Why Are the Feds Suddenly in Favor of Raising the Shasta Dam?

Despite state opposition and potential violations of California law, the Trump Administration has revived a project that was deemed impracticable only a few years ago.

2 minute read

March 18, 2018, 7:00 AM PDT

By Katharine Jose

Shasta Lake

jejim / Shutterstock

The Los Angeles Times reports that the federal government is pushing a plan to raise the Shasta Dam despite the fact California not only opposes the project, state law prohibits it. 

"But in these times of unprecedented tension between Washington and California, the state's objection to this $1.3-billion project near the Sacramento River is hardly proving a deterrent. The Trump administration is pursuing the project with gusto, even as it seeks to make deep cuts in popular conservation programs aimed at California's water shortages." 

The Shasta Dam was originally supposed to be much higher, and idea of raising it has been around awhile. But only three years ago the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service declined to support the project due to concerns about the Endangered Species Act, which was just before the Bureau of Reclamation—the same agency that is now pushing the project—issued a report with concerns over both costs and violations of state law. 

There's also the question of who would benefit from the heightening of the dam, and who's in charge of making it happen. 

"The project promises a big payoff for water interests with close ties to the administration. A former lobbyist [David Bernhardt] for one of the biggest of those interests, the politically connected Westlands Water District, holds a key administration post with power over the flow of federal money." 

Even before the Shasta Dam issueBernhardt's appointment to the Department of the Interior raisedand has continued to raise—concerns about conflicts of interest over his connections to the largest supplier  of agricultural water in the United States. 

"Whether the Trump administration would ultimately be able to pour concrete without buy-in from Sacramento remains to be seen. The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act could prevent California from issuing any of the permits required for building. Water experts interviewed said they could think of no time in recent history that the federal government moved forward with such a mammoth public works project inside California's borders without the state's blessing." 

Thursday, March 15, 2018 in Los Angeles Times

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