The Eugene Water & Electric Board and Lane Electric Cooperative each have recently completed wildfire mitigation plans, created as part of new requirements for many Oregon utilities following the destructive 2020 Labor Day Fires.
EWEB’s board of commissioners approved the utility’s wildfire mitigation plan during its July meeting. Lane Electric’s board of commissioners approved the cooperative’s wildfire mitigation plan in June.
The 2021 Oregon Legislature passed a law requiring electric utilities develop such plans, in part, due to the role utilities’ infrastructure played during the 2020 Labor Day Fires, some of which were first sparked by wind-downed power lines.
More:Lane County lawsuit seeks $103M from public utilities over Holiday Farm Fire
The cause of the Holiday Farm Fire, one of the Labor Day fires, hasn’t been officially determined. The Holiday Farm Fire burned more than 174,000 acres in the McKenzie River Valley, killed one person and burned hundreds of homes and buildings.
EWEB has said its power lines were disconnected when the fire started, but the lawsuits have been filed against both EWEB and Lane Electric Cooperative. Lane Electric said in a statement it is cooperating in an investigation of the fire’s cause.
In a news release, EWEB said its plan combines ongoing and new wildfire mitigation activities designed to protect public safety, reduce risk to utility customers and promote electrical system resilience to wildfire damage.
EWEB’s highlights of the plan include:
More:Eugene Water & Electric Board beginning state-mandated wildfire mitigation planning
- A year-round system maintenance plan with “robust design standards and equipment inspections.”
- Vegetation removal for clearance around electrical equipment and fuel reduction projects in high-risk fire zones.
- Infrastructure projects to improve reliability and to use fire-resistant equipment and construction methods.
- A set of operational practices, tools and weather conditions monitoring plans to inform field activities and utility response, including the use of a wildfire monitoring camera installed on an EWEB communications tower.
- Changes to electric system operational settings during Red Flag Warnings, including de-energizing powerlines.
Earlier this year, the EWEB board allocated $1 million for wildfire mitigation activities, according to the news release.
In a statement, Lane Electric said its plan focuses on minimizing sources of ignition, improving the grid resiliency and implementing a plan of action. The statement said the plan calls for special efforts to be made in the most at-risk areas.
Lane Electric said in the statement the utility will also continue to move power lines underground.
Starting next week, Lane Electric will host town halls in each of its districts to share wildfire preparedness tips, details of the fire mitigation plan and take questions. Members can learn more information at laneelectric.com/events/.
Contact reporter Adam Duvernay at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @DuvernayOR.