California Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed a lawsuit on Tuesday to halt the federal government’s ongoing project to raise the Shasta Dam. The lawsuit cites the California Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, which protects the McCloud River, as its key argument against the project.
The proposal to raise Shasta Dam by 18 1/2 feet is currently being researched by a $20 million grant allocated by the federal government, which was approved by Congress in the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation will be seeking construction bids for the project in September 2019, and hope to award the contract by December 2019.
“This project is unlawful. It would create significant environmental and cultural impacts for the communities and habitats surrounding the Shasta Dam,” Becerra said. “Today we ask the court to block this illegal attempt by the Westlands Water District to circumvent state law.”
You can read the entire lawsuit here.
The plan, aimed at increasing California water storage and helping central valley farmers, is predicted by officials to cost around $1.3 billion. Officials hope the construction would begin in 2020, with construction taking around 5 years to complete.
The current Shasta Dam and Reservoir Enlargement Project envisions raising the existing dam by 18 ½ feet, providing an additional 630,000 acre-feet of stored water for the environment and for water users. The Bureau claims that enlarging the reservoir will improve water supply reliability for agricultural, municipal and industrial, and environmental uses; reduce food damage; and improve water temperatures and water quality in the Sacramento River below the dam for anadromous fish survival.
The project has been opposed by the state of California, along many other local groups, due to the impact it will have on the Shasta Cascade region.
Raising the dam will completely alter Shasta Lake and the tributaries flowing in and out of the lake, including the McCloud River, which is protected by the Wild and Scenic Waters Act. The plan will also fully submerge sacred Native American land.