[env-trinity] Judge rejects effort to move Shasta Dam lawsuit to Fresno

Tom Stokely tstokely at att.net
Mon Jul 22 12:51:57 PDT 2019


https://www.redding.com/story/news/2019/07/22/shasta-county-judge-rejects-effort-move-shasta-dam-lawsuit-fresno/1796190001/


Judge rejects effort to move Shasta Dam lawsuit to Fresno
Damon Arthur, Redding Record Searchlight

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Damon Arthur | Record Searchlight

Damon Arthur reporter Damon Arthur covers resources, environment and the outdoors for the Record Searchlight and...
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Published 11:36 a.m. PT July 22, 2019 | Updated 11:37 a.m. PT July 22, 2019

A judge has rejected a San Joaquin Valley irrigation district's request to move a lawsuit against raising the height of Shasta Dam to Fresno County.

Westlands Water District, based in Fresno, wanted to move the lawsuit against it to its home county, but a judge has ruled the case will remain in Shasta County.


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Colin O'Brien, a lawyer for Earthjustice, said after a brief court hearing Monday that he and others who sued Westlands argued that the case should stay in Redding because the effects of raising the height of Shasta Dam would be felt in Shasta County.

"The case will have powerful consequences in Shasta County," O'Brien said.
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Workers did testing on Shasta Dam in 2018 to determine whether it could withstand having an additional 18 1/2 feet of concrete placed on the crest of the dam. (Photo: Damon Arthur/Record Searchlight)

Numerous environmental and fishing groups and the California Attorney General sued Westlands in May, claiming the district is violating a state law that prohibits state public agencies from working on or planning projects that would have an adverse effect on the McCloud River.


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Work begins on raising the height of Shasta Dam

The drilling is part of the prep work to raise the height of the dam 18½ feet.
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Westlands is doing an environmental review of the effects of raising the height of Shasta Dam 18½ feet. But a previous environmental report by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation said the dam raising would raise the lake level about 20 feet and further inundate about a third of a mile of the McCloud River. It also would increase the capacity of the lake by about 14 percent.

Westlands lawyer Daniel J. O'Hanlon said the irrigation district is merely evaluating whether to work with the bureau to raise the height of the dam and hasn't made a decision to become a financial partner on the project.
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Westlands Water District of Fresno held a meeting in Redding last year on an environmental impact report on the proposal to raise the height of Shasta Dam. (Photo: Damon Arthur/Record Searchlight)

Bureau officials have said they are working to get state and local partners to help pay 50 percent of the project's $1.4 billion cost.

Because most of the environmental review is being conducted in Fresno County, the lawsuit should be heard there, O'Hanlon said.

But the judge's decision to keep the lawsuit in Shasta County wasn't a major blow to Westlands, he said.

"It's not a huge deal, really," O'Hanlon said.
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Federal officials want to raise the height of Shasta Dam to store more water in Lake Shasta. (Photo: Damon Arthur/Record Searchlight)

A potentially big deal, however, is pending before Shasta County Superior Court Judge Bradley L. Boeckman, who also ruled on the change of venue request.

The Attorney General's Office and environmental and fishing groups have asked Boeckman to issue a preliminary injunction ordering Westlands to stop work on the environmental impact report.

The district says it hasn't decided whether to support the project, but the bureau did some work on the dam in 2018. 

In spring 2018 Congress approved $20 million for preconstruction and design work on raising the dam. The bureau had preliminary plans drawn up and crews drilled core samples into the dam to determine whether it could withstand the extra weight of another 18½ feet in height.


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Proposed federal budget includes funds to raise Shasta Dam

The proposed 2019 federal budget includes $20 million for pre-construction and design work on the structure.
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Bureau officials hope to award the first construction contract on raising the dam by the end of 2019, with work beginning in 2020. Raising the height of the dam would require moving numerous roads, bridges, campgrounds, homes and other facilities around Lake Shasta to higher ground.

RELATED: Tiny salamanders could stand in the way of massive $1.4 billion project to raise dam


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Tiny salamanders could stand in the way of massive $1.4 billion project ...

A trio of tiny salamanders living near Lake Shasta could stand in the way of a massive $1.4 billion project to r...
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MORE: LaMalfa says Shasta Dam raise not a top priority

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LaMalfa says Shasta Dam raise not a top priority

Lawmaker says he'd rather see Sites Reservoir built than the Bureau of Reclamation's plan to raise the height of...
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