Public Asked To Comment On The Raising Of Shasta Dam

A scoping meeting concerning the potential raising of Shasta Dam will be held this Wednesday by a group that has a lot to gain from the proposed project. Westlands Water District, based in Fresno, covers about 600,000 acres of farmland in the San Joaquin Valley. It’s the largest and most politically powerful water district in the country and has been the central figure in the water wars that began in the 20th century. Critics say that Westlands farmers, who produce a Billion Dollars worth of food annually, enjoy a triple subsidy of cheap water, federal crop subsidies and below-market electricity, and yet the congressional district there is the poorest per-capita in the entire country. Westlands employs a number of powerful lobbyists, including U.S. Deputy Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt, who delisted himself as a lobbyist in 2016 to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest. Westlands continued to pay him $20,000 a month for at least another 6 months. Westlands has led the way in the fight to raise Shasta Dam and they’ll likely be a major economic partner in the project. Bureau of Reclamation geologists have been taking core samples on, around, and deep within the dam to see if the concrete and surrounding rock can handle the extra stress of raising the height by 18-and-a-half feet. The Bureau says that would increase the lake’s capacity by 630,000 acre-feet. They launched into the pre-construction and design phase of the dam-raising after congress approved $20 Million for water infrastructure last March. The Bureau expects to issue the first construction contracts by December of next year. The total cost is estimated at 1.4 Billion Dollars, but that’s according to a 4-year-old study, and it’s in 2014 Dollars. Congressman Doug LaMalfa has expressed support for the idea. Westlands Water District is preparing the environmental impact report for the dam raise project, and district representatives will be in Redding to lead a meeting and gather public comment this Wednesday from 5PM to 7PM at the Hilltop Holiday Inn.

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