McKenzie River wrecks new boat launch

McKenzie River wrecks new boat launch
LEABURG, Ore. - Surveying the site where trees were cut down and replaced with a boat launch and parking lot last year, Don Abblett said he knew this would happen. "All of us who live over here said that will flood, we've seen it flood over and over again, you've put it in the wrong place," he said. And this past weekend, that's exactly what happened. The McKenzie River rose with the weekend rain and washed out the boat landing, damaging the parking lot and pulling trees from the ground. The boat landing is a Eugene Water and Electric Board project built to satisfy federal requirements to renew the hydroelectric license on a dam at nearby Leaburg Lake. The price tag: over $350,000. The project has been constroversial. Neighbors fought it because of the traffic. Some said it would mar a pristine stretch of river. "They came in with their bulldozer, took out all the trees and put in a parking lot," Abblett said. Construction on the project got going late last year. The flood didn't take EWEB by surprise. "We knew the area floods," said Kris Stenshoel, Vegetation Program Coordinator for EWEB, "and it probably floods like this two to three times a year. I didn't anticipate the parking lot not being able to withstand it. The rest of it, as I say, is a natural process." Stenshoel said the flood did so much damage because the boat landing is still under construction. The parking lot still needed another layer of protection. EWEB doesn't have a damage estimate yet, but clean up is already underway. "The bottom line is EWEB will make this right," Stenshoel said. "This was in process, and once we get done it'll be a beautiful area for everyone to use." Watch an extended video version of this story by Loren Ruark of KVAL News