The effort to move the Shasta dam project forward has encountered another setback after the Westlands Water District (WWD) announced it would no longer be pursuing an environmental impact report for the project. The announcement comes on the heels of a Shasta County Superior Court decision not to hear an appeal from WWD. A previous ruling prevented the district from moving ahead with the environmental review it had been conducting pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
WWD is the nation’s largest irrigation district and has been pursuing the Shasta dam project for several years along with the Bureau of Reclamation. The proposed project would raise Shasta dam another 18.5 feet to increase storage capacity by an additional 634,000 acre-feet of water. The project has been encountering resistance and lawsuits throughout the process. The lawsuits have claimed that the Shasta dam project would adversely affect the habitat for the Shasta Salamander, as well as negatively impact the McCloud River.
“No agency of the State has conducted a project-specific analysis of Reclamation’s proposal, to determine if enlargement of Shasta Dam would adversely affect aquatic resources – particularly those in the lower McCloud River,” WWD General Manager Tom Birmingham said in a news release. “Westlands took the initiative to do that assessment, through the public process established by CEQA. It is unfortunate that, as a result of the actions of the Attorney General, Westlands was enjoined from completing that analysis.”
The environmental impact report that was being prepared by WWD would have generated the necessary information to determine whether the district would become financially involved with the project. If the Bureau of Reclamation decides to move forward with raising the dam, federal law requires local cost-share partners to cover at least half of the $1.4 billion that would be needed to complete the project. The future of the project is unknown, as WWD had been the only agency to express interest in working with the Bureau of Reclamation on raising the dam.