[The Roseburg, Oregon, News-Review extended an invitation to the local Republican and Democratic parties to submit comment on the Winchester Dam. This the Douglas County Democrats response, published on October 2, 2023.]

The Winchester Dam is over 130 years old, and it’s time for it to go.

The dam once provided drinking water and electricity to people in our county, but those days are long gone. The dam today exists solely to serve the private recreational purposes of a few people, at great cost to most people in Douglas County. The dam degrades the drinking water supply. The dam kills fish and devastates fish runs. People living downstream are at risk of sudden death in the event of catastrophic dam failure from earthquake, flood, and shoddy repairs.

The Winchester Water Control District has completed recent repairs on the Winchester Dam, after numerous delays and the deaths of countless fish. But the controversy and underlying problems persist. They will persist as long as the dam remains.

Under Oregon law, the Water Control District exists to “prevent damage and destruction of life and property by floods, to improve the agricultural and other uses of lands, and to improve the public health, welfare and safety.” This dam, however, harms public health, welfare, and safety. It is likely to kill people and destroy property.

It should not exist.

Recent repairs won’t be enough to overcome decades of neglect. As the dam continues to age, more and more risky repairs will be necessary. We must be proactive and remove the dam now, rather than letting future generations deal with the problem. Or we can wait. While salmon runs collapse, we can wait for an earthquake or flood to kill people and wipe out homes downstream of the dam.

Let’s not wait.

The Democratic Party of Douglas County has urged state and federal officials to enforce all rules and laws concerning stream management and endangered species, up to and including the removal of the Winchester Dam.

We hope that concerned citizens of Douglas County will join our efforts.”

-Douglas County Democrats, Roseburg, Oregon