McKenzie River (photo by Andrew Kumler)

Press Release: Eugene Water and Electric Board’s Unanimously Votes to Decommission Leaburg Hydroelectric Project on the McKenzie River

For immediate release
January 4, 2023                         
Grace Brahler, Cascadia Wildlands, 785-393-1012;
Eugene, OR — Following years of extensive research, analysis, and outreach, the Eugene Water and Electric Board (EWEB) Commission voted unanimously to initiate a plan to decommission the Leaburg Hydroelectric Project on the McKenzie River at its January 3 meeting. The Board of Commissioners formally approved EWEB General Manager Frank Lawson’s December 6 recommendations to decommission the project, which discontinued electricity generation in 2018, and remove the aging Leaburg Dam. 
Cascadia Wildlands, a Eugene-based non-profit conservation organization that works to defend and restore Cascadia’s wild ecosystems, has expressed consistent support for decommissioning the Leaburg Hydroelectric Project and removing Leaburg Dam.
“We strongly support EWEB’s decision to decommission the Leaburg Hydroelectric Project and remove Leaburg Dam for the many benefits for imperiled species and other wildlife that rely on the McKenzie River,” says Grace Brahler, Wildlands Director for Cascadia Wildlands, who attended the January 3 meeting and testified in strong support of the Board’s decision. “These species need cool, clear water to survive, especially as the impacts of the climate emergency exacerbate the many stresses they face. We urge EWEB to develop a strong plan to restore the river to pre-project conditions as expeditiously as feasible.” 
EWEB will now develop a “Leaburg Hydroelectric Decommissioning Action Plan” over the course of 2023 to identify key milestones and chart next steps toward decommissioning. EWEB will commence near-term risk reduction measures and continue public engagement efforts while the action plan is developed. 
“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. Imperiled fish and wildlife, recreationists, and the hundreds of thousands of Oregonians who rely on the McKenzie for clean drinking water will reap the benefits of this decision for generations.” 
Representing 12,000 members and supporters across the country, Cascadia Wildlands envisions vast old-growth forests, a stable climate, rivers full of wild salmon, wolves howling in the backcountry and vibrant, diverse communities sustained by the unique landscapes of the Cascadia bioregion.