Update: Tiny Salamanders Could Complicate Shasta Dam Project

A trio of salamander species in Northern California could complicate a controversial $1.4 billion project to heighten Shasta Dam. Two environmental groups filed a federal lawsuit last month asking a judge to force the US Fish and Wildlife Service to determine if Shasta Salamanders should be protected under the Endangered Species Act. One of the groups, the Center for Biological Diversity, asked the Wildlife Service in 2012 to declare the salamanders endangered or threatened, but the agency has not made a decision. The lawsuit was prompted in part by the federal government’s sudden momentum in efforts to raise Shasta Dam by 18-and-a-half feet. Environmentalists say that would destroy the amphibians’ habitat and put them at risk of extinction. Other opponents include the Winnemum Wintu, whose last remaining ancestral lands would be submerged. 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 the expansion. The Bureau says it 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 was estimated at $1.4 billion in 2014. An environmental impact report is being prepared by Fresno-based Westlands Water District, which would stand to gain a lot from the increased water capacity. Public comments on one of the preliminary documents are due by January 14th. The document can be found at this link: https://wwd.ca.gov/news-and-reports/environmental-docs/. Comments can be sent to this email address: shastadameir@stantec.com

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