Shasta Dam

Shasta Dam.

White House efforts to advance a project raising Shasta Dam by 18.5 feet stalled when provisions for construction funds were stripped from an omnibus appropriations bill President Donald Trump signed in December.

The funds were proposed by House minority leader Kevin McCarthy, whose district includes areas benefitting from the additional water the project would have provided.

The federal push for the project has persisted under Trump despite opposition from a coalition of environmental groups and from the State of California, which in May 2019 sued Central California's Westlands Water District—the project's principal sponsor—for violations of the state's Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, saying it was barred from its efforts to raise the dam (WPW No. 16 [5.4]).

The state won an injunction in July 2019 to stop Westlands' environmental study and other planning for the project, and the district lost bids to reverse the injunction in appeals court and the state supreme court. Westlands subsequently agreed to abide by the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, which effectively removed it from the project.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation nevertheless issued a final supplemental EIS for the proposed work in November supporting the raise, despite Westlands' withdrawal.

BuRec says Shasta Dam is the "keystone" of its Central Valley Project, which extends over "400 miles providing water for more than three million acres of farmland, nearly six million people, and critical fish and wildlife species." The agency notes that more than 40 percent of U.S. fruits, nuts and vegetables are grown in the Central Valley, largely using water from the projects and "its largest reservoir—Shasta Lake."

The project is supported by the Trump administration and several California congressmen, including Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), who said in a release it would secure "vital . . . water storage for Central Valley families and farmers."

Opponents say dam raises could have "significant adverse effects on the free-flowing condition of the McCloud River and on its wild trout fishery, both of which have special statutory protections under the California Wild and Scenic Rivers Act," Becerra's office said in a statement.

Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) ridiculed the continued efforts, saying in a Dec. 3 statement that raising Shasta Dam is "laughably infeasible and just not real. And yet, the hardcore supporters just won't let it die."

Congress first directed BuRec in the 1980s to look at the feasibility of raising the height, and then again in 2004. In 2018, it approved $20 million under the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act to help with studies for the $1.4 billion project.

The 602-foot-high structure was completed in 1945. The site is also home to the 633 MW Shasta hydroelectric plant, with five turbine-generator units.

News Editor - Clearing Up

Rick Adair has been with NewsData since 2003, and is news editor for Clearing Up and editor for Water Power West. Previously, he covered environmental and energy issues in the Lake Tahoe area. He has a doctorate in earth sciences.