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Reclamation accepting public comments on proposal to raise height of Shasta Dam

Shasta Dam is a curved gravity concrete dam on the Sacramento River above Redding, California near Shasta Lake City built be

The U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation is seeking public input on the Shasta Lake Water Resources Investigation Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement. Reclamation proposes raising the 600-foot-tall Shasta Dam by 18.5 feet, which would increase water storage capacity in Shasta Lake by 634,000 acre-feet or more than 200 billion gallons.

“We are pleased to complete another step forward in making this project a reality,” said Reclamation Regional Director Ernest Conant. “California needs additional water supply for agriculture and communities; adding to existing storage reservoirs just makes sense.”

In October 2018, U.S. President Donald Trump issued a Memorandum on Promoting the Reliable Supply and Delivery of Water in the West that directed the Secretary of the Interior and Secretary of Commerce to expedite environmental reviews of water resources projects in the western U.S. The Trump Administration is advancing new and improved water storage projects that would deliver water and power in efficient, cost-effective and environmentally sound ways for agricultural, municipal, industrial and environmental uses.

“The Trump Administration is committed to delivering reliable water to Californians and throughout the West, and long overdue investments need to be made in California’s aging infrastructure to meet current demands,” said Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman. “California simply does not have enough carryover storage, and this is a strategic project that is smart, cost-effective and an environmentally sound investment for California.”

The dedicated environmental storage from the dam raise would improve water quality in the Sacramento River below the dam by lowering water temperatures for anadromous fish survival, such as chinook salmon. Modeling results conducted in accordance with the 2019 Biological Opinions show lower water temperatures enhance fish survival for all months and water year types within the temperature management season.

The site is also home to the 633-MW Shasta hydroelectric plant, with five turbine-generator units.

A Draft Supplemental EIS is used when new or updated information becomes available after the Final EIS is published. Since 2015, Reclamation identified several areas that required updating and initiated preparation of the Draft Supplemental EIS in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act and is making it available for a 45-day comment period. The supplemental document provides information relevant to Reclamation’s application of Clean Water Act Section 404(r), updates modeling to be reflective of the 2019 Biological Opinions and provides an updated analysis on effects to the McCloud River.

Comments are due by close of business on Sept. 21.

Congress directed Reclamation to look at the feasibility of raising Shasta Dam in the 1980s. In 2016, recognizing the need for increased surface water storage and the need to find funding mechanisms that work in today’s vastly over-stretched federal budget, Congress passed the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act. Congress has appropriated $335 million for surface storage, providing $20 million for preconstruction activities to raise Shasta Dam, including additional environmental analysis and engineering designs.

Reclamation is the largest wholesale water supplier and second largest producer of hydroelectric power in the U.S.