[env-trinity] Revised Media Release- the $12,600 salmon

Tom Stokely tstokely at att.net
Wed Sep 11 09:47:55 PDT 2013

For Immediate Release
Revised, September 11, 2013
Coming soon to a Supermarket near You:  The $12,600
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 $12,600 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. What’s the bottom-line meaning?  Assuming a 50-year life span for the dam
enlargement project, each returning fish will cost taxpayers $12,600!  
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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