In a letter sent to Governor Newsom on Tuesday, California Congressional Republicans urged him to reverse his position on the enlargement of the Shasta Dam due to numerous water use, electric, and environmental reasons.
The subject of raising Shasta Dam, located on the Northern end of the Sacramento Valley in Shasta County, has been heated for years. Opponents have said that an enlargement would have few water benefits while at the same time would destroy Native American sites, harm fish and wildlife, and would significantly increase the chance for loss of life should a dam failure occur. However, proponents, backed by findings from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, have pointed out that a larger dam would allow more water to be collected, would give the state more water resources to work with in the future, reduce flood damage, and would benefit fish species in the area.
While water outflow projects, specifically those for environmental flows, have been a major factor in reservoir levels dropping across the state, the continued drought has made the water situation worse across the state. And with Newsom both opposing the raising of Shasta Dam yet also being in favor of having more reservoir storage, there has been no definite answer to if expansion will really happen. And the open question if the project would receive federal funds, which would make the project far more likely to happen, has been up in the air as well.
Amid all of this, Congressional Republicans, led by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) wrote a letter to Newsom trying to get his support on Shasta.
“Raising Shasta Dam would improve water supply reliability for agricultural, municipal, industrial, and environmental uses, improve Sacramento River temperatures and water quality below the dam for salmon survival, increase the generation of hydroelectric power, and reduce the risk of flood damage,” the letter said. “[Newsom’s] opposition to the dam enlargement appears to be because it is presumed the project would have an adverse effect on the free-flowing condition of the McCloud River, or on its wild trout fishery. There has been no objective, scientific analysis that raising the dam 18.5 feet would impact the free-flowing condition of the McCloud.”
The effort to raise Shasta Dam
The letter goes on to say that many prominent democrats, including former President Bill Clinton and former Governor Gray Davis, have sided with Republicans in trying to raise the dam in the past, while also saying that he should reconsider his position on the dam. In addition, the Congressional members advise him to allow local water districts to work with the Reclamation Bureau to move up the project and to work within the state to advance the project.
“Newsom has been very wishy-washy over Shasta Dam,” Celina Powell, a water projects supervisor who works across 4 states in the West, told the Globe Tuesday. “He’s opposed enlarging the dam, but at the same time, said California needs more reservoirs and water storage. I mean, here is this big opportunity, and something a lot of people want, but he is not pulling the trigger.”
“The letter made a lot clear, but if anything, supporters should work with local tribes on this and get their support. Tribal support is always big on these things. But otherwise this is a project that kills several birds with one stone and would really help the water situation. It’s getting to be kind of upsetting at how much they don’t seem to care here about Californians needing water.”
As of Tuesday afternoon, Newsom has yet to respond directly to the letter.
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