Winchester Water Control District president Ryan Beckley’s permit extension from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife expired on August 31, 2023. Apparently unwilling to pay overtime, Beckley retained a five-man skeleton crew to work over the Labor Day weekend to complete Phase I of the Winchester Dam repair project.

This entailed removing the supersacks and rubber-tire pads from the riverbed before the private water ski lake behind the dam is refilled and the fish ladders are back in service. (The rubber tire pads were not part in the permit because they leach a substance called 6PPD quinone – the second most lethal substance on earth to Coho salmon.)

On Sunday night, September 3, 2023, Beckley refilled the private water ski lake behind the Winchester Dam.

One wonders if the permitting agencies will fine him for missing the August 31st deadline.

In his permit application, Beckley claimed one of the reasons for draining the lake and taking the fish ladder out of service for a month was the need to repair the leaks in the dam to eliminate fish false flow attractions.  

Nevertheless, during the August 2023 Phase I repairs at Winchester Dam, Beckley’s crew drilled over 100 six-inch diameter brand new holes through the dam face to install tie-rods into the bedrock on the upstream side. Curiously, Beckley’s the crew did not plug these holes.

Once the private water ski lake was refilled, each of these 100 unplugged holes will leak copiously, causing many new false flow fish attractions.

After spending $3 million to stop the leaks in the dam face, the leaks are now exponentially worse than they’ve ever been. Not one of these 100 large holes in the dam face were there when Beckley began repairs on August 7, 2023.

Witnesses photographed Oregon Department Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) inspectors, working overtime (at taxpayers’ expense) over the Labor Day holiday weekend, repeatedly walking by the obviously leaking six-inch holes in the face of the Winchester Dam and simply ignoring as if they were not there.

And the foundation of the dam is still now leaking worse than ever before.

It is indeed ironic – one of the primary reasons ODFW granted the Beckley a permit to repair Winchester Dam was to stop the leaks in the dam. 

Repeat offenders like the Winchester Water Control District (WWCD) and its Portland-based president Ryan Beckley constitute a public menace to the health of the community, its natural resources, and its future. 

One hesitates to speculate how much the economy of Douglas County would benefit from the removal of the dam and the restoration of the fisheries on the wild and scenic North Umpqua River – the number one steelhead stream in North America – exponentially more revenue than the county derives from the property taxes of the 99 WWCD property owners.

The public’s access to our local Wild and Scenic North Umpqua River has been hijacked and privatized by a few rich and powerful white men of privilege who have captured the state and federal agencies upon whom the less rich and powerful citizens of Douglas County rely upon to render unbiased decisions for the benefit of the many and not the few. 

There can be no doubt that the Winchester Dam will be permanently removed. The only question is when – and will it be too late for the fish.

But even with the recent (but nevertheless ineffectual) repairs, the condemned dam remains a ticking timebomb waiting to explode upon the unsuspecting downstream residents of Roseburg.