[env-trinity] Redding.com: Federal biologists oppose raising Shasta Dam

Tom Stokely tstokely at att.net
Thu Jan 29 10:07:47 PST 2015

Federal biologists oppose raising Shasta Dam
Damon Arthur
10:16 AM, Jan 28, 2015
2 hours ago
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A federal wildlife agency is contradicting claims that raising the height of Shasta Dam would benefit endangered salmon, challenging one of the primary justifications officials give for the $1.1 billion project.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said in an internal report obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request that it could not support raising the height of the dam 18½ feet because there would be only minor benefits to fish and it would harm other wildlife and rare plants.
Tom Stokely, a water policy analyst for the California Water Impact Network, said the fish and wildlife report exposes as a “phony justification” the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s reasons for raising the height of the dam.
“It’s not going to protect those fish,” said Stokely, whose group filed the FOIA request for the document.
“It cuts the legs out of the economic justification for the project,” he said, noting the bureau estimates about $655 million of the project cost would be borne by taxpayers because of its benefits to salmon. 
Raising the dam will primarily benefit San Joaquin Valley farmers rather than Chinook salmon, said Bill Jennings of the California Sport Fishing Alliance.
“This isn’t just an environmental issue. It’s about the squandering of taxpayer dollars. It’s about pork-barrel politics, about public money flowing from the public coffers to the handful of corporate farmers in the San Joaquin Valley who control water in California,” Jennings said in a statement.
The 349-page report says numerous plants and animals, many of them unique to the area around Lake Shasta, will suffer if the dam is raised. It also says there will be little benefit to fish downstream of the dam in the Sacramento River.
“The service has also determined that the proposed project does not provide any substantial benefit to anadromous fish downstream of the RBPP (Red Bluff Pumping Plant) and only provides minimal benefit to anadromous fish (winter- and spring-run Chinook salmon) upstream of the RBPP,” the report says.
The report goes on to say “the service is unable to support the adoption of any of the proposed action alternatives” for raising the dam.
Habitat restoration along the Sacramento River downstream of the dam would provide greater benefits to salmon than raising the height of the dam, the report says.
A higher lake level, as well as construction from relocating roads and campgrounds,would harm some rare plants and animals found only around Lake Shasta, such as the Shasta snow-wreath, the Shasta salamander, Shasta sideband snail, Wintu sideband snail, Shasta chaparral snail and the Shasta hesperian snail, the reports says.
But Steve Martarano, a spokesman for the agency, said the report sent to the bureau’s Mid-Pacific Regional director in November is a draft and could undergo changes before it becomes final.
“It’s a draft. It’s not the final report. It still could change,” Martarano said. He would not say whether the report signals the wildlife service’s opposition to raising the dam.
“The report speaks for itself. We had concerns and those are being addressed,” he said.
Louis Moore, a spokesman for the bureau, downplayed the report’s importance, saying the agency’s statements do not receive more weight than any other comment submitted on the draft environmental impact statement about the dam project.
But Ross Marshall, who owns the Lakeshore Inn & Resort in Lakehead, said Wednesday he welcomes any news that casts doubt on the future of the dam-raising proposal.
“That’s good news because they’ve already taken our property values and thrown them in the toilet,” Marshall said.
Marshall said he had hoped to sell his business, but plans to raise the lake level up to 20 feet has made that difficult because at high water the reservoir would inundate portions of the resort.
Numerous bridges and roads would need to be relocated because of the lake’s higher level, according to bureau reports on the proposal. Many other businesses and homes would have to be compensated or relocated because of the new high water mark.
Matt Doyle, general manager of Lake Shasta Caverns, said he was also concerned about the effect of ongoing studies to raise the dam are having on homeowners and businesses. There have been numerous studies and proposals to raise the dam, he said. 
“Each time, it’s a hardship on the people that live up here and work up here,” Doyle said.
The bureau’s Moore said there is no estimated date when the agency would release a final environmental impact statement on the most recent proposal. 
After that report is complete, the secretary of the Department of the Interior has to sign off on the project, and then Congress would then need to vote on whether to fund it, he said.
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