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OFFICIAL STATEMENT OF THE SCIENCE & CONSERVATION COMMITTEE REGARDING THE PROPOSED POWER PROJECT OF THE EUGENE WATER & ELECTRIC BOARD ON THE UPPER McKENZIE
(The following is another in the current series of factual and editorial comment on Lane County's effort in the nationwide battle to conserve natural beauty. While those of us in Lane Co. are kept ever-mindful of the status of this issue via press, radio, and TV it behooves this organization, as one dedicated to conservation, and this publication as its voice, to keep informed the 30% of its "subscribers" residing outside the area of influence of the "heat of battle". While some may feel the ammunition is being wasted on an already sympathetic and informed membership, the printing of past and present material remains as much a matter of principle as of necessity. No one will deny that we need all the help which can be mustered, both presently and in the future, from near and far, on any issue of the magnitude of Beaver Marsh and its implications. We would rather err in the direction of too much material, than be looked upon by other clubs and outdoor enthusiasts as not doing everything possible during the present emergency to adequately inform those on the periphery, of our own problems In our own locality, as those problems, we know, will affect many besides residents of Lane County. Ed.)
The Committee on Science and Conservation (hereinafter called the Committee) wishes to take this opportunity to issue a statement regarding the proposed Beaver March Project (hereinafter called Project) of EWEB. Many highly misleading statements have recently been made about this proposed power installation and for this reason we feel that it is desirable for the Committee to call attention to a number of facts that should aid in the clarification of the basic issues that are involved in this highly controversial question. Jim Jeppesen's stimulating article in the last issue of the Obsidian Bulletin presents an excellent description of the Upper Mckenzie and we suggest that all Obsidians who are not thoroughly familiar with the area under dispute should read this article with care.
The EWES has implied that the power project can be installed without major damage to the natural beauty of this last remaining relatively unaltered portion of the McKenzie. It is the duty of this Committee to warn all Obsidians (and the many other outdoor enthusiasts who are periodically exposed to this publication; Ed.) that the Project will, in fact, largely destroy the natural beauty of the Upper McKenzie. Perhaps the most tragic result of the proposed installation will be the destruction of the Upper and Middle Falls. It seems to us almost unbelievable that any organization could be so intent upon achieving its own specific ends that it would suggest the destruction of these two mighty spectacles of the Cascades. Obsidians should keep continuously in mind the fact that water will be piped from Clear Lake around the two falls to the newly created pond at Beaver Marsh; it is from the energy of the falling water in this pipe that the generators in the power plant at Beaver Marsh are to be driven. No water will be allowed to move from Clear Lake over the falls during the winter (the non-tourist season) except for that portion of floods that the Water Board cannot use in its plant. During the summer, water will be released from Clear Lake for the falls at the rate of 40 cu ft/sec during the daylight hours only. During the hours of darkness of the summer months no water will be released from Clear Lake for the maintenance of the falls. The average discharge of water from Clear Lake over a 7 year period was 512 CU ft/sec (1952 report of the Geol. Survey), an amount with which the proposed 40 cu ft/sec during the daylight hours of the summer must be contrasted.
It is interesting to note that if the flow of water emerging from Clear Lake into the channel of the Upper McKenzie is compared with that entering at Beaver Marsh, an increase of 152 cu ft/sec can be demonstrated, indicating the effect of underground sources in increasing the total quantity of water in the river bed. The EWEB has recently been making much of this fact, implying that this water will maintain the falls even though the major source at Clear Lake is cut off. It is a very unfortunate fact that nobody has any idea just where these underground sources enter the stream. If this water comes in below the falls, as may be entirely possible, it will have no effect whatsoever in maintaining these two major scenic spectacles of Oregon. Indeed, in view of the great porosity of the volcanic rock that makes up the bed of the Upper McKenzie, it seems very probable to this Committee that the 40 cu ft/sec of water during daylight hours of the summer will be insufficient to bring about any flow of water in the McKenzie between Clear Lake and Beaver Marsh. It is distinctly probable that the Project will give us nothing but a dry stream bed in this area that is now one of the great scenic spots of the Northwest.
The amount of space available does not allow for a complete discussion of all the items which have become confused because of false implication and misrepresentation. It seems to us, however, that one of the most misrepresented of all the issues involves the precise meaning of the withdrawal of the original objections of the State Game Commission to the Project. The Committee has found that many citizens have been led to believe that this withdrawal indicates responsible members of the Commission are giving their approval to the whole Project. There are even those who believe that the lack of objections by the Commission gives assurance that the natural beauty of the Upper McKenzie will be adequately protected by EWEB. One of us (Kezer) investigated this last summer and was able to obtain the facts by personal interview with one of the employees of the Commission at the regional office.
The facts, as obtained from this interview, are these; when EWEB first proposed its plan for the Project it became evident to the Commission that the proposal would have a bad effect on the fish population of the Upper McKenzie; accordingly, objections to the project were filed. EWEB then sent a representative to the Game Commission and offered to meet the objections to the extent that was possible and still allow for the proposed installation. This kind of cooperation on the part of a utility was a new experience for the Commission: other utilities, when confronted with similar objections, had responded only with uncooperative belligerence. It is not difficult to understand that when confronted with courteous cooperation of this kind, the Commission had no alternative but to withdraw its objections. During this interview it was emphasized that the withdrawal of the original objections indicated only one thing: that it was estimated that the total number of fish in the Upper McKenzie would not be greatly affected. It was pointed out that the effect of the Project on the area as a whole is a matter that the Commission has no authority to judge and at no time did that consideration enter either into their original objections or their withdrawal. The withdrawal of the Commission from the dispute had to do only with their estimate of the effect of the proposed installation on total fish quantity and is not to be interpreted in any other way.
It is particularly important to note that there are no scientific data on Clear Lake that allow for an accurate estimate of the effect of the expected fluctuation on the justly famous cutthroat and rainbow trout populations. The Commission has neither the funds nor the man-power for the collection of fundamental scientific data on the lakes and streams under its jurisdiction. Lacking such data, it was necessary for the Commission to make a guess in resolving its dispute with EWEB. It was decided that some fish would be gained by the dam at Fish Lake, some would certainly be lost by the fluctuation of Clear Lake, and some would perhaps be gained at the Beaver Marsh Pond. Thus, it was estimated that the sum of fish would perhaps remain about the same as at present, This rather optimistic point of view by the Commission is rendered suspect by the possibility (admitted by EWEB) 1) of failure of the Fish Lake Dam to impound water, and 2) of the possible dry stream bed mentioned earlier. Under any circumstances, it is extremely important for us to understand the Commission's withdrawal from this controversy has to do only with fish, and has no meaning in terms of the over-all effect of the proposed Project.
To the three of us who have been chosen by the Obsidians as their Science and Conservation Committee, it is clear that the basic issue is this: The citizens of Eugene must choose whether the Upper McKenzie is to remain the magnificently beautiful natural area that it is today, or whether that beauty is to be permanently destroyed in order to secure a small amount of peaking power. Both of these objectives are not simultaneously possible. One or the other must be chosen. It is our hope that all Obsidians will make this issue clear to their friends and neighbors.
Prof. Frank Sipe, U. O. Biol. Dept., Chairman
Dr. James Kezer, Asst. Prof., U. O. Biol. Dept.
Myron G. Stahl, Pres. Save The McKenzie Assn.
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