In Search of a Figary – The Damn Water Issue

A number of people have suggested increasing the height of Shasta Dam by about 20 feet as a partial solution for water problems within the State of California.

In my view, such an action would be absolutely stupid. At present, Shasta Lake has the ability to store 4,552,000 acre-feet of water. Most years the accumulation in Shasta Lake does not even approach that maximum. When Shasta Lake appears in danger of filling completely up, the operators of the Shasta Dam open the spillway.

In the 65 years between 1945 and 2010, the spillway has been opened 12 times.

The most water released down the spillway in any of those 12 occasions was 253 acre-feet in 1982.1 As of this writing, the dam is releasing 6,500 cubic feet per second. That translates into 537 acre-feet per hour. The point is if you look at the river right now you’ll see an amount of water equal to the most ever to come down the spillway going by in less than 30 minutes. Granted, they were letting a lot of other water out and had the releases up to the maximum of about 80,000 cubic feet per second, sometimes for weeks. However, in 19 of those 65 years, the total inflow into Shasta Lake was less than the storage capacity of the existing dam if they did not let any water out at all.

Finally, the pressure on a dam to fracture it, push it over, or disrupt its foundations increases as the square of the depth of the water behind the dam. If anyone has ever found any proof that the people who engineered Shasta Dam about 70 years ago built in extra strength for this increased water, nobody has mentioned it.

The fact of the matter is that in most years, raising the Shasta Dam another 20 feet or so will only cause anyone who fell or jumped from the top of the dam to drop an additional 20 feet before they hit whatever they would hit if they jumped or fell from its current height.


As romantic and wonderful as it sounds, the formation of the Great State of Jefferson would be an unmitigated disaster. About the only thing that is preventing an “in your face” grab of Northern California water is the fact that the politicians in Sacramento have to pay some attention to us, at least some of the time.

If we became a different state, they would not have to pay no more attention to us than they do to the people in Oregon or Washington. If we don’t like what they are doing now, we can at least go down to Sacramento, gather on the steps of the Capitol, and bitch them out. If there were a State of Jefferson, Sacramento would simply tell us to go home and talk to our own state legislature, who, of course, could do nothing.

As things presently stand, a State of Jefferson would create two safe senatorial seats and continue a safe congressional seat for the Republican Party. However, not a lot of people would have to move into the State of Jefferson to turn that around. The local people who are trying to bring new jobs into this region talk a lot about bringing in high tech jobs. That, if successful, is likely to bring in a lot of Democrat voters. In 2012, Santa Clara County voted 70% Democrat and 27% Republican in the Presidential Election.

Additionally, the State of Jefferson would be broke, as in big time broke. The median income per household in the U.S. is $50,000.00. In California, it is $58,000.00. In Lassen County (the best off of the counties in the State of Jefferson) it is $46,377.00. In Shasta County it is $42,500.00; Tehama County is $38,179.00; and in Modoc, it is a whopping $34,250.00. Add to that the sparse population, and you do not have a lot of tax revenue.


That the construction unions would support Doug LaMalfa instead of a Democrat who actually knows something about water policy because LaMalfa supports a couple of dam projects he does not know anything about is simply astounding. The American Labor Movement exists because of three Federal laws. The National Labor Relations Act, the Taft Hartley Act, and the Landrum-Griffith Act. The National Labor Relations Act took the jurisdiction over labor disputes away from local police officers and courts (many of whom were very adverse to labor) and put it into the hands of The Labor Relations Board with instructions to level the playing field so working people could get a fair deal. This put an end to local courts issuing injunctions against unions as criminal conspiracies and local police agencies bashing heads on picket lines.

LaMalfa and his kindred spirits would repeal those laws in a New York Second if they had a chance. I belonged to the Labor’s Union years ago. If I still had my card, I would be howling for leadership blood. When short-sighted actions line up for lunch, this one will get the rare steak.

FYI: Figary is Irish slang for doing something in haste or without thinking it through. Aren’t you glad you asked?

1 http://www.usbr.gov/mp/slwri/docs/Appendices/MP700_SLWRI_046_AppxPhys_H&H.pdf

Dugan Barr has practiced law in Redding since 1967. He has tried more than 200 civil jury cases to verdict. He is married and has five children. The offices of Barr and Mudford, LLP, are at 1824 Court St. in Redding and can be reached at 243-8008.

Dugan Barr

Dugan Barr has practiced law in Redding since 1967, primarily in the areas of personal injury and wrongful death. He has tried more than 200 civil jury cases to verdict. He is married and has five children. He can be reached at Barr & Mudford, 1824 Court St., Redding, 243-8008, or dugan@ca-lawyer.com.

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