EWEB says 5-year closures for hydro project are 'unfortunate' but necessary

A forest road accessing fishing and camping will close for 5 years while EWEB performs a $100 million upgrade to the hydroelectric power generation plant. (SBG)

EUGENE, Ore. – The Eugene Water & Electric Board will launch a project to retrofit, refurbish and upgrade equipment at its Carmen-Smith Hydroelectric facility along the upper McKenzie River, beginning March 27.

The hydroelectric facility is about 70 miles east of Eugene.

During the project, EWEB will close public access to Trail Bridge and Lakes End campgrounds, the Trail Bridge Reservoir They will also close Forest Service roads 690, 730, and 689. These areas will be closed for five years, through 2021.

RELATED | Hydro project upgrade to restrict access to reservoir for 5 years

EWEB says the closures are necessary because it is not possible to maintain safe public access through or around the construction areas.

“It’s unfortunate that we have to close the road during this long-term construction project,” said Mike McCann, EWEB’s generation manager. “But with an active construction zone at the Powerhouse, this is the only way to guarantee public safety and the safety of our staff and contractors.”

The McKenzie River Trail and associated trailheads will remain open during the construction period. However, near the Trail Bridge Reservoir, hikers will only be able to use the McKenzie River Trail.

The road to Blue Pool Trailhead will remain open.

Officials will block the Trail Bridge Reservoir with fencing. They say there will be fishing access to Trail Bridge via pedestrian access over the dam located on the south side of the reservoir and along the banks of the reservoir adjacent to Highway 126.

During the modernization project, EWEB will also make significant improvements to fish passage facilities and habitat. They will also upgrade Trail Bridge and Lakes End campgrounds.

EWEB expects to invest approximately $100 million in the project and making the habitat and recreation improvements.

Carmen-Smith is the largest EWEB hydroelectric project in its system. The power plant opened in 1963 at a cost of $31 million.

The maximum power output is 118,000 kw, enough power to light 16,000 homes.

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