[env-trinity] Redding.com- Report backs $1 billion plan to raise dam; Some relocation is necessary, but agriculture, wildlife benefit

Tom Stokely tstokely at att.net
Tue Feb 7 10:41:42 PST 2012

Report backs $1 billion plan to raise dam; Some relocation is necessary, but agriculture, wildlife benefit
By Damon Arthur

Monday, February 6, 2012

A draft report released Monday by federal officials says a $1.07 billion plan to raise Shasta Dam by 18½ feet is feasible and economically justifiable.

Raising the dam would increase the lake's storage about 14 percent, benefitting agricultural and municipal water users in the state, according to the Shasta Lake Water Resources Investigation draft feasibility report.

Raising the dam also would benefit salmon and steelhead trout that migrate up the Sacramento River by providing a more reliable supply of cold water for spawning, the feasibility report says.

But some roads, buildings and businesses around the lake would be inundated by the higher lake level, said Pete Lucero, a spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the agency that prepared the report.

Lucero said some of the resorts on the lake would have to be relocated, but he did not know which ones.

The higher lake level would not affect Interstate 5 nor any of the I-5 bridges across portions of the lake, he said, and some of the secondary roads around the lake could be inundated by higher water.

Raising the dam height 18 ½ feet would actually increase the depth of the lake 20 feet, the report said.

"Although higher dam raises are technically feasible, 18 ½ feet is the largest dam raise that would avoid extensive and costly relocations, including moving the Pit River Bridge and Interstate 5," the report said.

With a higher dam and the lake full, water levels would be just 4 feet from the bottom of the Pit River Bridge, the report said.

Matt Doyle, general manager of Lake Shasta Caverns, said that if the lake level were raised 18½ feet, a building used to sell tickets and snacks, as well as some of the roadway on the property, would be covered by water.

Despite the potential effect on the business, Doyle said he was not against raising the dam.

"We've supported the dam raising, just as long as recreation is recognized," Doyle said.

But recreation is recognized as one of the secondary objectives of raising the dam, along with hydropower, Sacramento River Delta water quality, flood control and improving the ecosystem around the lake.

Lucero said it is far from a done deal that the dam would be raised. He said the feasibility report issued Monday is just in draft form and another environmental analysis on increasing the dam height is only in "preliminary draft" form.

"We have a long way to go, bottom line," Lucero said.

Bureau officials have been studying raising the dam since 1999. Work on the current feasibility study started in 2005.

The report says there are still unresolved issues, including whether or not raising the lake level would violate federal law that says the McCloud River "should be maintained in its free-flowing condition, and its wild trout fishery protected."

The report also says that the Winnemem band of the Wintu Indians has raised concerns that raising the lake level would flood sites that are culturally and religiously important to the tribe.

The study also looked at the feasibility of raising the dam 6½ feet and 12½ feet. But the report concludes the 18½-foot increase would be the most economically, technically and environmentally feasible.

See Reclamation's news release at: http://www.usbr.gov/newsroom/newsrelease/detail.cfm?RecordID=39163 
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