[Letter to the editor published in the Roseburg, Oregon, News-Review, October 3, 2023]

The North Umpqua River is the reason Zane Grey left the Rogue River, it enjoyed the fishing of Jimmy Carter when he was President of the United States, it welcomed author and fisherman Jack Hemmingway, and was the setting for what would become the 20-foot tall portrait statue of Governor Tom McCall wading through the river with a fly rod and a steelhead.

In the past, the river was featured in magazines for traveling, waterfalls, fishing, hiking, floating and bike trails.

However, now publications are writing about the North Umpqua and recent repair work on privately owned Winchester Dam. That work created a massive kill of Pacific lamprey and blocked upstream migration of imperiled summer steelhead and other native fish runs for a month, missing two deadlines. Over the course of the repair, multiple violations by the contractor were reported to state and federal agencies responsible for permitting the project. Over 800 letters were written to the Oregon Governor’s office, state legislators, the state Fish and Wildlife Commission, state and federal agencies demanding full investigations of the reported violations and, if substantiated, enforcement to the fullest extent possible.

The questions asked are hard to answer — why someone, with no previous dam experience, was allowed to be the lead in the repair; why a coffer dam wasn’t required instead of completely dewatering the fish ladder; why were potentially cancer causing tire mats allowed to be in the river, why was there a concrete spill in the river. Too many why’s to list.

-Becky McRae, Glide, Oregon

Ryan Beckley used mats made of rubber automobile tires to build a roadbed across the river. Tires leach a chemical called 6PPD quinone, the second most lethal substance on earth to Coho salmon.