[env-trinity] EWC and C-WIN Media Release: Coming soon to a Supermarket near You: The $618,000 Salmon Prorating the “Benefits” of Raising Shasta Dam

Tom Stokely tstokely at att.net
Tue Sep 10 14:02:17 PDT 2013

For Immediate Release
September 10, 2013
Coming soon to a Supermarket near
You:  The $618,000 Salmon
Prorating the “Benefits” of Raising Shasta Dam
  Remember the
Pentagon toilet seats?  They caused a
ruckus years ago when it turned out each was costing taxpayers more than
$600.  But they were a bargain compared
to the latest government scam: the $618,000 salmon.

  That’s the projected
investment “return” on a U.S. Bureau of Reclamation proposal to enlarge Shasta
Dam.  The project is touted by the agency
and supporting politicians as a means of increasing salmon runs in the
Sacramento River.  But the benefits to
fish are minuscule and ultimately spurious.  Public hearings are being held this week in Redding, Sacramento and Los
Banos on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the project.

  Several alternatives
are under consideration by Reclamation, and all are flawed. The clear favorite
and most “cost effective” alternative -- CP-4 -- is projected to produce
813,000 extra salmon smolts for the Sacramento River system. Sounds like a
lot?  It isn’t.  At the typical adult salmon return rate of
.13%, this will result in 1,057 additional adult salmon. The construction costs
allocated to the taxpayers for this project are $654.9 million, meaning that
each adult fish will cost citizens $618,732!
  Obviously, salmon
enhancement isn’t the primary motive for this scheme.  What’s the real rationale? Follow the money.
A cited boon of the project is water supply reliability for Central Valley
Project (CVP) agriculture. Who would be the beneficiaries of this policy?  They’re not hard to identify: A few hundred
extremely wealthy, powerful and politically-connected corporate farmers in the
western San Joaquin Valley.  
  In simple terms, the
plan will dump two-thirds of the project’s costs on rank-and-file taxpayers,
while the Cotton Kings of the western San Joaquin will tighten their grip on
deliveries of subsidized water. 

  Salmon fishermen and
conservationists aren’t the only ones disenchanted with this plan.  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the
National Marine Fisheries Service and the California Department of Fish and
Wildlife have never promoted raising Shasta Dam as an effective mechanism for
improving salmon populations in the Sacramento River system. 
  Further, while the
plan would enlarge the cold water pool behind Shasta Dam, the Bureau of
Reclamation admits that CVP water contractors would get first dibs on the extra
water.  In its response to the CP-4
alternative, the agency describes the true situation:
     “The adaptive management plan may include
operational changes to the timing and magnitude of releases from Shasta Dam to
benefit anadromous fish, as long as
there are no conflicts with current operational guidelines or adverse   impact on water supply.”
  Additionally, the
alleged benefits to the anadromous fish populations downstream of Keswick Dam
from higher cold water carryover storage are not enforceable.  Reclamation does not specify in its
documentation that the additional water stored for salmon will be under the
control of the National Marine Fisheries Service, the California Department of
Fish and Wildlife and/or the California State Water Resources Control
Board.  Based on past experience, the
modeling in the recently-released Draft Environmental Impact Statement will not
resemble actual operations; the additional storage will simply be used to
provide larger water allocations for CVP contractors during any given year.
  The Fish and
Wildlife Service has suggested a number of cost-effective projects that would
do much more for salmon survival than raising Shasta Dam. The agency notes that
augmenting spawning and rearing habitat, improving fish passage, increasing
minimum flows and screening water diversions would pay far greater dividends
for the fish than enlarging the dam.  
  In summary, the
effort to raise Shasta Dam for the “benefit of the fish” is wrong-headed and
ultimately dishonest. It cannot be rationalized biologically, and the economic
justification is likewise absent.  It is
pork barrel politics at its rankest, a project that would jeopardize Sacramento
River anadromous fish and enrich a narrow and politically-connected
constituency at the expense of average taxpayers.
Nick Di Croce, Environmental Water Caucus 805-350-8898  www.ewccalifornia.org 
Tom Stokely, California Water Impact Network 530-926-9727, cell
530-524-0315  www.c-win.org 
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