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Cleaning The Drinking Water

The McKenzie River is home to a diverse collection of wildlife and is also the source of Eugene’s drinking water. The 90-mile tributary of the Willamette is home to fish like rainbow trout, spring Chinook and mountain whitefish. Unfortunately, the wildlife, as well as anyone else drinking the water, shares the river with beer cans, mattresses and televisions among other waste that has been dumped into the McKenzie.

The McKenzie Watershed Council (MWC) is hosting its annual McKenzie River cleanup on July 9. The river cleanup will take place from 9 am to 2 pm and a celebration will follow at Hendricks Bridge Wayside in Springfield from 1 to 4 pm. The McKenzie River Guides Association (MRGA) and the McKenzie Flyfishers will cohost the event.

The McKenzie River cleanup has been an annual event for more than 40 years and was started by the MRGA, but MWC has been the main host in recent years. 

The McKenzie River is the primary drinking water source for Eugene and is also an indirect water source for Springfield, which gets 90 percent of its drinking water from wells that tap into water from the McKenzie. Springfield plans to use the McKenzie River as a direct drinking water source when its current sources reach capacity, according to the Springfield Utility Board.

The MWC, formed in 1993, is a nonprofit volunteer group that strives to restore and protect the McKenzie River’s water quality and wildlife. MWC has an assortment of events, projects and programs throughout the year, like its Salmon Watch program, a children’s education program for Lane County students. 

“It’s critical that we protect the McKenzie,” MWC Executive Director Larry Six says.

Volunteers will sign in at Hendricks Bridge Wayside, the event’s headquarters, and be directed to their assigned location. Some people will go out on boats, while others will collect trash from the river’s shores. Volunteers will cover 80 miles of the McKenzie. Last year’s 120 volunteers collected more trash than the Dumpsters could hold, Six says.

“I’m really heartened by the volunteers that are willing to spend their Saturday to come down and help with this,” Six tells EW. “It’s a labor of love for everybody.”

After the cleanup ends, volunteers are invited to a celebratory barbecue from 1 to 4 pm at the cleanup headquarters at Hendricks Bridge. There will be free food, prizes and T-shirts available at the site.

“It’s a matter of civic pride to keep a clean, aesthetically pleasing river,” Six says.

Go to mckenziewc.org for a list of sections of the river and waysides and boat launches to be cleaned and contact Amanda Wilson at administration@mckenziewc.org or by phone at 458-201-8150 to sign up. Hendricks Bridge is located at 38870 Hendricks Park Road in Springfield.