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EWEB fells more than 250 trees before state order halts south Eugene water reservoir project

Aug. 3, 2021 Updated Tue., Aug. 3, 2021 at 5:30 p.m.

By Adam Duvernay Tribune News Services Tribune News Services

Tree-cutting at a controversial Eugene Water & Electric Board drinking water reservoir construction site was temporarily halted late in the afternoon Monday, the day it began.

Work crews at an EWEB-owned forest, where EWEB intends to build its reservoirs, cut down hundreds of trees Monday before the utility’s attorney was informed of a Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals stay on the project, according to EWEB spokesman Joe Harwood.

The clearing from the forested 11 acres is part of a $25 million project to install two new 7.5 million-gallon reservoirs. People living nearby have opposed the project, citing their environmental and quality-of-life concerns.

EWEB said constructing the two reservoirs is essential for Eugene’s drinking water. The utility has owned the site since the 1950s with the intention of building new reservoirs there.

The project requires the removal of at least 265 of more than 1,150 trees there.

EWEB crews finished tree-cutting activities around 11:30 a.m. Monday after felling about 253 of the 265 trees it planned to cut, Harwood said.

He said EWEB attorneys were notified of the order of stay around 3:30 p.m. Monday. Tree cutting at the site has halted in response to the order, he said.

He said the plan before the LUBA order was to cut down the remaining 12 trees over the next few days.

LUBA’s stay on the tree-cutting portion of the EWEB project was issued Monday, the same day LUBA received a notice of intent to appeal from local residents, including the loosely organized group Save EWEB Forest.

The notice of intent to appeal, or NITA, “challenges an erosion prevention permit” issued by the city of Eugene, according to the LUBA order of stay.

In its Aug. 2 order of a stay, LUBA said:

“Petitioners filed with the NITA a motion to stay the city’s decision, asserting that the erosion prevention permit authorizes immediate logging of a mature conifer forest and requests that LUBA issue an interim stay of the challenged decision, until the responses to the motion can be filed and the motion for stay can be considered on the merits.”

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