Raising Shasta Dam is “Massive Waste of Taxpayer Money”

For Immediate Release: Friday, January 30, 2015
Contact: Steve Hopcraft 916/457-5546; steve@hopcraft.com; Twitter: @shopcraft;
Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla 209/479-2053 barbara@restorethedelta.org; Twitter: @RestoretheDelta

Restore the Delta: Raising Shasta Dam is
“Massive Waste of Taxpayer Money”:
Calls on California Water Commission to Heed Federal Findings, Reject Funding, Better Options for Water Storage

Restore the Delta (RTD), opponents of Gov. Brown’s plan to build Tunnels that would drain the Delta and doom salmon and other Pacific fisheries, today called upon the California Water Commission to reject funding the raising of Shasta Dam. A recent US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) report was highly critical of a proposal to raise the height of Shasta Dam, the US Bureau of Reclamation’s main reservoir in the Central Valley Project northwest of Redding. The USFWS found that the project would harm fish habitat in the Delta and Yolo Bypass, as well as around Shasta Lake, and along the length of the Sacramento River.

“Combine enlarging Shasta with the Delta tunnels project, and you would have two effective ways to kill the Delta without solving California’s water problems,” said Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, RTD executive director. “There are better solutions, from recycling and storm water capture, to increasing household, industrial, and farm water use efficiencies.”

Reducing flood flows to the Delta could reduce the ability of Delta waters to dilute and assimilate contaminants and salts over the long term. “Enlarging Shasta Dam would be a massive waste of taxpayer money,” added RTD policy analyst Tim Stroshane. “The Bureau would get very little water for the sums they would spend. The Fish and Wildlife Service confirms it would be an ecological disaster as well.”

Raising Shasta Dam would decrease Sacramento River flood flows because its purpose would be to increase storage in Shasta Lake by “skimming” future floods. The Bureau’s preferred alternative would only yield another 47,300 acre-feet of supplies to California, at a total cost of over $1.3 billion. The water for that alternative might cost as much as $1,200 an acre-foot. (EWC comment letter, Table 2, below.)

Decreasing flood flows in the spring would affect Delta fish such as the Delta smelt, Sacramento splittail, and juvenile salmon. These fish depend on flood flows and different flow signals throughout the year to determine when and where they move to survive. In addition, enlarging Shasta Lake, say the federal biologists, would result “in an increase in Delta exports during critically dry water years which could increase the entrainment of Delta smelt and other fish species at the Jones and Banks pumping facilities.” (p. 166)

“A decrease in Sacramento River flood flows would reduce Bay-Delta flushing flows, affect Delta water quality, and affect Delta outflows” while likely increasing Delta exports, said the USFWS biologists. “All of these factors may further contribute” to declines of Delta smelt and other fish that live year-round in Delta waters, or migrate through the Delta to and from the Pacific Ocean. (p. 127)

“Neither the Bureau nor the California Department of Water Resources have looked at enlarging Shasta Dam and the Tunnels project in good faith,” said Stroshane. “In 2007, the Fish and Wildlife Service told the Bureau that only in the worst 10 percent of the time would salmon see any benefits from the project. When will the Bureau recognize it cannot make a silk purse from this sow’s ear?”

The biologists recommended that the Bureau should redo its no action alternative, evaluate how to increase salmon survival without enlarging Shasta Dam, and make changes to the enlargement alternatives, including revisiting ideas for mitigating fish impacts that the Bureau earlier had rejected.

“Enlarging Shasta Dam is the very definition of a boondoggle,” said Barrigan-Parrilla. “A lot of money up front, a lot of environmental damage along the way, but only a little bit of water down the road for all that effort and heartache. Fortunately, there are better solutions.”

Excerpted from EWC Comments on Shasta Raise DEIS, September 2013, online here.

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