About

WinchesterDam.com is a service of Community Rights Douglas County, a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit corporation, and an alliance of neighbors in Douglas County, Oregon.

We are all volunteers. We do not accept advertisements or contributions from large foundations, corporations, or political interests. Our sole source of funding is tax-deductible donations from individuals.

The Winchester Dam is situated a few miles north of Roseburg, Oregon, only a few hundred few from Interstate Highway 5. It’s 100 miles north of the California border, and 60 miles from the Pacific Ocean.

We, the members of Community Rights Douglas County, share the belief that the only thing standing between Douglas County and economic prosperity, is the Winchester Dam on the North Umpqua River, the number one steelhead stream in North America (and some say, in the world).

Winchester Dam hasn’t produced hydroelectricity for more than 70 years. It offers no flood control or public benefit. Its sole purpose is to provide a private flatwater “lake” for the exclusive “recreational” use of 99 of the county’s wealthiest homeowners who live in the Winchester Water Control District.

The private water ski lake behind the condemned Winchester Dam is a relic of a bygone era – a time when the needs of the few outweighed the needs of the many – one that has no place in twenty-first century America.

In an effort to improve water quality and public safety, as well as the health of the native fisheries and the local economy, we educate and inform our elected representatives and state and federal agencies, as well as the general public.

The Winchester Dam on the North Umpqua is the most dangerous and illegal dam in the state of Oregon. The bowed and crumbling 450-foot-wide wood, steel, and concrete dam that completely spans the North Umpqua River is owned by the Winchester Water Control District (WWCD). Many of the wealthy WWCD landowners don’t even live in Douglas County. 

The 17-foot high Winchester Dam is an impassable barrier to migratory native fish. Fish populations at the dam are plummeting. Fishing on the North Umpqua River has been closed for two of the last three years due to extremely low fish counts.

In 1976, the Oregon Water Resources Department (OWRD) condemned the Winchester Dam and gave it the highest danger rating, “high hazard” – meaning they “expects loss of human life to occur if the dam fails.” OWRD told WWCD that “consideration must be given to a permanent dam, the existing wooden dam being considered as temporary in nature.”

In 2019, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife ranked Winchester Dam 26th worst out of 590 fish passage barriers in Oregon. It’s an insurmountable barrier that prevents Coho salmon, listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, and lamprey, listed as a “sensitive species” by the State of Oregon from spawning. 

The dam presents an ever-present danger to the health and safety of the downstream residents. The current repairs at the dam are just a band-aid – the dam is still condemned, leaking, and dangerous. 

Just 50 feet from the drinking water intake for 37,700 residents, repairs to the dam have been made with hundreds of pressure-treated boards that leaches copper, arsenic, and chromium, the use of which is prohibited in contact with public drinking water and creosote-treated wooden railroad ties, a “probable human carcinogen.”  and is prohibited “for use in contact with food, feed, or drinking water.”

A coalition of 17 Oregon organizations have offered to remove the Winchester Dam at no cost to the the dams owners.

The is no doubt that Winchester Dam will be removed – the only question is when, and will it be too late for the salmon and the steelhead.

Bring down the dam.

Bring back the fish and the jobs.