Letter to the Editor published in the Bandon Western World, November 22, 2023:

On October 21, the Coos Bay World published the article “State seeks $27.6 million from southern Oregon dam operators over massive fish kill.” Living in a community where fish play a pivotal role in our culture and ecosystem, I am genuinely thrilled to see the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) take proactive steps to hold dam operators accountable for their complete disregard of our state’s fish and wildlife.

Even more encouraging was your November 1, 2023 article reporting that the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has issued fines totaling approximately $134,000 to Winchester Water Control District and TerraFirma Foundation Systems.

Fish are a vital part of our community and our culture. The more you learn about the dire situation at Winchester Dam – how the ladder fails to meet state or federal fish passage requirements, the extensive damage to the dam’s structure, and the apparent lack of routine maintenance by the Winchester Water Control District. This dam serves no public good and severely harms the fish and wildlife in our state. The Winchester Water Control District have prioritized their water ski lake over the well-being of our local ecosystems.

Now that state agencies have imposed financial penalties on this disastrous project, it’s high time that our federal agencies follow suit.

I urge everyone who cares about the well-being of the rivers and fish in our community to reach out to Senators Wyden and Merkley, as well as Congresswoman Hoyle. Let’s ensure that the Army Corps of Engineers, another regulatory agency, holds the Winchester Water Control District accountable for the violations committed during their attempts to maintain their private lake.

This problem is not going to fix itself. It’s time we combine our voices as anglers and community members and be loud about the need to remove Winchester Dam from the North Umpqua River.

Shane Stalling, North Bend, Oregon