California’s water crisis may be eased by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s plan to raise the Shasta Dam, but the Winnemen Wintu, fisheries advocates and environmentalists are opposed to the project. By raising the dam between 6 ½ and 18 ½ feet, the reservoir could provide enough water to serve Los Angeles for more than a year. The Tribe, which lost most of their ancestral land in 1945 when the dam was built, fears that this will flood the remaining one-tenth of land they have left. The land that would be lost includes two sacred rocks used in Tribal coming-of-age ceremonies.
The price of raising the dam is far less than building a new dam elsewhere. Supporters of the plan claim the project will aid with growing water needs, additional hydropower production, flood protection, and that the larger reservoir would store more cold water needed for salmon migration. However, the interests of local farmers and other supporters in raising the dam is proving contrary to the Tribe as well as conservation and environmental groups. Swelling the lower McCloud River would ruin one of California’s prized trout streams, and there is a question as to whether the cold water would actually be released for migrating salmon or is just an attempt to reinvest in the projects which caused the salmon migration problem. The environmentalists favor building salmon bypasses and paying users to increase conservation. The Bureau expects to finish its reviews of the project at Shasta Lake as well as four other possible options and distribute them for public comment early next year. Congress would then have to authorize and fund the project.