Raising Shasta Dam Raises Concerns at Redding City Council Meeting

Given Redding’s strong emotional, financial, geographical and recreational ties to Shasta Dam, any talk of raising the dam by 181/2 feet is certain to raise eyebrows, if not outright concerns.

Those concerns and questions were plentiful Tuesday night when the Redding City Council met to consider its comments on the Bureau of Reclamation’s draft environmental impact statement.

The letter, approved with a 5-0 vote, urges the agency to continue studying the project and to come up with some hard and fast numbers on how the expanded reservoir would impact the city’s cost for power and water.

Assistant City Manager Barry Tippin said the city gets approximately 30 percent of its energy from Shasta Dam and the rest of the Central Valley Project, and if the augmented dam and new turbines increased the availability of electricity, Redding would be interested—unless it’s more expensive.

Tippin said he favored continuing the study as long as there was “a full vetting of costs and allocations.”

Costs were foremost on Councilman Gary Cadd’s mind. He began his comments by noting that the National Recreation Area made up of Shasta, Whiskeytown and Trinity lakes “is fundamental to the economic stability of the north state.” As such, Cadd argued that recreational resources should have equal billing with hydroelectric generation and water supplies when it comes to assessing the impact of raising Shasta Dam.

The larger dam would necessitate an overhaul of the powerhouse and turbines, which Cadd said would undoubtedly lead to major rate hikes for the energy marketed by the Western Area Power Administration. “The whole thing boils down to the fact it will cost us money.”

Cadd said a larger lake—the bureau said raising the dam would increase Shasta Lake’s capacity by 14 percent—coupled with Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed tunnels to move Sacramento River water under the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, would make it easier to transfer massive amounts of water to Southern California.

Such a shift has serious implications for Redding, which draws 40 percent of its water supplies from the Sacramento River, Cadd said.

Curtis Brown said in order to support California’s growing population, it only made sense to raise Shasta Dam. “You cannot build more water—there’s no substitute for it. This has been planned for over 50 years.”

Redding veterinarian Doug Ginno does not favor raising the dam, saying it’s possible the Shasta Dam project will mean more water for the city, but not likely. The city’s energy needs are already protected by its contract with the federal government and the argument that more cold water would promote more salmon spawning in the Sacramento River “is a red herring.”

Charles Alexander questioned the wisdom of sending “more water to people who vote against us on every issue.”

“Pursuing the process of answering our questions is good,” Councilwoman Francie Sullivan said in support of the city’s letter.

“We’re not signing on to anything here,”  Mayor Rick Bosetti cautioned. “So much has yet to be answered and (the questions) will not be forgotten. This battle is going to be fought on many fronts.”

Jon Lewis is a freelance writer living in Redding. He has more than 30 years experience writing for newspapers and magazines. Contact him at jonpaullewis@gmail.com.

Jon Lewis

Jon Lewis

Jon Lewis is a freelance writer living in Redding. He has more than 30 years experience writing for newspapers and magazines. Contact him at jonpaullewis@gmail.com.

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