Douglas County Residents Sound Off On Winchester Dam in Roseburg News-Review

By Becky McRae and Bill Black  |  Oct. 3, 2023  |  Roseburg News-Review

Too Many Questions Linger on Winchester Dam

The North Umpqua River is the reason Zane Grey left the Rogue River. The river enjoyed the fishing of Jimmy Carter when he was President of the United States, it welcomed author and fisherman Jack Hemmingway, and itwas the setting for what would become the 20-foot tall portrait statue of Governor Tom McCall wading through the river with a fly rod and a steelhead.

In the past, the river was featured in magazines for traveling, waterfalls, fishing, hiking, floating and bike trails.

However, publications are now writing about the North Umpqua and recent repair work on privately owned Winchester Dam. That work created a massive kill of Pacific lamprey and blocked upstream migration of imperiled summer steelhead and other native fish runs for a month, missing two deadlines.

Over the course of the repair, multiple violations by the contractor were reported to state and federal agencies responsible for permitting the project. Over 800 letters were written to the Oregon Governor’s office, state legislators, the state Fish and Wildlife Commission, state and federal agencies demanding full investigations of the reported violations and, if substantiated, enforcement to the fullest extent possible.

The questions asked are hard to answer — why someone, with no previous dam experience, was allowed to be the lead in the repair; why a coffer dam wasn’t required instead of completely dewatering the fish ladder; why potentially cancer-causing tire mats were allowed in the river, why there was a concrete spill in the river.

Too many why’s to list.

Becky McRae, Glide

Ms. McRae’s letter originally appeared in the Oct. 3, 2023, issue of the Roseburg News-Review.

Time for the Winchester Dam to Go

It’s high time the Winchester Dam is removed. It’s been impeding the world famous North Umpqua for well over 100 years. The problems are way too many to mention here. I’ve been keeping a close eye on this debacle, but was not aware of just how many more issues Winchester Dam has until I read a very well written article Mr. Carloni wrote in the Umpqua Watersheds newsletter.

If you care about the river I recommend you look this one up. It’s a long-running ecological disaster that should bring our community together.

I sympathize to some extent with the 100 or so families in the Winchester Water Control District (WWCD). Three million dollars have already been used up on phase one for a very shoddy job and phase two will be millions more if ever completed. All the while, WaterWatch of Oregon will sponsor and pay to have the dam removed. Basically it’s a no-brainer. It relieves the potential long-term liability that could cost the 100 families millions and millions of dollars more. Think of the potential cost to these folks if more lawsuits are fought or lost.

Removing the dam will begin the healing of one of our most precious Douglas County resources. Once it’s back in shape and looks like the river it\s supposed to be, I suspect the property values will go up.

So let’s look beyond the miserable failure on the repairs, the waste of money all these unfortunate WWCD folks are forced to pay now or will pay. Look beyond various government and ODFW’s irresponsible permits. Lets move forward and restore the river for all the people and all the fish. Remove the useless dam.

Bill Black, Roseburg

Mr. Black’s letter originally appeared in the Oct. 3, 2023, issue of the Roseburg News-Review.