Since the four large dams on the Klamath River in northern California were taken down last year, the subject of dam removal is very much in vogue. 

In 2021, fifty-seven dams were removed from American Rivers. In 2022, sixty-five American dams came down. Last year, 80 dams were removed from rivers in the United States.

And the 134-year-old Winchester Dam on the North Umpqua River is in now the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s second highest priority for removal of a private dam.

Since WinchesterDam.com was launched six months ago, the website has been visited by more than 10% of the residents of Roseburg, Oregon, and is now #1 in a Google search. 

The website was launched in response to the biggest fish kill on an Oregon river in 2023 that occurred days after the private water ski lake on the North Umpqua River, behind the Winchester Dam, was drained on August 7, 2023, for so-called repairs. 

But the repairs were botched and never completed. Now the dam now leaks exponentially worse than it did prior to the so-called repairs. More than 550,000 Pacific lamprey, a migratory native fish, sacred to local Indigenous tribes, were needlessly slaughtered when Ryan Beckley, president of Terra Firma Foundation Systems, drained the private water ski lake the ten times faster than specified in his permit. 

This resulted in an October 7, 2023, $27.5 million dollar fine and now the matter is now being litigated by the Oregon Department of Justice.

Prior to this judgement, Ryan Beckley regularly made false statements to local newspapers declaring deceitfully that his so-called repairs would be a “permanent solution — a fix for 100 years to come.” 

Now Beckley is apparently under a lawyer-imposed gag order and hasn’t said so much as a word to anyone – except during his depositions before Oregon Department of Justice attorneys.

The Winchester Dam exists solely for the recreational enjoyment of a few dozen wealthy property owners at the exclusion of the public. It provides no irrigation, flood control, or hydroelectricity. The dam is an impassable barrier to migratory native fish and leaches arsenic, copper, and chromium into the drinking water of one out of three county residents.

On March 2, 2024, U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley held a town hall at Umpqua Community College, which overlooks the private water ski lake behind the Winchester Dam and the 99 expensive lakeside properties owned by residents in the Winchester Water Control District (WWCD), the lawless organization that owns the long-ago condemned and uninsurable dam. Harangued by questions about why it was taking so long to remove the derelict Winchester Dam, Senator Merkley asked for a show of hands of those in favor of removing the dam. Approximately nine out of ten people in the 110-person audience raised their hands.

For decades, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) has done more to help corporations kill fish and wreck rivers than it did to protect fish and wildlife, as is their mandate. Curt Melcher, the director of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW), and his staff inexplicably failed to stop botched repairs when Ryan Beckley violated his permit on August 7, 2023. Melcher went so far as to collude with the WWCD board of directors to help them skirt ODFW rules and regulations designed to prevent drinking water contamination and devastation to aquatic habitat.

Having presided over what ODFW officials have called the largest Oregon river fish kill of 2023, Melcher was forced to resign earlier this month in disgrace. 

Since January, Community Right Douglas County (CRDC) volunteers and supporters have sent thousands of letters, postcards, and emails, to local, county, state, and federal elected representatives and agency officials calling for the removal of the infamous Winchester Dam.

CRDC volunteers’ monthly protests on the streets of Roseburg, with large banner and signs extolling the myriad of negative impacts of the Winchester Dam enjoy overwhelming support.

All of these accomplishments were made possible by the generous tax-deductible donations of concerned citizens like you – folks who want to bring down the dam – and bring back the fish and the jobs.

The North Umpqua River is historically known as the number one steelhead stream in North America. Anglers from six continents visit Winchester Dam.com. It’s pretty simple: fishing tourism raises wages. There is growing consensus that the only thing standing between Douglas County, Oregon, and economic prosperity is the 134-year-old Winchester Dam.

Thank you for your support. And if you haven’t done so already, please use our one-click mailer to send emails to elected representatives and agency officials calling for the removal of the condemned Winchester Dam. Also, please join us for our next public protest at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, May 11, 2024.