Dams and Civil Structures, Government and Policy News, News, North America

Trump Administration finalizes Shasta Dam raise plan to increase water storage

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

The Trump Administration has released the Shasta Lake Water Resources Investigation Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement to increase water storage capacity in Shasta Lake by 634,000 acre-feet, or more than 200 billion gallons. This is enough water to support more than 6 million Californians annually.

“President Trump has made investing in our existing infrastructure a top priority. Raising Shasta Dam is one of the smartest and most cost-effective opportunities we have before us,” said Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman. “Shasta Dam sits at the head of California’s largest water system — the Central Valley Project. Not only will the project benefit farms, communities and the environment, it will provide ample opportunities for smarter water management.”

Reclamation said there has not been any major federal water storage infrastructure built since 1979, even as California’s population has nearly doubled.

“Raising Shasta Dam is critical to helping improve drought resiliency in the State of California, as it will provide more water for people, fish, and the environment,” said House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (CA-23). “This project is a win all around. I want to commend Secretary Bernhardt and Commissioner Burman for continuing to prioritize this project, despite ongoing and misguided opposition from Sacramento bureaucrats and some elected officials from California. The Trump Administration has taken many actions to improve the lives of Californians by pursuing policies to help our communities get the water that we contract and pay for, and we are grateful.”

Shasta Dam is a keystone of Reclamation’s Central Valley Project, which extends over 400 miles through California’s Central Valley, providing water for more than 3 million acres of farmland, nearly 6 million people, and critical fish and wildlife species. More than 40 % of the fruits, nuts and vegetables in the U.S. are grown in the Central Valley, largely using water from the CVP and its largest reservoir, Shasta Lake.

“We are pleased to achieve this significant milestone for such an important project for the state, said Regional Director Ernest Conant. “California needs a more reliable water supply for agriculture and communities, and modernizing our existing infrastructure is one of the most efficient means to make that happen.”

Congress first directed Reclamation to look at the feasibility of raising Shasta Dam in the 1980s and then again in 2004. 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, in 2016 Congress passed the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act with broad bipartisan support.

Reclamation and other federal agencies have spent decades evaluating data to ensure an environmentally sound approach to raising Shasta Dam. 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. This includes ensuring that the McCloud River and the important wild trout fishery it supports are protected.

The finalized supplemental EIS comes after considering more than 6,500 public comments on a proposal to raise the 600-foot-tall Shasta Dam by 3%, or an additional 18.5 feet.

An SEIS is used when new or updated information becomes available after the publication of the Final EIS. Since 2015, Reclamation identified several key areas that required updating and initiated a Draft Supplemental EIS in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act.

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, and considers public input.

Reclamation is a federal agency under the U.S. Department of the Interior and is the largest wholesale water supplier and second largest producer of hydroelectric power in the U.S.