Raising Shasta Dam: Great For Water Contractors Not Good For
Download the factsheet
Hearing locations and dates
The United States Bureau of Reclamation has released for
public review the Shasta Lake Water Resources Investigation Draft Environmental
Impact Statement (SLWRI DEIS). It’s a
long name for a simple but incredibly expensive and destructive idea – raising
one of the tallest dams in California to expand what is already the largest
reservoir in the state, supposedly to improve downstream river conditions for
salmon and steelhead.
If the bizarre concept of a dam helping fish made your head
spin, you’re not the only one suffering from this oxymoron.
The Bureau claims that spending more than a billion dollars
to raise Shasta Dam by 18.5 feet will provide additional water that will be
used to provide cold water downstream for threatened and endangered salmon and
steelhead. Apparently, no one at the Bureau realizes that Sacramento River
salmon began their downward spiral towards extinction when Shasta Dam was
completed in 1945, thereby blocking the river’s historic spawning grounds for
salmon and steelhead and modifying downstream flows to the extent that the
river no longer provides suitable fish habitat, particularly in drought years.
Here’s the real kicker – the Bureau hopes that you won’t
find in the DEIS’ thousands of pages of analysis, general verbiage, and complex
appendices a report from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) that states
unequivocally that raising the dam will have negligible benefits for endangered
fish. According to the USFWS, the raised dam will provide no fishery benefits 90%
of the time. That’s because dams don’t produce water, they simply capture it
when rain falls from the sky and flows downhill. If the rain doesn’t fall (as
often happens during California’s chronic drought periods), there will be
little or no additional water stored behind the raised dam to benefit salmon.
Also hidden in this massive document is the real reason for
the dam raise – every extra drop of water stored behind the raised dam will be
sold to federal water contractors downstream, with 77% of the water sold for
export south of the Delta. Which means the Shasta Dam raise is directly tied
the proposal by water contractors and Governor Jerry Brown to build enormous
twin tunnels under the Delta, which will divert large amounts of fresh water
from the Sacramento River (much of it stored upstream behind Shasta Dam) for
export to large corporate farms in the San Joaquin Valley and Tulare Basin.
Friends of the River is still reviewing the current version
of the DEIS. But our analysis of the preliminary DEIS last spring identified
many more problems with this proposal, in addition to lack of fishery benefits,
cost, and true purpose.
The dam raise and reservoir expansion will drown thousands
of acres of National Forest land managed for recreation, fish, and wildlife.
The expanded reservoir will drown the remaining homeland of Winnemen Wintu
Tribe, who lost much of their tribal territory when Shasta Dam was constructed
more than 65 years ago. Reservoir expansion will also destroy and degrade
habitat for dozens of sensitive, threatened, and endangered plants and animals.
The raised dam will further modify downstream flows, to the possible detriment
of aquatic and riparian ecosystems along the Sacramento River important to fish
and wildlife. The expansion itself violates state law protecting the free
flowing condition and extraordinary values of the McCloud River. It also
violates federal law that requires consideration of possible National Wild
& Scenic River protection for segments of the McCloud, upper Sacramento,
and Pit Rivers, as an alternative to expanding dam.
Because of the size of the DEIS, we’re not yet prepared to
ask people to send official comments in response to the documents. But the
deadline for public comments is September 26, so there is plenty of time.
Meanwhile, the Bureau’s will hold three public workshops next week, which will
provide an ideal opportunity for activists and the general public to learn more
about this project and ask piercing questions. The workshops are:
- Tuesday, July 16, 6-8PM in the Holiday Inn Palomino Room, 1900 Hilltop Drive, Redding, CA.
- Wednesday, July 17, 1-3PM at the Cal Expo Quality Inn Hotel & Suites, 1413 Howe Avenue, Sacramento, CA.
- Thursday, July 18, 6-8PM, Merced County Fairgrounds Geronimo Building, 403 F Street, Los Banos, CA.
The Bureau will also hold public hearings in the same cities
on September 10-12. Look for a detailed alert from Friends of the River before
You can review the DEIS online at
http://www.usbr.gov/mp/slwri . You can also download Friends of the River’s fact
sheet concerning the dam raise by visiting
www.friendsoftheriver.org/NoDamRaise. The fact sheet is based on our review of
the preliminary Feasibility Report and DEIS last spring. Please note that some
of these issues and concerns may change based on our upcoming analysis of the
most recently released DEIS.
For more information concerning this issue, please contact
Steve Evans, Wild Rivers Consultant for Friends of the River, phone: (916)
442-3155 x221, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.