Action Alert: Shasta Dam Raise Would Destroy Imperiled Salamander Habitat and Sacred Sites

By
Monday, December 10th, 2018

Westlands Water District has issued a Notice of Preparation to prepare an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the proposed Shasta Dam Raise Project, formerly known as the Shasta Lake Water Resources Investigation, which EPIC previously submitted comments on. The proposed project would increase the height of the Shasta Dam by 18.5 feet.

Shasta Dam is the largest reservoir in the state and the proposed project would expand the capacity of Shasta reservoir by 7 percent ( only .2% of the state’s total capacity). Raising the shasta dam would inundate National Forest Lands that are within habitat of the imperiled Shasta salamander and the ancestral territory of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe. Increasing the water capacity of the reservoir would also put new demands for water on Northern California’s already strained watersheds and the communities that depend on them.

The area surrounding Shasta Lake is rich in biodiversity and is home to many rare and endemic species such as the Shasta salamander, Shasta snow-wreath and the Shasta Chaparral snail. The Shasta snow-wreath is a rare native shrub that is only known to exist near the shores and canyons around Shasta Lake, and many of the populations were lost when the Shasta dam was originally constructed. Current efforts to list the Shasta salamander under the federal Endangered Species Act are underway; however, the US Fish and Wildlife Service has been delaying the process. The Service failed to act on listing petitions that were filed 2012 to protect the species under federal law, and now a lawsuit has been filed against the Service to force the federal agency to make a determination on whether to protect the salamanders. If a positive finding is made, and the salamanders gain protections, the Bureau of Reclamation would have to avoid raising the dam without harming them.

The McCloud River is home to many sacred Native American sites belonging to the Winnemem Wintu tribe, who have already lost more than 90 percent of their lands when the Shasta Dam was constructed. The cultural considerations describing the inadequacies of this project cannot be understated. Raising the Shasta Dam would destroy 39 of their remaining sacred sites, and almost all of their remaining lands, including Children’s Rock and Puberty Rock, which is used in coming-of-age ceremonies, and a burial place for victims of the Kaibai Creek Massacre. This is of significant cultural value to the already displaced Tribe, which has been seeking federal recognition for over a century.

Shasta Dam raise project operation would also have long-term impacts to flow and water temperatures in the lower Sacramento River and the Trinity River, including impacts to fish species of primary management concern. The Klamath River’s largest tributary is the Trinity River, which contributes cold water flows to the main stem of the Klamath River below their confluence. Steelhead, coho and Chinook salmon depend on these cold water flows from the Trinity River into the Lower Klamath watershed, and increased demand on Trinity River water flows to supply additional Shasta reservoir capacity, would harm the salmon fisheries that depend on the Trinity’s cold water flows during dry months. Diverting Trinity River flows away from the Klamath would result in lower flows and higher water temperatures that cause lethal conditions to the salmon fisheries that depend on clean cold water. Coho salmon are already listed as Endangered, and the Karuk Tribe recently submitted a petition to list the Klamath’s spring-run Chinook salmon under the Endangered Species Act. Shasta Dam raise operations would cause irreparable harm to these ecologically, culturally, and economically important fisheries, which would impact the entire North Coast community, and would result in significant harm to the Yurok, Hoopa and Karuk Tribes that have subsisted on salmon since time immemorial.

According to the Shasta Lake Water Resources Investigation EIS, the proposed project would have significant and unavoidable impacts including:

  • Conversion of forest lands;
  • Harm to species and/or habitat for Shasta salamanders, bald eagles, northern spotted owls and Pacific fishers, yellow-legged frogs, tailed frogs, northwestern pond turtles, purple martin, special –status bats, American marten, ringtail terrestrial mollusks, willow flycatcher, Vaux’s swift, yellow warbler, yellow-breasted chat, long-eared owl, northern goshawk, Cooper’s hawk, great blue heron, osprey, Shasta snow wreath and other species;
  • Inundation of the ancestral territory and sacred sites of the Winnenem Wintu and Pit River Madesi Band Tribes;
  • Conflict with existing land use goals and policies;
  • Inconsistency with guidelines for visual resources in the National Forest Resource Management Plan; and
  • Affect the McCloud River’s eligibility for listing as a Federal Wild and Scenic River.

ATTEND THE PUBLIC MEETING:

An open house, presentation and public scoping meeting will be held on Wednesday, December 12, 2018 from 5:00-7:00PM. Written public comments on the proposed project are due at 11:59pm on January 4, 2019 and can be submitted via the following methods:

  • U.S. mail (postmarked by Jan. 4, 2019) or hand-delivery:

Shasta Dam Raise Project

c/o: Stantec

3301 C Street, Suite 1900

Sacramento, CA 95816

  • Email: shastadameir@stantec.com

Take Action Now: Click here to submit your comment on the Shasta Dam Raise Environmental Impact Report!