  What you seem to have ignored is the fact that we’ve had one of the worst economic downturns in Oregon history, if not the worst. Many of your customers are basically facing eviction and a very hard time, if they’re going to be able to survive. There are hundreds of thousands, if not more Oregonians, and many of them here in Lane County, that are facing eviction and living on the street. These aren’t going to be your typical homeless, stereotypical, these are going to be working and middle-class. And they are going to be your customers and seemingly they have been out of the, out of the loop of this whole discussion. So at this point in time, you’re deciding to unilaterally increase the costs of this project when many of us are going to be facing eviction. And in fact, on July 31st, and CDC is going to lift their eviction moratorium. So this is almost a done process. You only have a few days, and yet at this point in time, you decided to go ahead and increase the costs. And so I find this hard to believe that you would in fact, not consider the public and include the public in this project.

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