Environmental Water Caucus: Shasta Reservoir Study Is A Sham

  By Dan Bacher  | October 6, 2013 | The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation recently published the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (...

By Dan Bacher  | October 6, 2013 |

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation recently published the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for a controversial plan to increase the storage capacity of Shasta Reservoir on the Sacramento River by raising the dam height 18.5 feet, a project strongly opposed by the Winnemem Wintu Tribe and conservation groups. 

The Bureau claims the primary purposes of the project are to “increase survival of anadromous fish populations in the upper Sacramento River” and “increase water supply and water supply reliability for agricultural, municipal and industrial, and environmental purposes." 

Bureau spokesman Michelle Denning and other agency officials claimed, in a public meeting in Redding on July 16, that the plan, the "Shasta Lake Water Resources Investigation," would improve the “operational flexibility” of the Delta watershed and increase the survival of salmon and other fish in the Sacramento River by increasing the amount of cold water pool available to be released to improve downstream temperature conditions for fish during critical periods. 

Other “benefits” touted in the power point presentation include increased flood protection, providing additional hydropower supplies, and "improving water quality" in the Sacramento River and the Delta. 

A broad coalition, including the Winnemem Wintu and other Tribes, business owners, fishing groups and environmental organizations, opposes the plan, due to the catastrophic impacts the project poses to salmon and steelhead populations and many of the remaining sacred sites of the Winnemem not already inundated by Shasta Dam. They disagree strongly with the Bureau's contention that the dam raise will "increase survival of anadromous fish populations and "increase water supply and water supply reliability." 

The California Environmental Water Caucus (EWC) describes the project as "a waste of the $1.2 billion cost, providing little additional water yield for an exorbitant price tag and which would be a travesty for American taxpayers,"in a statement released on September 30, the final day for public comments on the document. 

"In addition, the claimed beneficial effect on salmon populations is illusionary and amounts to an attempt to shift part of the cost burden ($654 million) to the public instead of having the real beneficiaries pay for their water supply," according to Tom Stokely of the California Water Impact Network (C-WIN) 

Stokely said, "The stated purpose of enlarging Shasta Dam is to meet the two primary project objectives of increasing water supply for Central Valley agriculture and to increase the survival of Sacramento River anadromous fish populations.The claimed benefits to salmon allow two thirds of the project cost to be shifted to taxpayers and away from the true beneficiaries – the Central Valley farming corporations. However, the favored alternative is based on inflated and illusory benefits for natural salmon production and it will not increase survival of anadromous fish in any substantial way." 

While the preferred alternative will increase storage capacity by more than 600,000 acre feet (compared to the present capacity of 4.5 million acre feet), the average supply yield will be only 47,300 acre feet; a very poor return for more than a billion dollar investment of public funds, noted Stokely. 

"This project is a sham foisted once again upon the taxpayers of the United States to have them pay for the dam enlargement while the beneficiaries do not pay their share.The allocation of $654.9 million in costs on the public because of claimed fishery benefits is a hoax," he emphasized. 

Steve Evans of Friends of the River pointed out, "federal law clearly requires consideration of Wild & Scenic protection for the McCloud River as an alternative to the proposed dam raise and reservoir enlargement; it is also required for the upper Sacramento and Pit Rivers and all other streams on public lands tributary to Shasta Reservoir. No such assessment of Wild & Scenic Rivers is provided in the DEIS." 

Evans said raising Shasta by 6.5-18.5 feet will flood from 1,470 feet to 3,550 feet of the segment of the McCloud River eligible for National Wild & Scenic River protection.The DEIS also admits that this flooding will adversely affect the McCloud’s free flowing character, water quality, and outstandingly remarkable Native American cultural, wild trout fishery, and scenic values. 

The raising of Shasta Dam is a threat to the very existence of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe and the ability to bring back the salmon and a way of life that the Creator gave to the Tribe. The Winnemem Wintu’s efforts are about preserving a beautiful natural world, with abundant salmon, clean water, and ecologically healthy and diverse forests, that has been and continues to be flooded, logged, cut up by roads, mined, subdivided, sold, and destroyed acre by precious acre. 

"The DEIS fails to assess and acknowledge the full scope of the devastating and irreparable impacts this Project would have on the Winnemem Wintu Tribe," stated Colin Bailey, Executive Director of the Environmental Justice Coalition for Water. 

The coalition said these findings also strongly suggest that were an honest and adequate Benefit-Cost Analysis performed on this proposed project, its ratio of benefits to costs would not be adequate to justify the project. 

Nick Di Croce, from the Environmental Water Caucus, urges the Bureau to "perform an honest Benefit-Cost Analysis for the project and look toward more cost effective alternatives such as water conservation and recycling, the retirement of drainage-problem lands, reoperation of Shasta Dam and Reservoir, and a host of projects recommended by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the public which were not considered or rejected due to Reclamation’s bias toward justifying an enlarged Shasta Dam." 

Di Croce requested that the Bureau "abandon this ill-conceived project and save the dollars, the environmental damage, and the affront to Native American interests that this project would generate if pursued by the Bureau." 

The dam raise is planned in tandem with Governor Jerry Brown's Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to build twin tunnels to facilitate the export of massive quantities of Sacramento River water to subsidized agribusiness corporations that irrigate selenium-laced, drainage impaired land on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley. The construction of the peripheral tunnels will not only drive Sacramento River Chinook salmon and steelhead, Delta smelt, longfin smelt and green sturgeon over the abyss of extinction, but will imperil salmon and steelhead populations on the Trinity and Klamath rivers. 

The massive opposition to the dam raise plan was evidenced by the 2,132 signatures that the Winnemem Wintu's petition against the dam raise gathered. 

Over 30 people, including members of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, Hoopa Valley Tribe and their allies, protested government plans to raise Shasta Dam and build the peripheral tunnels under the Delta in front of the Visitors Center at the dam on Saturday, September 21, 2013.The protest was held as part of series of events, including several film showings, to counter the Bureau of Reclamation’s 75th anniversary celebration of Shasta Dam the week of September 15-22.   

Winnemem Wintu Chief Caleen Sisk emphasized that the loss of salmon that would result from the raising of Shasta Dam and the construction of the twin tunnels would be a huge catastrophe for fish, people and the planet. “Who will turn over the rocks in the river when the salmon are gone? Who will provide the nutrients to the ecosystem? Without the salmon, there will be a major disaster,” she said. 

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Anonymous said...

It's not about fish....it's all about Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed tunnels to move Sacramento River water under the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, which would make it easier to transfer massive amounts of water to Southern California.

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