On August 7, 2023, Winchester Water Control District (WWCD) started repairing the derelict Winchester Dam. Despite far more expansive recent claims made to the public by WWCD about these repairs, WWCD representatives previously told state and federal regulators that the repairs would be “to the minimum extent necessary to eliminate known and reasonably anticipated dam safety deficiencies at the dam.” (DOWL Technical Memo, April 4, 2022, p. 4). On this basis, WWCD received approvals from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, NOAA Fisheries, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to proceed with the repairs. State and federal agencies issued the permits even after river advocates repeatedly raised concerns and pointed out multiple irregularities in the process (read about these irregularities and concerns here).
WWCD has hired the residential/commercial basement repair company of their own board president, Terra Firma Foundation Systems, as the primary dam repair contractor, despite the fact that his company has no experience in dam repair.
Since the start of construction, river advocates have documented and reported multiple apparent legal and permitting violations to regulatory agencies. These include a massive fish kill of native Pacific lamprey resulting from woefully inadequate salvage efforts by WWCD during the dam reservoir drawdown. River advocates believe that WWCD’s contractor continues to violate regulations and permits intended to protect fish, wildlife, and water quality.
River advocates have been pressing this issue in part because harm from the previous Winchester Dam repair was devastating and well-documented. According to state investigators, pollution from the 2018 repairs at the dam degraded aquatic habitat, killed fish, and harmed the primary drinking water source for the City of Roseburg and the Umpqua Basin Water Association – serving approximately 37,700 people combined. Investigators also found that dam repairs were conducted without following known best management practices, even after authorities provided WWCD with information in advance on how to protect water quality and fish.
This ecological disaster is happening now because government agencies have consistently failed to hold WWCD accountable. Please take action by sending a letter to your state and federal representatives asking them to fully investigate these reported violations and, if substantiated, bring enforcement action to the fullest extent possible.
Together, we can end the ongoing harm from Winchester Dam once and for all. Please encourage your elected leaders to support the removal of Winchester Dam to restore a free-flowing North Umpqua River benefiting the fish, wildlife, and people who depend on it!