American Rivers Opposes Raising Shasta Dam

Shasta Dam, Sacramento River, CA

Shasta Dam, Sacramento River, CA | Bureau of Reclamation

The Bureau of Reclamation has studied the feasibility of raising its 602 ft high Shasta Dam on the Sacramento River to increase the dam’s storage capacity. For several reasons including the two we outline here, American Rivers opposes the raising of Shasta Dam as proposed.

First, the Feasibility Report recommends raising the dam 18.5 ft, which would provide only an additional 63,000 acre-feet of water supply in an average year, (which is less than 0.2% of annual agricultural and urban water use in California) . The project would cost the taxpayers $1.1 billion, or $1,700 per acre-foot.

Other potential water supplies, including conservation and efficiency measures, could produce far more water at far less cost than the proposed project.  At a time when Washington can’t seem to figure out how to pay its bills, the last thing the federal government should be considering is a water project that has an enormous cost to the taxpayers at a minimal benefit.  It just doesn’t make sense.

Second, raising Shasta Dam would flood up to three miles of amazing wild trout waters in upper Sacramento River and McCloud River. The California legislature protected the McCloud river under the California Wild and Scenic Rivers Act (W&SRA), for just this reason, finding that it “possesses extraordinary resources in that it supports one of the finest wild trout fisheries in the state” and “maintaining the McCloud River in its free-flowing conditions to protect its fishery is the highest and most beneficial use of the water.”

Given the enormous cost of this project, and the negative impact to the river, there is no justification for the federal government to charge in and override California state law to raise Shasta Dam.

The California W&SRA prohibits the construction of additional dams, reservoirs, diversions and other water impoundment facilities on the McCloud River.  In addition, the federal W&SRA provides protection for the McCloud.  Section 12(a) of the federal act requires the Bureau of Reclamation and the US Forest Service to protect rivers that are listed or eligible for listing under the federal W&SRA as the river was in 1994. Because the McCloud is considered eligible, the protections of Section 12(a) apply to the McCloud River and would prohibit flooding any eligible section.  

Californians deserve a better set of choices than just “dam raise” or “no dam raise”.  In an era of tight budgets, it’s time to step back from the old way of doing things, and start looking at a more comprehensive set of 21st Century solutions, including water efficiency, recycling, and conservation, rather than spending more than $1 billion for minimal water gain.  

One Response to “American Rivers Opposes Raising Shasta Dam”

Cindy Lawhon

This is such an absurd concept… thinking that this is a good idea. What is wrong with this picture is the lobbying by corporations who stand to gain by any extra water reserves. You can be sure that it will just encourage more water waste. How about using conservative methods by farmers and water catchment systems for those living in arid areas of our state. The public comment period ends on Thursday… is that it then? Will they disregard our concerns? I never received a response to my comment made to the Reclamation Planning Division. Are they listening to the Winnemem Wintu people? This is so disheartening…..