Ed Pugh nears end of 33-year DVWD career
After 33 years at Deschutes Valley Water District — with the past 15 as general manager — Edson "Ed" Pugh is preparing to retire in early August, when the district's new hire, Joel Gehrett, takes over.
During those years, Pugh, 60, has overseen dramatic expansion of the district's storage capacity, pipelines and customer base for its water, which flows out of the 850-foot deep Opal Springs Canyon, southwest of Culver.
In 2005, the district added a 500,000-gallon tank for Deer Ridge Correctional Institution; in 2007, the 3 million-gallon Metolius tank; in 2012, another 110,000-gallon Round Butte tank; and in 2013, a 4 million-gallon main tank. The new tanks have increased the district's water storage capacity to more than 16 million gallons, to better serve its 5,000 customers in Madras, Culver, Metolius, Gateway and Deer Ridge Correctional Institution with domestic water.
The first two tank installations of Pugh's tenure as manager accompanied a construction boom, which occurred from 2004-2008, when DVWD installed water infrastructure for 923 lots, and from 2006-2010, when the district put in 17.75 miles of transmission lines from the main tanks in the Culver area to Madras.
"Between 2004 and 2008, we could barely keep up with the new subdivisions and new water service applications," he said, noting that staff increased from 18 employees when he started in 1986 to a peak of 29 in 2008 "because of subdivision growth and the 24-inch transmission mainline construction."
"Currently, DVWD has 18 employees, which is enough for maintenance mode and small projects," said Pugh.
The installation of the Metolius tank, new main tank and transmission mainline, he said, "have radically improved our water distribution infrastructure. The transmission mainline helps maintain pressures and tank levels even on the hottest days of summer."
"The new tanks add emergency capacity, operational redundancy, and help immensely with smoothing out pumping operations at Opal Springs," he said, pointing out that DVWD personnel put in the transmission mainline, and did all the prep work for the new tanks. "This not only saved us money, but allowed us better quality control, without undue bureaucracy."
"When totally completed, the transmission mainline included 11.75 miles of 24-inch diameter pipe and 7.75 miles of 20-inch diameter pipe," said Pugh. "It starts at the Opal Springs pumphouse and ends at the bears roundabout on the east side of Madras."
Born in Alaska, Pugh moved with his parents, Chad and Virginia Pugh, to Oregon in 1961, and to Madras in 1972, when he was in sixth grade. His father bought the local Shell fuel oil business and Shell gas stations, where Pugh worked to raise money to help pay for college.
After graduating from Madras High School in 1977, he studied preengineering at Central Oregon Community College for two years, and then Oregon State University, where he graduated in 1982, with a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering, with an emphasis in water.
In March 1986, he started work at DVWD, and four years later, became registered as a professional engineer. "I have been the engineer of record for 165 miles of pipeline installed by DVWD crews since 1990," said Pugh.
"I am proud of how DVWD has accomplished all these major accomplishments in a team-like manner," he said. "The board, myself (as engineer/manager), and employees all worked together to accomplish a lot of projects and simultaneously operate the district in a professional manner to deliver safe drinking water at a reasonable rate."
For the past two years, Pugh has been the president of the Oregon Association of Water Utilities Board of Directors, which he has served on for 18 years.
Since 1993, the district's water has won the association's "Best Tasting Water," twice, and "Best Tasting Ground Water," three times, most recently in 2018, when it also won the coveted "Overall Best Drinking Water in Oregon."
The winners are selected by a panel of three judges, who conduct blind taste tests.
The district is currently working on a $10.7 million fish ladder project at the Opal Springs Hydroelectric Project, "to aid in the reintroduction of anadromous salmon and steelhead in the Deschutes Basin," he said in an earlier interview. "The project is the result of many years of discussions with fish agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and other interested parties who have sought fish passage since the fish were reintroduced to the basin in 2012."
Although he has enjoyed overseeing the hydroproject and fish ladder construction, Pugh's emphasis for the district has always been serving the public with safe drinking water. "The hydroproject and fish passage are important, but only to help with the priority of serving drinking water."
Pugh and his wife, Janelle, who have been married for 34 years, have four children and four grandchildren. Two daughters work at St. Charles Madras, Hannah Fahlgren, who was just hired as the pharmacist, and Terah Farrester, who is a registered nurse. Their son, Caleb Pugh, owns a Farmer's Insurance agency in the Happy Valley area, and their youngest daughter, Moriah Pugh, is a registered nurse at the Salem Hospital.
"I'm looking forward to spending time with grandkids and more time at the Coast, chasing salmon," he said. "Basically, I've loved having my dream job in my hometown."
The new district manager, Joel Gehrett, is scheduled to start work Aug. 5.
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