Levee Rage

Eugene dam problems: a sample of infrastructure repairs

The Leaburg Dam in Eugene, Oregon offers a representation of some of the United States’ decaying infrastructure, and the difficulties that come with combating it. The Eugene Water and Electric Board recently finished a saga of major repairs intended for restoring the Leaburg Dam to operational status. This was no small task.

Built in 1929, Leaburg has already required approximately $7.4 million in repairs. Its main issues are with its rollgates, the electric-motor-powered mechanisms used to open and close the dam. There are three of these, and they’re enormous. Each of the rollgates, which have been in operation for 88 years, needed individual repairs in 2012 and 2014. This was all after a hydraulic electric motor operating system was installed in 2006 to generate more electricity.

When challenges as large as these are presented, outright replacement is not the most sensible economic option. To be rectified, such challenges call for large-scale repair projects, and (thankfully) the jobs that come with them. In this case, repair of the rollgates and electric motor operating systems over the past decade has amounted to the $7.4 million mentioned above, but the process is nowhere near over. For one, it remains undetermined as to who is financially responsible for the repairs. Secondly, additional issues arose during the long repair process.

While an ongoing legal battle rages on to determine fiscal responsibility, the repairs are expected to resume this summer. With millions on the table, all parties hope they go without another bump.

Many of the country’s bridges, tunnels, roadways, railroads, and dams were built during the mid-20th century, and may not have been consistently or properly serviced during that entire time period. They now face the daunting task of refurbishment, replacement, or restoration…and none of the options are cheap.

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