Oregon State Senator Floyd Prozanski

Roseburg, Oregon’s infamous Winchester Dam was on the agenda at the Wednesday, September 27, 2023, meeting of the Oregon Senate Interim Committee on Natural Resources and Wildfire, in Salem, Oregon.

State Senator Floyd Prozanski, a Democrat who spent 18 years as District Four’s Member of Congress in the Oregon House of Representatives, was profuse in his criticisms of the damage caused by Ryan Beckley’s Terra Firma Foundations Systems’ August 2023 repairs of the Winchester Dam.

“We now have a fish kill. We have DEQ [Department of Environmental Quality] violations that have been established,” said Prozanski. 

Shawn Clememts, Acting Deputy Director of Fish and Wildlife at ODFW confirmed the fish kill. “It was on the order of hundreds of thousands of lamprey,” he said, “and by statute, that could result in significant financial damages …The agencies are currently consulting with the D.O.J. on this.”

Clements later confirmed that this was the worst fish kill on an Oregon River this year.

“I understand you’ve still got the report to put together,” Prozanski continued, “but I’m hoping that you’re going to give us a date and time … as to when this is going to be there so we can actually hold those accountable who have not done the work they should have done, and actually made the repairs they should have done years ago. I mean, after representing this area for 18 years and having people coming to me, and me trying to be a facilitator with the state agencies, and getting nothing out of it. I’m very concerned with how this is done. … Transparency is one thing; action is another thing.”

Asked when the Oregon Water Resources Department (OWRD) would present the committee with a report on the Winchester Dam “repair” debacle, Ivan Gall, Interim Deputy Director of OWRD was evasive at best. “I don’t think we’ve discussed the finalization and timing of that report yet,” he said. 

“You’re not gonna walk away with that,” retorted Prozanski. “How long does it take for you to go through these reports? …You should be able to give it to us in 60 days or 90 days… Because if you tell us well it’ll be a couple years, I’m gonna have a problem that.”

Gall replied, “I think we’ll have to work with D.O.J on what we can and can’t say by that point.”

Republican State Senator David Brock Smith, who arrive 28 minutes late for the hearing and claimed he was unaware of the meeting, told the committee haltingly: ” I look forward to talking to you to get more history on this dam. Um. I um … appreciate the work that the agencies are doing on the on site  … I feel … um … as though I need to protect my individuals, a little bit, in the Winchester Water District … um.  we have situations all the time where there are water quality issues … um … in the Willamette, do we not, where there’s … spills and so forth and … and we aren’t … we aren’t bringing those issues to this committee … um … and having hearings on those and wanting to have additional hearing, so I look forward to … um …broadening this discussion if we’re going to do that, Senator Golden, um… on the issues that we have as far as water quality across the state.”

Senator Golden, the chair of the committee told Brock Smith, “If you have concerns about violations on other waterways and would like to hear – we’d be quite ready to examine those.”

It’s clear that Senators Prozanski and Golden are genuinely interested in investigating recent events. Although no public comment was allowed at this hearing, Golden stated there would be time reserved in the follow-up hearing which will likely occur in the January special session.