A Water Resources Investigation Draft Environmental Impact Statement (SLWRI DEIS) released by the United States Bureau of Reclamation can not hide the destructive impacts of the proposed increase in the height of the Shasta Dam, argues Friends of the River in a recent briefing. These include the threats it poses to the Winnemem Wintu Homeland for a second time.
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.
The report ignores the history of the Sacramento River salmon that only 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.
It is also contradicted by research, referenced in the DEIS, by 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.
Friends of the River also note that the report reveals 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.
The Winnemem Wintu tribe lost both their villages and many sacred sites when the Shasta Dam was erected. A dam raise of about 18-feet would permanently or seasonally flood an estimated 39 sacred sites along the McCloud River, including Puberty Rock, and would essentially end their ability to practice their culture and religion.
- 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 http://www.friendsoftheriver.org/NoDamRaise.
- Winnemem Wintu on the Shasta Dam raise: http://www.winnememwintu.us/journey-to-justice/shasta-dam-raise/