Kirk Blaine of Native Fish Society, (left) and fisherman Nate Humphrey (right).

On Friday, September 15, 2023, the Oregon Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) Commissioner met in Bend, Oregon, and one of the subjects on the agenda was the Winchester Dam.

Nate Humphrey, a resident of Bend, Oregon addressed the Commission and ODFW Director Curt Melcher:

“I was introduced to the North Umpqua River as a child and now spend numerous days each year fishing for summer steelhead as a recreational angler.

“I’m testifying today regarding the Winchester Dam repair project on the North Umpqua River. What has happened in the past few months is embarrassing, heartbreaking, and unacceptable. I supported ODFW ‘s decision to close the river to the North Umpqua to angling on July 31st, and found that repairs to the 130-year-old dam would begin only a week later, I figured ODFW would step in, explain repairs requiring alternative methods for repairing this dam did not require blocking fish migration or draining of the reservoir pool. 

“I was wrong.

“I watched an agony as Terrafirma Foundation Systems began the disastrous repairs. I was appalled seeing polluted water from freshly poured concrete flow into the North Umpqua River. I was confused why ODFW allowed WWCD [Winchester Water Control District] to use heavy mats for machinery in the river that are known to be detrimental to salmon and steelhead. And most importantly, I was alarmed by the killing of upwards of hundreds of thousands of Pacific lamprey.

“Why was this allowed to happen?

“This is not the first time this has happened. Winchester Water Control District [WWCD] did repairs of 2018 that failed within months. The failure caused a pollution spill that contaminated drinking water, as well as the fish kill. WWCD has to be held accountable for the killing of summer steelhead, Chinook salmon, and Pacific lamprey.

“Winchester Dam must be removed.

“I’ve spent the last decade working as a carpenter. Similar to the terms and conditions ODFW sets in their fish passage authorization permit, the city has codes and inspections I must follow. If I failed to meet these building codes or fail an inspection, I am held accountable.

“Terrafirma Foundations Systems and WWCD need to be held accountable for their failures. Please hold them accountable for the committed violations on the fish passage authorization permit.
The ODFW’s mission statement is as follows: the mission is to protect and enhance Oregon’s Fish and Wildlife and their habitats for the use and enjoyment at present and future generations.

Now is the time. Please stand up for the community surrounding this the North Umpqua. Stand up for these fish. Hold WWCD accountable for their failures. Give future generations the chance to experience these wild anadromous fish before it’s too late.”

Curt Melcher, Director of Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife