On Friday, October 6, 2023, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) filed a $27.6 million claim for recovery of damages in Douglas County Circuit Court against the Winchester Water Control District (WWCD) and their contractors, TerraFirma Foundation Systems, and Dickinson, Oswald, Walch, and Lee, for the “alleged” loss of more than 550,000 juvenile Pacific lamprey during Ryan Beckley’s August 2023 repairs at the Winchester Dam.

According to an ODFW press release, the lamprey genocide resulted from an inadequate fish salvage effort was “significant and preventable.

ODFW states that the North Umpqua River’s diverse fish populations are unique within Oregon and are of considerable social, cultural, and economic importance locally and regionally. The damages claim seeks reparation for the loss of “a valuable public resource.”

The catastrophic August 2023 fish kill at the Winchester Dam is the largest on an Oregon River this year. According ODFW’s press release, this “is one of the largest damages claims for illegal killing of wildlife that has been filed in the state.”

ODFW lists the Pacific lamprey a Sensitive Species. The Pacific lamprey are culturally significant to Pacific Northwest tribes.

Additionally, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) issued a pre-enforcement notice to Ryan Beckley, president of the WWCD and owner of Terra Firma Foundation Services for “alleged” water quality violations during the August 2023 repairs at the Winchester Dam.

DEQ said violations risk significant environmental harm to the North Umpqua River. DEQ’s Office of Compliance and Enforcement is presently reviewing all the violations and will issue a final enforcement order in the next few weeks.

WWCD’s “Rescue Salvage Authorization” (RSA) allowed them to kill a maximum of 30,000 Pacific lamprey. The actual amount killed was estimated at 550,000. Furthermore, WWCD’s RSA required salvage efforts to be made throughout the entire project area from the time they began draining the private water ski lake behind the dam through completion of the repairs.

But WWCD president Ryan Beckley and owner of the company contracted to make the August 2023 repairs to the Winchester Dam, discontinued salvage operations halfway into the project.

Pursuant to ORS 496.705(2)(a)(S), ODFW is seeking recovery of $50 for each lamprey killed. The approximately 550,000 Lamprey killed has generated approximately damages to the State of Oregon totaling $27,500,000.00.

WWCD president Ryan Beckley did not respond to invitations to comments on ODFW’s ruling.

For more information, please read the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s October 6, 2023 press release.