Monday July 17, 2023

Modesto Bee

The Shasta Dam started to leak at the end of May after the snowpack from the wet winter started melting. To Californians who have suffered decades of drought, that was good news.

The Shasta reservoir, California’s largest, sends water to farmers and families in the Central Valley, where a third of the nation’s produce is grown. It almost reached capacity after years of not filling up. At its peak, Shasta Lake can hold more than 4.5 million acre-feet of water. (An acre-foot is the annual consumption for two average households.)

Raising the dam, located on the upper Sacramento River northwest of Redding, to increase Shasta reservoir’s capacity has long been on the list of some federal lawmakers. The 18.5-foot rise would provide 634,000 more acre-feet of water per year, legislators say, and help ensure Central Valley farmers have a steadier and fuller supply.

But that assumes there will always be enough precipitation to fill Lake Shasta, which historically has not been the case. At that, environmentalists say it would be a drop in the bucket for the cost — at least $1.4 billion, per outdated estimates. And raising the 80-year-old dam risks flooding sacred Native American lands and harming local habitats.

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