From Native Fish Society
In a letter to the editors of The News-Review, Roseburg, Oregon-resident Connie Page posed a question: Why does Winchester Dam (on the North Umpqua River) still exist? The dam is bad for the river’s salmon and steelhead runs, it’s a hazard to people and property, and it no longer provides either water or electrical services. We’re with Connie. Winchester must go.
The Winchester Dam, built in the 1890s, originally served a purpose by providing electricity and water to Roseburg. It stopped providing these services years ago. Today its sole purpose is to create a private lake for the approximately 150 homeowners immediately above the dam.
Is Winchester Dam part of the reason our fish runs are depleting so quickly? Please take time to read why the Klamath Dams are being removed, for your answer.
The dam limits river recreation for everyone else in the community and blocks water from flowing freely on one of Oregon’s premier rivers. The Umpqua River boosts Douglas County’s tourism dollars in many ways — fishing, rafting, kayaking, swimming, camping and more. These activities bring people, with their money, into our county. The dam removal could increase these opportunities.
The Oregon Department of Water Resources categorized the dam as “high hazard.” In 2022, the ODWR said in a letter to Winchester Water Control District: “The Water Resources Department conducts routine inspections of the dams’ exterior surfaces to identify conditions that might affect the safety of the dam. Dams are assigned a hazard rating based on downstream hazard to people and property, not on the condition of the dam. Winchester Dam is classified as a high hazard dam. High hazard dams are typically inspected every year.”
I empathize with the people living on this artificial lake, but their desires are no more important than the desires of the rest of those living in Douglas County. If they love the river, not just the lake, they will support the removal of the dam.
Concerned groups have offered to raise money for the dam removal. I encourage those who enjoy time on or live near our precious river to contact their legislators and ask: “Why does this dam still exist?”