Corps, utilities restore power to McKenzie River area after Holiday Farm Fire

Published Oct. 13, 2020

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and several utilities successfully bring reliable power to the McKenzie River, Oregon area using Cougar Dam, Oct. 6.

Lane Electric, Petersen Cat, Bonneville Power Administration and the Corps worked to “island” Blue River with the nearby dam. Islanding is when a utility can provide local power, unattached from the regional grid, which is critical when powerlines are damaged, degraded or destroyed.

“The system of dams in the Willamette Valley fosters resilience and it provides communities multiple ways to access power, even after an emergency,” said Erik Petersen, Willamette Valley operations project manager. “At this time of real crisis and great loss, we have been eager to restore power locally and have been working with our partners to safely accomplish this objective,” Petersen continued.  “We’re extremely proud of the diverse team working to support the people whom we serve, up the McKenzie and throughout the Willamette basin.”

The combination of winds and the Holiday Farm Fire knocked out electric power transmission and distribution systems in the area, Sept. 7 and those systems are still unserviceable as repairs are ongoing. Lane Electric Cooperative had been providing temporary power to McKenzie River area members with an emergency diesel-powered generator. The generator would have to be taken offline every twenty days for service, which would have caused an inconvenience to customers.

"We are working around the clock to restore power to our members in the aftermath of this unprecedented wildfire," said Debi Wilson, Lane Electric general manager. “Rebuilding is a true community effort and we are thankful for the collaboration with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Bonneville Power Administration and Peterson Cat to help restore power to our members in the McKenzie River area. It's group efforts like this that make our community so strong."

Bringing Cougar Dam on-line to island the McKenzie River community allows for more stability, constancy and reliability to power customers. Improvements to equipment in the Cougar Powerhouse over the past year facilitated this capability, which was just not possible in past years.

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Tom Conning

Release no. 20-141