Shasta Dam creates the largest storage reservoir in the state,
Shasta Lake. In years of normal precipitation, the Shasta system
stores and distributes about 20 percent of the state’s developed
water — about 7 million acre-feet —through its massive system of
reservoirs and canals.
Located 12 miles north of Redding, Shasta traps the cold waters
of the Pit and McCloud rivers and the headwaters of the
Sacramento River behind its 602-foot curved, concrete face.
Water is transported 450 miles from Lake Shasta in Northern
California to the San Joaquin Valley. Along the way, the
Central Valley Project has long-term agreements with more than
250 contractors in 29 of California’s total 58 counties.
There have been plenty of historic structures revealed on
Northern California reservoirs as water continues to shrink
down to historically low levels. With multiple historic towns
sitting under the water at Shasta Lake, there have been plenty
to explore with this low water. One mysterious sunken boat is
recently turning heads on lake, leaving many to wonder what it
could possibly be. Jeremy Tuggle has been posting many of the
historic sites uncovered on Shasta Lake, including the sunken
boat near Bridge Bay Marina that certainly has a story behind
If next year is dry in California, modeling from the Bureau of
Reclamation (linked here, dated July 6, 2021) shows that Shasta
Reservoir would store nearly 750,000 acre feet less water in
April 2022 than it did in April 2014 – a year that was an
unmitigated disaster for fish and wildlife. The
operations presented in Reclamation’s modeling could lead to
extinction for winter-run Chinook salmon and other threatened
and endangered fish populations if next year is dry.
More than 94 percent of the West is in drought this week,
according to the US Drought Monitor, with six states entirely
in drought status: California, Nevada, Oregon, Idaho, Utah, and
Montana. Parts of the West saw record-setting rainfall that
brought some slight relief to the region, but most areas remain
dry. Against the backdrop of climate change-fueled drought,
wildfires have charred nearly 6 million acres of vegetation
across the region. Fire experts say that dry and windy
conditions create a prime environment for wildfires to spark
The Foundation’s virtual journeys will whisk you away to
explore California’s key rivers and water regions this
fall from the Sacramento River to the headwaters in the
Sierras. Plus, our annual Water
Summit will feature water managers and other
water experts who are dealing with the “new normal” as
unprecedented drought and wildfires challenge the status
Dangerously low water levels at Shasta Lake were captured on
drone video by ABC10 reporter John Bartell and photojournalist
Tyler Horst on Tuesday. Shasta Lake is California’s
largest reservoir, capable of holding 4,552,000 acre feet of
water. Right now, it has 1,186,057 acre feet of water stored.
Breaking that down into percentages, the reservoir is at 26%
capacity and 42% of average for this date.
Signs of drought proliferate across the American
West. California is rationing water for farmers in the state’s
Central Valley. Salmon are dying en masse in the
Pacific Northwest as river temperatures climb. Lake Mead,
on the border of Nevada and Arizona, is drying up. …
Groundwater is the source of drinking water for half of
Americans, and nearly all of the country’s rural communities.
… But groundwater has become dangerously depleted in places
where pumping has exceeded the rate at which aquifers are
Severe droughts are drying up rivers and reservoirs vital for
the production of zero-emissions hydropower in several
countries around the globe, in some cases leading governments
to rely more heavily on fossil fuels. The emerging problems
with hydropower production in places like the United States,
China and Brazil represent what scientists and energy experts
say is going to be a long-term issue … In
California, the State Water Project was forced to shut down a
750-MW hydroelectric power plant at Lake Oroville this month
for the first time since it was built in 1967 because of low
In a multi-agency meeting on the state of
California’s drought conditions, state officials painted a
broader picture on water allocation, lack of available water
and what the Golden State is facing in the months and years to
come. Officials expect record low water levels across the
state, especially for Oroville and San Luis Reservoir. …
[T]he state is at 58% of average reservoir storage as a whole
for this time of year. … Climatologists say it’s too
early to tell if it’s going to be a wet or dry year during
winter time circulations. A lot of what happens is affected by
the jet stream.
Shasta Lake is at about 30 percent of capacity, the lowest it’s
been at this time of year since 1977. KRCR spoke with Bureau of
Reclamation Area Manager Don Bader on a windy morning on top of
Shasta Dam. He says a water schedule is set in February and
adjusted as necessary. The release from Keswick Dam is about
8,000 cubic feet per second (CFS). Normally it would be 12,000
CFS. The reason that much water is flowing downriver is for
freshwater fish in the delta and agricultural diversions.
The Redding City Council approved the 2021 Water Transfer
Agreement with the city of Shasta Lake. The approval, given at
the council’s meeting on Tuesday night, paves the way for the
sale of up to 120 acre-feet of Redding’s water to Shasta Lake
at a cost of $328 per acre-foot.
A deeply troubled group of high-ranking state officials, tribal
leaders, environmentalists and fishermen met July 27 to discuss
the triple whammy that is threatening some species of Pacific
salmon with extinction — a combination of record-breaking heat,
drought and disastrous federal water policies — particularly
those of the Trump administration, which drained mountain
reservoirs of cold water, sending it to the Central Valley.
After the two driest consecutive years in much of California in
nearly half a century, reservoir levels are dropping. Lawns are
brown. Water restrictions are increasing. And Californians are
getting worried. Asked to name the environmental issue they are
most concerned about, more California residents cited water
shortages and drought than any other, according to a new poll
released Wednesday by the Public Policy Institute of
California, a non-partisan research organization in San
“Bleak” and “grim” were words frequently used Tuesday morning
as part of a joint legislative hearing on the crisis in
California’s salmon fisheries amid the historic drought. How
bad it is during the current drought in the West, however, was
up for debate. “There is no way that this year isn’t going to
be worse than it was in 2014-15, when we saw 95% (of salmon)
dying off,” said North Coast state Sen. Mike McGuire, who was
the chair of the hearing.
Facing another summer of catastrophic fish kills, California
lawmakers and fisheries managers on Tuesday blamed a Trump-era
water policy and climate change for the sizzling water
temperatures threatening to erase an entire run of Chinook
salmon. … Chinook salmon die-offs on the state’s rivers have
happened routinely over the last two decades. But a pending
disaster on the Sacramento and Klamath rivers has elected
officials, regulators, Native American tribes and fishermen
scrambling to save the keystone species from extinction.
With the North State’s drought reaching historically severe
levels, thousands of Shasta County residents from Happy Valley
and Redding to Palo Cedro could face water shortages by the end
of summer. The lack of rain and snowfall this past year
has left officials scrambling to find new sources of water to
get through the dry season. …”We will absolutely, completely
run out of water…. We will not have enough water to get
through the year,” [Bella Vista Water District General Manager
David] Coxey said.
As the West descends deeper into drought, climate and water
experts are growing increasingly alarmed by California’s
shriveling reservoirs. Photos of Lake Oroville, Folsom Lake,
Trinity Lake and Lake Shasta, taken by Times photographer Brian
van der Brug using a drone, unveil the harsh reality of the
Golden State’s not-so-golden drought. On Wednesday, Lake Shasta
— the largest reservoir in the state — held a scant 1.55
million acre-feet of water, according to the U.S. Bureau of
Reclamation, or about 34% of its capacity.
California’s ongoing drought and predicted heatwave is causing
overly warm and low level waters and threatening to kill off
the entire populations of already endangered species like the
chinook salmon. Negotiations between the State Water Resources
Control Board and the federal Bureau of Reclamation approved a
plan for managing water levels. However, experts predict that
releasing water into the irrigation system this early will
disrupt salmon spawning season and could kill as many as 88% of
the salmon in the river.
After two consecutive dry winters and a series of early summer
heat waves, the vast majority of California is gripped by
drought. Water levels in reservoirs like Lake Oroville, Shasta
Lake and Lake Mendocino are dangerously low. Wells in parts of
the San Joaquin Valley and along the Russian River are drying
up, and local water officials have mandated water restrictions
up to 40% in some areas. Already, more
than 85% of California is experiencing extreme
drought conditions … and experts forewarn a third year
of drought could be on the horizon if the state doesn’t see
significant winter rain storms.
For the first time in its 55 year history, the Iron Gate fish
hatchery, which raises salmon and steelhead, will not release
its salmon smolts into the Klamath River this summer. Due to
poor water conditions and an increase in a parasite called C.
Shasta in the river, the hatchery, located in Hornbrook,
California, will keep the tiny fish until fall. Now, the
hatchery is dealing with the logistics of moving millions of
fish to other facilities because they cannot accommodate all of
the growing salmon.
[A] long-stalled plan to save Sacramento winter-run chinook
salmon, a critically endangered species, proposes trucking them
twice in their lifetimes. Spawning adults would get a lift from
the too-hot Sacramento River over Shasta Dam and be driven up
Interstate 5 to a cold mountain habitat in the McCloud River.
Later, their offspring would catch a ride back to the
Sacramento and head to the ocean to start the cycle again.
The drought is making the Sacramento River so hot that “nearly
all” of an endangered salmon species’ juveniles could be cooked
to death this fall, California officials warned this week. In a
brief update on the perilous state of the river issued this
week, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife made a
dire prediction about the endangered winter-run Chinook salmon
and its struggles against consistently hot weather in the
The California water board has approved a plan for water
releases into the Sacramento River that could kill off an
entire run of endangered chinook salmon and put at risk another
population that is part of the commercial salmon fishery. …
Because the [Bureau of Reclamation’s] plan involves releasing
water to irrigation districts earlier in the season, the river
will be lower and warmer during salmon spawning season and
could result in killing as many as 88% of endangered winter-run
chinook eggs and young fish.
California never has enough water to meet all demands and even
when supplies are relatively robust there’s a triangular
competition over their allocation. Farmers, municipal users and
environmental advocates vie for shares of water that has been
captured by California’s extensive network of dams and
reservoirs. … When California experiences one of its
periodic droughts and reservoirs shrink from scant rain and
snowfall, its perpetual conflict becomes even sharper. -Written by Dan Walters, a CalMatters columnist
Water is increasingly scarce in the Western U.S. — where 72
percent of the region is in “severe” drought, 26 percent is in
exceptional drought, and populations are booming. Insufficient
monsoon rains last summer and low snowpacks over the winter
left states like Arizona, Utah and Nevada without the typical
amount of water they need, and forecasts for the rainy summer
season don’t show promise. … The past two decades have been
the driest or the second driest in the last 1,200 years in the
West, posing existential questions about how to secure a
livable future in the region.
For anyone trying to keep up with the unfolding drought in
California and the West, the Water Education Foundation has
created a special
resource page that offers links to real-time
reservoir data and water supply forecasts, an ongoing
newsfeed to help you stay up to date on the latest news
and tips so you can help conserve the region’s most
precious natural resource.
After years of drought, salmon in Northern California are
facing extinction. Conservation groups in the region have
drafted a water management plan that, if adopted, would send
less water to Central Valley farmers and keep more cold water
for fish. Last week, fishery advocates in Northern
California submitted their temperature management plan to the
State Water Resources Control Board. They want to change water
operations in the Shasta, Trinity, Sacramento and Lower Klamath
Rivers so the region’s salmon runs have enough cold water to
As the extreme drought causes various agencies to squabble over
dwindling water supplies, conservationists say the state is
still not doing enough to prevent an endangered run of salmon
from dying in the Sacramento River. At issue is how the federal
Bureau of Reclamation manages water flows from Shasta Lake into
the Sacramento River, which is both the spawning grounds for
chinook salmon and the main water source for Central Valley
farms. If the bureau releases too much water to irrigation
districts, the river level could drop low enough and warm
enough to kill off 50% of the eggs …
With lake levels out at Lake Shasta getting lower, more
underwater gems will be visible for the community to explore.
As of Tuesday, May 25, Lake Shasta is 106 ft. below regular
lake levels. KRCR spoke with both the Bureau of Reclamation and
the Shasta Historical Society who each shared some must-see
sightings. Out at the Shasta Dam, people can check out
what is left of the historic 1940 Headtower that was used to
deliver 6.5 million cubic yards of concrete to make up the dam,
says the Bureau.
California’s water supply got cut again Wednesday, with the
federal government reducing allocations to cities and farms as
the drought intensified. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation
announced that municipal water agencies that rely on the
Central Valley Project will have this year’s allocations
slashed from 55% down to 25% — a level not seen since the
drought of 2015. That could put additional pressure on the
municipalities around greater Sacramento that depend on
supplies from Folsom Lake, whose water levels have sunk
dramatically this spring. The reservoir is at 46% of its usual
capacity for late May.
Late Friday the State Water Resources Control Board appeared to
tentatively approve a temperature management plan for Shasta
Dam that sacrifices salmon and fishing jobs for agribusiness
profits this year, violates water quality standards, and leaves
California woefully unprepared if next year is also dry.
Specifically, the State Water Board indicated that they would
approve a temperature management plan if it achieves 1.25
million acre feet of water in Shasta at the end of September.
As the State Water Board knows, allowing storage to drop
that low is estimated to kill more than 50% of the endangered
winter run Chinook salmon and … the vast majority of the
fall run Chinook …
The commercial salmon season has been cut in half this year due
to low numbers of salmon. California’s salmon runs are still
rebuilding after millions of baby salmon died in the last
drought, deprived of the cold water they needed to
survive. That damage is still being felt by salmon fishing
families. Today, water managers are on the verge of repeating
that mistake. - Written by John McManus, president of the
Golden Gate Salmon Association.
Lake Shasta this summer is facing possibly its lowest level in
at least 44 years, and that could be bad news for the people
who rely on it for drinking and irrigation water, as well as
endangered salmon that depend on it to survive. Dam
operators have to go all the way back to 1977 to compare how
bad this year’s water situation is shaping up to be, said Don
Bader, area manager for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which
manages the dam.
California — already in the clutches of another drought
emergency — is looking over its shoulder at what happened
last time, anticipating the worst and evaluating the strategies
that worked and those that failed. So is California in a
better position to weather this drought? Some things are
worse, some better: Groundwater is still being pumped with no
statewide limits, siphoning up drinking water that rural
communities rely on. In northern counties, residents are
reliving the last disaster as water restrictions kick in again,
but in the south, enough water is stored to avoid them for now.
… The upshot is California isn’t ready — again.
During a typical spring, the silver young salmon swimming in
long tanks at the Nimbus Fish Hatchery east of Sacramento would
be released into the American River and then make their way out
to the Pacific Ocean to grow to adulthood. But with extreme
drought now gripping California and much of West Coast, the
rivers are too warm for the salmon to survive. This week, the
3.5-inch (90-mm) smolt, as the young fish are known, embarked
on a much different journey when they were loaded on to trucks
and driven to the San Francisco Bay for release into cooler
A federal agency Wednesday forecast a record harvest of 3.2
billion pounds of almonds in California. That would be a 3%
increase over 2020 for the nuts, the highest-grossing crop in
Stanislaus and several other counties. The report will set the
tone for the global almond trade, since California accounts for
about 80% of the supply. Several thousand people work on farms
and in processing plants in the Central Valley.
An entire run of endangered winter-run chinook salmon, as well
as the fall-run salmon that make up the core of the California
fishery, are in danger of being wiped out this year if the U.S.
Bureau of Reclamation keeps diverting water to farmers at its
current rate. With state water resources constrained by the
extreme drought, that’s the alarm that environmental, fishing
and tribal groups are sounding after reports show the
Sacramento River will reach dangerous temperatures during
spawning season, based on federal scientific scenarios that
analyze the bureau’s planned water releases.
Don’t be fooled. Governor Gavin Newsom’s decision Monday to
declare drought in most of California, including here, is no
reason for most farmers in Stanislaus County to break out the
party hats. They know full well that words on a declaration
will not generate an extra drop of water for their orchards and
row crops. They also know that a drought declaration could take
some power over the water we do have from our locally elected
irrigation leaders — who represent institutions guiding us
through periodic droughts for more than 100 years — and hand it
to nonelected Sacramento bureaucrats.
Spring is generally a time of renewal for the watersheds of the
western United States. Warmed by the lengthening days, the
region’s towering mountain ranges shed their mantle of snow,
releasing freshets of water into welcoming streams and
reservoirs. This year, though, the cycle is in disarray.
Outside of the Olympic and Cascade ranges of Washington state,
winter snows were subpar. The spring melt has been a dud. From
the Klamath to the Colorado and Rio Grande, watersheds are
under stress once again, and water managers face difficult
tradeoffs between farms, fisheries, and at-home uses.
California’s drought is forcing hatcheries to truck young
salmon to the San Francisco Bay because the fish would
otherwise likely die trying to swim on their own
downstream to the Pacific Ocean. The Coleman National Fish
Hatchery along Battle Creek in Shasta County plans to drive
about 950,000 fall chinook salmon smolts in May to increase
their chances of survival.
The Fish and Wildlife Service said today it will deny federal
protections to three salamander species that environmentalists
fear could be put in danger by a proposed California dam
project. Pressed by a lawsuit to make a decision, the federal
agency concluded the Shasta salamander, Samwel Shasta
salamander and Wintu Shasta salamander don’t need to be listed
under the Endangered Species Act even if plans proceed to
expand the Shasta Dam by raising it.
Experts say a statewide drought declaration … could bring
significant consequences for the regulatory structure governing
California’s complicated water-delivery system. Many farmers
believe an emergency order could loosen environmental
regulations and free up water supplies for them. Environmental
groups fear the very same thing – that more of California’s
dwindling water supply could be directed to farming at the
expense of fish and wildlife.
Millions of young salmon raised at fish hatcheries in the
Central Valley will be trucked to San Francisco Bay and other
coastal sites for release, because the rivers they’d normally
travel to get to the ocean are drying up, state and federal
officials said Wednesday. The ambitious trucking program, a
response to the state’s escalating drought, is intended to
maximize survival of the hatchery fish that prop up
California’s fall-run of chinook — the mainstay of the state’s
commercial and recreational salmon industries. Officials in
charge of the five major inland hatcheries that rear the fish
say convoys of tanker trucks are the only way to ensure the
3-inch smolts make it to sea.
California is in the second year of a drought. Governor Newsom
this week made his first drought declaration. Just how dry is
this drought, so far? What are some likely
implications? And what might State and local governments
do about it?
The dry year and reduced flows in the Sacramento River System
are challenging the ability for water resources managers to
serve water for cities and rural communities, farms, wildlife
refuges, fish and recreation. Part of the challenge has been
the inordinate focus on temperature management in the upper
part of the river below Shasta Lake. As we have all seen
countless times before, a focus on one species or in this case
one aspect (temperature) of water management is not a path
forward for the long-term, successful recovery of salmon…
The state and federal agencies tasked with protecting our fish,
wildlife, and natural resources are once again scrambling to
avoid wiping out this year’s cohort of chinook salmon that
spawn below Shasta Dam. If this sounds familiar, it is because
this scenario is a repeat of attempts to “manage” Shasta
operations in 2014 and 2015, which resulted in over 75% of the
eggs and fry of endangered winter run chinook salmon being
destroyed in both of those years, solely from the lack of
sufficient cold water being released from Shasta Dam …
Last Tuesday, American Rivers released its annual America’s
Most Endangered Rivers list for 2021. Because of a Trump-era
proposal to raise Shasta Dam, the group named northern
California’s McCloud River as the nation’s 7th most threatened
river. Over the past century, California has engineered the
structure of water capture and distribution in the state.
… During the Trump administration, then Secretary of the
Interior David Bernhardt advanced plans to increase the height
of Shasta Dam by 18.5 feet and to expand Shasta Lake by more
than 200 billion gallons.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation will begin releasing warmer
water from the upper layers of the Shasta Reservoir directly
into the Sacramento River to maintain flows, while saving
colder water for the winter-run Chinook salmon migration.
Reclamation announced today that spring-time operations at
Shasta Dam will adjust to benefit endangered winter-run Chinook
salmon in the Sacramento River during this critically dry water
year. … No additional water from Shasta Reservoir will be
released during this temporary adjustment—only the withdrawal
elevation and timing of water releases will change.
The Yuba Water Agency manages water storage and deliveries to
downstream customers while having a hand in preserving fish
habitats and recreational areas. Currently, the agency has
already begun doubling its reservoir releases at a time when
visitors to the river are also expected to go up. Due to
the time of year, those releases from upstream reservoirs are
dictated by irrigation needs of downstream growers.
Shasta Dam, which rises over 600 feet, flooded much of our
tribe’s homeland and inundated dozens of our sacred sites. It
stopped our salmon from reaching their spawning grounds. And by
holding back water when it is needed by the river, Shasta Dam
has driven our salmon to the brink of extinction. That threat
continues in the proposal to raise Shasta Dam. That project
would flood more of our sacred sites and further harm salmon.
The Trump administration made that project their top priority
water infrastructure project in the nation.
-Written by Caleen Sisk, the spiritual leader of the
Winnemem Wintu Tribe.
While the federal government sees the prospect of raising the
height of Shasta Dam as a way to increase water storage for a
thirsty California, the Winnemem Wintu of Shasta County see it
as a threat to their culture. It was a theme picked up
this week by American Rivers, a conservation group that named
the McCloud River one of America’s 10 most endangered rivers
because of the proposal to raise the height of Shasta Dam.
… Raising the height of the dam would raise the level of
the lake about 20 feet when full. It would also further
inundate about a third of a mile of the McCloud River …
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack designated 50 California
counties as natural disaster areas last month because of the
drought. And, over the weekend, Fresno Congressman Jim Costa
said on KSEE-24’s Sunday Morning Matters program that Gov.
Newsom should declare a statewide emergency because of the
dangerously dry conditions. …Yet, Newsom… last week
rejected a request from a bipartisan coalition of state
lawmakers from the Valley to declare a statewide drought
California’s hottest commodity could become even more scarce as
state and federal officials announce water cutbacks on the
brink of another drought. Now, state legislators are banding
together to ask Governor Newsom to declare a state of emergency
amid what they call a water crisis. … [State Senator Andreas]
Borgeas authored a letter alongside the Assembly agriculture
committee chair and several other state lawmakers to send to
the governor. This comes after the California Department of
Water Resources announced a 5% allocation to farmers and
growers in late March.
As we begin spring in the Sacramento Valley, the region
illuminates – we see the brown landscape turn verdant, and the
Valley bustles with activity as people share the hope of a new
year and collectively cultivate a shared vision in the region
for a vibrant way of life. With the dry year in Northern
California, the water resource managers are working overtime to
carefully manage our precious water systems including rivers,
streams, reservoirs and diversions to serve multiple benefits.
To effectively do this, water resources must be managed in an
efficient manner, with the same block of water often used to
achieve several beneficial uses as it moves through the
The slide gates at the bottom of the Temperature Control Device
(TCD) on the inside face of Shasta Dam (Figure 1) allow deeper,
colder water in the reservoir to be drawn into the power plant
intake penstocks and released to the river below. Use of the
slide gates allows more colder water to be released for salmon
in the river below in summer and fall in years when reservoir
levels are low and the cold-water-pool is limited. In 2014 and
2015, NMFS and the Bureau of Reclamation learned that when the
reservoir level is low and the slide gates are opened to access
cold water, some warmer surface water is also drawn downward
into the slide gate openings.
As drought worsens in the West, a coalition of more than 200
farm and water organizations from 15 states that has been
pushing to fix the region’s crumbling canals and
reservoirs is complaining that President Joe Biden’s new
infrastructure proposal doesn’t provide enough funding for
above- or below-ground storage.
California is at the edge of another protracted drought, just a
few years after one of the worst dry spells in state history
left poor and rural communities without well water, triggered
major water restrictions in cities, forced farmers to idle
their fields, killed millions of trees, and fueled devastating
megafires. … Just four years since the state’s last
drought emergency, experts and advocates say the state isn’t
ready to cope with what could be months and possibly years of
drought to come.
Rain is scarce in much of California, and most of California’s
people live in water-starved regions. And yet the state is, by
some measures, the fifth largest economy in the world. How?
Because during the last century, California has built a complex
network of dams, pumps and canals to transport water from where
it falls naturally to where people live. But climate change
threatens to upend the delicate system that keeps farm fields
green and household taps flowing. In this episode of the UCI
Podcast, Nicola Ulibarri, an assistant professor of urban
planning and public policy who is an expert on water resource
management, discusses how droughts and floods have shaped
California’s approach to water…
San Francisco Bay’s life support systems are unravelling
quickly, and a wealth of science indicates that unsustainable
water diversions are driving this estuary’s demise. Yet,
with another drought looming, federal and state water managers
still plan to divert large amounts of water to their
contractors and drain upstream reservoirs this summer.
Meanwhile, the state’s most powerful water districts are
preparing yet another proposal to maintain excessive water
diversions for the long-term. By delaying reforms that the
law requires and that science indicates are necessary, Gov.
Gavin Newsom encourages wasteful water practices that
jeopardize the Bay and make the state’s water future
precarious. -Written by Jon Rosenfield, a senior scientist for SF
Updated water supply allocations announced last week would
still drain upstream reservoirs in order to deliver 4.5 million
acre feet of water to the contractors of the federal Central
Valley Project (CVP) and State Water Project (SWP), devastating
fish and wildlife. This week, the fisheries biologists at the
National Marine Fisheries Service projected that these planned
operations are likely to result in lethal water temperatures
that will kill 89% of endangered winter-run Chinook salmon
below Shasta Dam this year. This mortality estimate is even
worse than what was observed in 2014 and 2015, when salmon
populations were devastated by warm water in their spawning
State and federal water officials have delivered their most
dire warning yet of California’s deepening drought, announcing
that water supply shortages are imminent and calling for quick
conservation. Among a handful of drastic actions this week, the
powerful State Water Board on Monday began sending notices to
California’s 40,000 water users, from small farms to big cities
like San Francisco, telling them to brace for cuts. It’s a
preliminary step before the possibility of ordering their water
draws to stop entirely.
The National Marine Fisheries Service is considering whether
the spring-run and fall-run Chinook salmon that occupy the
rivers of Northern California and southern Oregon are
genetically distinct. The decision … would almost
certainly result in a listing under the Endangered Species Act
if seen as a separate species. … [T]he dams and
reservoirs that have been installed at various points
throughout the rivers of the West Coast create problems for
spring-run Chinook that are unique and separate from their
closely related cousins. It also allows the fall-run
species to outcompete the spring run since they both are able
to reach the same spots in the river to reproduce.
We’re facing another very dry year, which follows one of the
driest on record for Northern California and one of the hottest
on record statewide. The 2012-16 drought caused
unprecedented stress to California’s ecosystems and pushed many
native species to the brink of extinction, disrupting water
management throughout the state. Are we ready to manage
our freshwater ecosystems through another drought? -Written by Jeffrey Mount, senior fellow,
and Caitrin Chappelle, associate director, at
the Public Policy Institute of California Water Policy
As March begins to drag on with little precipitation in the
forecast and few weeks left in California’s traditional wet
season, we are in another dry year. This is California’s second
dry year in a row since the 2012-2016 drought.
Statistically, California has the most drought and flood years
per average year than anywhere in the US. This
statistical fact seems to becoming increasingly extreme, as
predicted by many climate change models.
Dwindling Chinook salmon runs have forced the Pacific Fishery
Management Council to shorten the commercial salmon fishing
season. The Sacramento Valley fall-run Chinook salmon runs are
projected to be half as abundant as the 2020 season while the
Klamath River fall Chinook abundance forecast is slightly
higher than the 2020 but is still significantly lower than the
long-term average. During a press briefing on Friday morning,
John McManus President of the Golden State Salmon Association
said the added restrictions will deal a blow to commercial
The California commercial salmon season, due to start May 1,
will be only about half as long as last year’s season, after
the Pacific Fisheries Management Council settled on three
proposals for the dates and months fishing can take place this
season. The main reason for the shorter season is
the smaller number of adult Sacramento River
salmon expected to be in the ocean this spring and summer.
While commercial fishing boats were permitted to go out for 167
days total last year, the three proposals for the 2021 season
would only allow fishing for a total of 78 days, 94 days or 104
Bad news for salmon lovers: The quantity of fish in Bay Area
coastal waters this year is expected to be far lower than in
2020. And fewer fish means less work for local fishers and
fewer salmon in stores. The number of adult king salmon
from the Sacramento River fall run is projected to be 271,000
this spring and summer, compared with last year’s estimate
of 473,200….The limited season reflects a downward trend in
the population of king salmon, also known as chinook, over the
last decade because of drought and state policies that have
limited the amount of water allotted to the parts of the
Sacramento River basin where the fish spawn and juveniles spend
their early months.
On the tail end of the second dry winter in a row, with water
almost certain to be in short supply this summer, California
water officials are apparently planning to largely drain the
equivalent of the state’s two largest reservoirs to satisfy the
thirst of water-wasting farmers. Gov. Gavin Newsom must stop
this irresponsible plan, which threatens the environmental
health of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and the water supply
for about one-third of the Bay Area residents. We should be
saving water, not wasting it.
California will face another critically dry year, and residents
will need to adapt quickly to cope with water shortages and a
warmer, drier climate that has helped fuel destructive
wildfires. Officials with the state’s department of water
resources announced on Tuesday they had found that the water
content of the overall snowpack for 2 March amounted to 61% of
the average. The state’s largest reservoirs were storing
between 38% and 68% of their capacity, officials said, meaning
that the state would have a lot less water to carry it through
the rest of the year.
A forecast of relatively low numbers of Sacramento and Klamath
River fall Chinook salmon now swimming in the ocean off
the California coast points to restricted ocean and
river salmon fishing seasons in 2021. State and
federal fishery managers during the California Department of
Fish and Wildlife’s salmon fishery information on-line meeting
on February 25 forecast an ocean abundance this year of 271,000
adult Sacramento Valley fall Chinook salmon, about 200,000 fish
lower than the 2020 estimate.
The winter storms that dumped heavy snow and rain
across California early in 2021 are likely not enough to negate
what will be a critically dry year, state water officials
believe. California’s Department of Water Resources on
Tuesday recorded a snow depth of 56 inches and water content of
21 inches at Phillips Station in the Sierra Nevada. The water
content of the overall snowpack was 61% of the average for
March 2 and 54% of the average for April 1, when it is
historically at its maximum.
A disappointingly dry February is fanning fears of another
severe drought in California, and cities and farms are bracing
for problems. In many places, including parts of the Bay Area,
water users are already being asked to cut back. The
state’s monthly snow survey on Tuesday will show only about 60%
of average snowpack for this point in the year, the latest
indication that water supplies are tightening. With the end of
the stormy season approaching, forecasters don’t expect much
more buildup of snow, a key component of the statewide supply
that provides up to a third of California’s water.
The Bureau of Reclamation and Department of Water Resources
plan to allocate approximately 5 million acre feet of water
this year – as long as California allows them to effectively
drain the two largest reservoirs in the state, potentially
killing most or nearly all the endangered winter-run Chinook
salmon this year, threatening the state’s resilience to
continued dry conditions, and maybe even violating water
quality standards in the Delta.
Michael Preston grew up in the old village site of the Winnemem
Wintu tribe, along the McCloud River in Northern California
where the Shasta Dam has flooded spiritual and cultural lands.
Since the 1940s, the creation of the dam has also blocked the
usual migration of winter-run salmon, effectively endangering
the species. Now, there are proposals to raise the dam by an
additional 18.5 feet, which will cause further destruction.
“Our tribal goal is to bring the salmon back … ” he said,
adding that it’s more than just the fish. With the lack of
salmon, which is a keystone species, other animals, such as
bears, eagles and mountain lions are being starved.
Although the 1971 San Fernando earthquake and the near failure
of the Lower Van Norman Dam have given rise to construction
improvements … the overwhelming majority of California dams
are decades past their design life span. And while earthquakes
still loom as the greatest threat to California’s massive
collection of dams, experts warn that these aging structures
will be challenged further by a new and emerging hazard:
“whiplashing shifts” in extreme weather due to climate change.
California is enveloped in balmy weather that’s more like
spring than mid-winter — and that’s not a good thing. We have
seen only scant rain and snow this winter, indicating that the
state may be experiencing one of its periodic droughts and
adding another layer of crisis to the COVID-19 pandemic and
economic recession. The all-important Sierra snowpack,
California’s primary source of water, is scarcely half of what
is deemed a normal depth. -Written by Dan Walters, CalMatters columnist.
The Trump administration made a splash last month announcing it
was moving ahead with enlarging one of California’s largest
dams to provide the drought-stricken state’s farmers more
water. But state officials and conservationists have another
message for the outgoing administration: Not so fast. The
Bureau of Reclamation on Nov. 20 finished its environmental
review of raising the 600-foot Shasta Dam in Northern
California by 18.5 feet. It would be the Trump administration’s
largest water infrastructure project…
While Republican members of Congress praised the most recent
step toward approving raising the height of Shasta Dam, fishing
and environmental groups criticized it as the illegal actions
of a “lame duck federal agency.”
The Trump Administration Thursday released the Shasta Lake
Water Resources Investigation Final Supplemental Environmental
Impact Statement to increase water storage capacity in the
Shasta Lake reservoir by 634,000 acre-feet,
The Bureau of Reclamation has once again proposed raising
Shasta Dam, which is already the largest reservoir in
California, after several proposals in the past decade. Each
time, it has faced fierce public opposition from state
government, environmentalists, locals and Native Americans.
Reclamation, working with the Sacramento River Settlement
Contractors and federal and state fish and wildlife agencies,
are implementing fall water operations to benefit salmon
populations in the Sacramento River.
At least 700 sub-adult and adult winter-run Chinook salmon
(winter Chinook) returned this year to Battle Creek. …
Establishing another self-sustaining population in a second
watershed (in addition to population in Sacramento River), such
as Battle Creek, is a high priority and a major component of
the Central Valley salmonid recovery plan.
President Donald Trump on Tuesday created what he called a
“subcabinet” for federal water issues, with a mandate that
includes water-use changes sought by corporate farm interests
and oil and gas. … The first priority set out by the
executive order is increasing dam storage and other water
storage, long a demand of farmers and farm interests in the
West in particular. That includes California’s Westlands Water
District, the nation’s largest agricultural water district.
Reclamation has identified a significant seismic risk problem
at Shasta Dam that may preclude the enlargement of Shasta Dam
in a safe manner. … In addition … modeling disclosed by
Reclamation to NRDC (see last page of this link) indicates that
enlarging Shasta Dam would reduce the water supply for State
Water Project contractors by an average of 14,000 acre feet per
The day the gates closed on the Shasta Dam in 1943,
approximately 200 miles of California’s prime salmon and
steelhead spawning habitat disappeared. Although devastating
for all four distinct runs of Central Valley Chinook salmon,
the high dam hit the Sacramento winter-run Chinook the hardest.
Reclamation announces a virtual open house website for the
Shasta Lake Water Resources Investigation Draft Supplemental
Environmental Impact Statement. Website visitors will be able
to learn more about the project, review summaries of Draft
Supplemental EIS chapters, and submit comments.
Water is the lifeblood of our region and there are immense
challenges to providing and maintaining a reliable and
resilient water supply for both farms and communities in the
Central Valley. As your congressional representatives, we’ve
been working together to bring resources back home to address
our collective needs.
The decades-long battle over an effort to raise the height of
Shasta Dam took another turn Thursday when the Trump
Administration released a new environmental report on the plan,
just five years after completing a similar study.
As part of a settlement reached with fishing and environmental
groups, the California State Water Resources Control Board says
it will increase transparency and conduct heightened
evaluations when deciding water quality standards and flow
limits for the state’s critical waterways. …
Environmentalists celebrated the deal as a “landmark
settlement” that stands to boost protections for fish by
improving water quality in the Sacramento River and the San
The large and rapid variations in rainfall recorded in the LSC
stalagmites demonstrate that climate in Northern California is
sensitive to changes happening elsewhere in the world, and that
rainfall in this area may be capable of increasing or
decreasing in response to relatively small changes in global
In the ongoing struggle over management of water supplies in
the Sacramento-San Joaquin river system, farmers who rely on
deliveries from the federal Central Valley Project have earned
an initial victory from a federal judge, pending further legal
action later this year.
Get ready… here comes the true California water cycle: It
begins with headlines and quotes warning of pending disaster
based on what could, might, maybe, or possibly happen over the
state’s water infrastructure.
On June 24, 2020, the United States District Court for the
Eastern District of California denied the preliminary
injunctive relief requested by a coalition of fishery and
environmental groups regarding the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s
operations of Shasta Dam and Reservoir, and related temperature
management actions on the upper Sacramento River.
The Bureau of Reclamation, in partnership with the U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service, plans to begin construction of the Lower
Clear Creek Floodplain and Stream Channel Restoration Project
Phase 3C on the week of June 22. This project is funded through
the Central Valley Project Improvement Act.
Projected higher inflows to Shasta Lake caused the Bureau of
Reclamation earlier this month to rescind its “Shasta Critical
Year” designation after hydrologic conditions changed
sufficiently. … For growers with senior water rights under
the Exchange and Settlement contracts with the Central Valley
Project, this means full allocation water deliveries will be
On the campaign trail in 2016, President Trump swung into
California’s agricultural hub and vowed to deliver more water
to the drought-ridden state’s farmers. … Three years into his
administration, Trump is now opening the floodgate to deliver
on that promise, setting up the most intense water war between
the federal government and California in the state’s history.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced a water allocation
update Monday and it had disappointing news for some San
Joaquin Valley farmers, as well as wildlife refuges. The San
Joaquin River Exchange Contractors saw their allocation cut
from February’s announced 100% to 75%, which is their contract
minimum. Wildlife refuges likewise were reduced from 100% to
At the 2020 California Water Law Symposium, a panel discussed
the history of the project. Speaking on the panel was Chief
Caleen Sisk with the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, Doug Obegi with the
Natural Resources Defense Council, and Darcie Houck who is
currently General Counsel with California Energy Commission,
but formerly represented the Winnemem Wintu Tribe when she was
in private practice.
On Thursday, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation delivered its own
salvo to the Newsom administration – it was pushing forward
pre-construction work on raising Shasta Dam. … A push to
raise the dam was made possible by the same law that delivered
new biological opinions – the Water Infrastructure Improvements
for the Nation (WIIN) Act, approved in the waning days of the
An attempt to list as an endangered species a plant found only
in Shasta County could put it in the middle of a controversy
over raising the height of Shasta Dam. The California Fish and
Game Commission is expected to vote Friday on whether to accept
a petition to list the Shasta snow-wreath as an endangered
species under state law.
Repair work on the Friant-Kern Canal is getting $11 million in
new federal funding, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said
Tuesday. The funds are coming from the U.S. Bureau of
Reclamation. … McCarthy also announced $8 million in funding
for design and other pre-construction work to raise Shasta Dam
in northern California by 18.5 feet at a cost of $1.4 billion.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation last year lost a major partner
willing to help pay for raising the height of Shasta Dam, but
that hasn’t stopped the agency from going forward with the
project. The federal agency continues to look for new partners
after the Fresno-based Westlands Water District backed out, and
the bureau continues to do “pre-construction” and design work
on the dam.
Biologists, heavy equipment operators, government agencies, and
non-profits all working together. Hopefully, they’re major
steps toward restoring the endangered chinook salmon winter run
in the Sacramento River.
What started as a plan for a fun trip down the Sacramento Rver
turned into a storytelling mission for Mitch Dion and his
friend Tom Bartels, who set out to interview farmers,
politicians and others who were impacted by the river.
The top Democratic and Republican leaders in the House are
pushing for their own home-state projects in this year’s final
spending bills — a spectacular park overlooking San Francisco
Bay and a dam across the largest reservoir in California — but
without agreement from each other in the negotiations’ final
Reliable water is critical to every aspect of the economy as
more than 40 percent of the nation’s fruits, nuts and
vegetables are grown in the Central Valley, much of that using
water from the Central Valley Project (CVP) and its largest
reservoir — Shasta Lake.
Work on the Rio Vista Side Channel Habitat Project in Red Bluff
has been completed, marking another milestone for the Upper
Sacramento River Anadromous Fish Habitat Restoration Program,
with immediate results observed… Within one week of opening
the side channel, endangered winter‐run Chinook juveniles were
observed making use of it.
The nation’s largest water agency signed an agreement that
legally bars it from participating in a controversial plan to
raise Shasta Dam, a move applauded by environmental groups that
fiercely opposed the proposal out of fears enlarging the
state’s biggest reservoir would swamp a stretch of a protected
Northern California river and flood sites sacred to a Native
The Interior Department is proposing to award one of the first
contracts for federal water in perpetuity to a powerful rural
water district that had employed Secretary David Bernhardt as a
lawyer and lobbyist. … Environmental groups say a permanent
deal would let California’s water contractors forgo future
negotiations before the public and environmental groups,
further threatening the survival of endangered native fish and
other wildlife that also need the water.
The effects of the last drought are still obvious in
California’s agricultural belt. … From this perspective, the
federal government’s plan to increase the storage capacity of
Lake Shasta, created by the Shasta Dam on the Sacramento River,
is both sensible and compassionate.
On a cool and misty morning somewhere south of Redding,
California, jet boats roar across the tranquil Sacramento
River. Armed with tridents, machetes and poleaxes, it seems
akin to a scene from an action movie; except that “California
Department of Fish and Wildlife” is painted on the boats.
President Donald Trump’s administration rolled out an
aggressive plan Tuesday to ship more water from the Delta to
farmers in the San Joaquin Valley, a move that’s certain to
trigger lawsuits by environmentalists concerned about
endangered fish species.
A salmon habitat project will get underway Monday just outside
the city of Red Bluff. One of several such projects in the
North State, the Rio Vista Side Channel Habitat Project will
offer protection for juvenile salmonids, including endangered
President Trump’s political feud with California has spread
collateral damage across more than a dozen other states, which
have seen their regulatory authority curtailed and their
autonomy threatened by a Trump administration intent on
weakening the environmental statutes of the country’s most
How does one achieve temperature and flow targets for listed
species with such different requirements, while also meeting
the needs of human water users? A recent study sought to
achieve an equitable solution by using a multi-objective
approach to identify trade-offs and model an optimal dam
release scenario to meet the needs of salmon, sturgeon, and
The Westlands Water District on Sept. 30 formally stopped its
environmental review of a $1.4 billion U.S. Bureau of
Reclamation plan to raise the 602-foot dam by another 18.5
feet. It is unclear what Westlands’ decision will mean for the
future of the project…
Following losses in court, a Fresno-based irrigation district
has backed off its plans to do an environmental study on
raising the height of Shasta Dam. The Westlands Water District
announced Monday that it has stopped working on the report
because it could not meet the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s
schedule for the project.
For years, the Interior Department resisted proposals to raise
the height of its towering Shasta Dam in Northern California.
The department’s own scientists and researchers concluded that
doing so would endanger rare plants and animals in the area…
But the project is going forward now, in a big win for a
powerful consortium of California farmers that stands to profit
If there is a hell for salmon, it probably looks like this.
There were many more golf balls in the water than salmon this
summer, whacked there by enthusiasts at Aqua Golf, a driving
range on the bank of the Sacramento River. Below the surface,
the gravel salmon need to make their nests had been mined
decades ago to build Shasta Dam, 602 feet tall and with no fish
passage. The dam cut off access to all of the cold mountain
waters where these fish used to spawn.
I’m writing to express our tribe’s dismay at Gov. Gavin
Newsom’s announcement that he plans to veto Senate Bill 1. …
Vetoing this bill will green-light President Trump’s plan to
divert even more water from our struggling rivers for
industrial agriculture. Many well-respected fish biologists and
environmentalists have concluded Trump’s attempt to ignore the
best science and rewrite the rules will essentially be an
“extinction plan” for Chinook salmon and other threatened fish.
The threats came in a dispute over reintroducing winter-run
Chinook salmon into the McCloud River, a pristine river above
Shasta Dam, as part of a federal plan approved under the Obama
administration to try to stave off extinction for the
critically endangered fish.
Why do farmers pump the water under their land (which
California law clearly states belongs to them) in the first
place? Unfortunately, you’ll rarely read the answer to this
question in the press, but it is the most important part of the
The deadliest and most destructive
wildfire in California history had a severe impact on the water
system in the town of Paradise. Participants on our Oct. 2-4
Tour will hear from Kevin Phillips, general manager of
Paradise Irrigation District, on the scope of the damages, the
obstacles to recovery and the future of the water district.
The Camp Fire destroyed 90 percent of the structures in Paradise,
and 90 percent of the irrigation district’s ratepayer base. The
fire did not destroy the irrigation district’s water storage or
treatment facilities, but it did melt plastic pipes, releasing
contaminants into parts of the system and prompting do-not-drink
advisories to water customers.
When the salmon are healthy, the world is healthy. That means
the waters are clean and fast-running and the bottom gravel is
clean. It means the rivers … are pouring as they should into
our oceans, bringing nutrients and sediments into the salt- and
In the Sacramento River near Redding this spring, water
districts, government agencies and others collaborated to
construct the Market Street Gravel Project to benefit fish. …
Reclamation District 108 Deputy Manager William Vanderwaal said
that to complete the $429,000 project, 12,000 tons of gravel
were placed into the river and developed as new spawning
habitat for chinook salmon and steelhead trout.
A state court of appeal has upheld a Shasta County Superior
Court decision to stop a Fresno-based water district from doing
an analysis of the effects of raising the height of Shasta Dam.
The Westlands Water District had asked the California Third
District Court of Appeal to overturn the lower court’s
preliminary injunction that ordered the district to stop work
on an environmental impact report.
Managing a river is no easy feat. Consider the needs for water
released at Shasta Dam into the Sacramento River: salmon need
cold water, sturgeon need warm water, and irrigators just need
water. Recent research shows that all three needs can be met in
all but the most drought-stricken years. How?
In a paper published Tuesday in the Journal of Applied Ecology,
scientists at the University of California, Santa Cruz and the
National Marine Fisheries Service used statistical modeling to
determine an optimal water management plan that would protect
both species and ensure other water users would benefit as
Westlands Water District says a preliminary injunction ordering
it to stop work on an environmental impact report may prevent
it from helping to pay for raising the height of the dam,
according to the appeal filed last week.
Westlands Water District isn’t giving up on raising Shasta
Dam… The district, stopped in late July by a Shasta County
judge from conducting an environmental study on the impact of
raising Shasta Dam, filed a petition with the Sacramento-based
Third District California Court of Appeal on Monday to vacate
the trial court’s injunction.
A plan to raise and expand California’s largest reservoir is on
hold as federal officials look for partners to share in the
$1.4 billion cost. The federal Bureau of Reclamation also must
grapple with opponents who have sued, saying the Shasta Dam
project violates state law.
The Westlands Water District, which provides irrigation water
to farmers on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley, was
working on a report assessing the environmental impacts of
raising the height of the dam. But a judge ruled Wednesday that
Westlands’ work violated a state law that prohibited local and
state agencies from participating in any projects that would
have an adverse impact on the McCloud River.
On Monday, the state of California and a coalition of fishing
groups and environmentalists asked a judge to bar Westlands
from completing a crucial environmental report in hopes of
stalling the project. “Everything we see looks to be illegal,”
said deputy attorney general Russell Hildreth. At issue is a
stretch of the McCloud River that both sides agree would be
inundated by the project.
A judge has rejected a San Joaquin Valley irrigation district’s
request to move a lawsuit against raising the height of Shasta
Dam to Fresno County. Westlands Water District, based in
Fresno, wanted to move the lawsuit against it to its home
county, but a judge has ruled the case will remain in Shasta
The project is a part of the restoration of salmon habitat
stemming from the Central Valley Improvement Act and will take
place on the left bank of the Sacramento River at the East Sand
Slough… It reconnects the East Sand Slough to the Sacramento
River during minimal flows by excavating the main channel and
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and his allies have
filed a lawsuit to stop Federal water users from participating
in the raising of Shasta Dam, a federal dam. … Plain and
simple, this is a lawsuit waged against Central Valley farmers.
For years fisheries experts have watched the number of
winter-run Chinook salmon dwindle as they suffered through
drought and adverse conditions in the Sacramento River. But
this year a small crop of the endangered salmon have made their
way back from the ocean to return Battle Creek in southern
Shasta County, something that hasn’t happened in some 25 years.
And officials hope the fish are the beginning of a new run of
salmon in the creek.
The lawsuit against the Fresno-based Westlands Water District
was filed in Shasta County Superior Court on Monday. State
officials have for years maintained that raising the height of
the dam would violate the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act because a
higher dam would further inundate the McCloud River, in
violation of state law.
Paddlers of every skill and age from the U.S. and abroad will
be making their way down the Sacramento River on May 26 in the
California River Quest. … The course flows through riparian
forests and oak woodlands “teaming with wildlife and plants” as
well as a section that runs through a lava canyon, said
One of California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s first actions after
taking office was to appoint Wade Crowfoot as Natural Resources
Agency secretary. Then the governor laid out an ambitious
water agenda that Crowfoot is now charged with
executing. In a Western Water Q&A, Crowfoot
discussed what he expects to tackle, including scaling
back the conveyance plan in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta
and finding ways to make California more resilient to the
extremes of drought and flood that are expected to come with
One of California Gov. Gavin
Newsom’s first actions after taking office was to appoint Wade
Crowfoot as Natural Resources Agency secretary. Then, within
weeks, the governor laid out an ambitious water agenda that
Crowfoot, 45, is now charged with executing.
That agenda includes the governor’s desire for a “fresh approach”
on water, scaling back the conveyance plan in the Sacramento-San
Joaquin Delta and calling for more water recycling, expanded
floodplains in the Central Valley and more groundwater recharge.
A total of 300,000 salmon were released into the Sacramento
River on Saturday. Half were dropped at their usual location at
Coleman Fish Hatchery near Anderson in Shasta County, and the
other half were released 75 miles downstream, at Scottys
Landing on River Road near Chico. Surgeons fit the fish with
tiny radio transmitters so they can more easily study their
survival chances and homing instincts.
Bruce Babbitt, the former Arizona
governor and secretary of the Interior, has been a thoughtful,
provocative and sometimes forceful voice in some of the most
high-profile water conflicts over the last 40 years, including
groundwater management in Arizona and the reduction of
California’s take of the Colorado River. In 2016, former
California Gov. Jerry Brown named Babbitt as a special adviser to
work on matters relating to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and
the Delta tunnels plan.
Will hatchery-raised salmon have a better chance of surviving
their journey to the Pacific Ocean and back if they get a
75-mile head start? That’s the question a three-year study
hopes to answer for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and four
partner organizations. The plan Saturday is to release 180,000
salmon fry into the Sacramento River 75 miles downriver from
the Coleman National Fish Hatchery.
People living in flood-prone areas throughout Shasta County
seemed to be breathing easier Friday after a long winter
dealing with high water threats. For months, many have been
watching the rivers and creeks around their homes, in case the
waters started to rise. However, despite wet weather and
increased water releases from Keswick Dam this week, the
residents we spoke with Friday say their waterways are staying
at manageable levels.
An oversight at the Coleman National Fish Hatchery
resulted in the death of some 390,000 fall Chinook salmon this
week. Water was shut off to one of the hatchery’s raceways and
wasn’t turned back on during fish-tagging operations Thursday
State officials are throwing up legal barriers to some
high-stakes attacks. … They are refusing to issue permits the
federal government needs to build a controversial dam
project… And they can use state water quality standards to
limit Washington’s ability to boost irrigation supplies for
Central Valley agriculture by relaxing federal safeguards for
Recent plans to enlarge California’s Shasta Dam by 18.5 feet
have raised concerns over possible cultural and ecological
implications on wildlife among the Winnemem Wintu people and
environmental groups alike. … The change in flood patterns
would likely affect vital sacred sites for the Winnemen Wintu
Puberty Ceremony for young women, according to the Winnemem
Wintu website. The project would also relocate roads,
railroads, bridges and marinas, according to a fact sheet from
the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.
The extra water from Shasta Lake would raise the lake by an
estimated 20 feet, inundating the McCloud River, which is
protected by the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. That piece of
legislation was designed to protect the trout that heavily
populate those waters. And it’s not just state law that speaks
out. One of the provisions of the 1992 Central Valley Project
Improvement Act is to protect fisheries up and down the state’s
major rivers. Raising Shasta Dam now would only be possible by
overturning those two laws.
If the Trump administration wanted to increase California’s
water supply by the most cost-effective means possible, it
would immediately drop its attempt to raise Shasta Dam by 18.5
feet. It would instead put $1.5 billion — the cost of the
proposed Shasta enlargement, in 2019 dollars — toward a
completely different approach to water supply: watershed and
The Bureau of Reclamation, the Interior Department’s Western
water bureaucracy that saw its dam-building heyday in the
1960s, has risen in stature once again in the Trump
administration. Reclamation has flexed its muscles on Colorado
River drought management plans… And it has been the
administration’s key player in trying to fulfill President
Trump’s campaign promise to deliver more water to California
farmers, squeezing the state and forging ahead on a dam project
California says it doesn’t want.
The Trump administration is laying the groundwork to enlarge
California’s biggest reservoir, the iconic Shasta Dam,
north of Redding, by raising its height. It’s a saga that has
dragged on for decades, along with the controversy surrounding
it. But the latest chapter is likely to set the stage for
another showdown between California and the Trump
More water storage projects will not solve the basic fact that
the state’s finite amount of water is incapable of meeting all
of the demands. This deficit has been created primarily by the
transformation of a semi-arid area— the Central Valley — by an
infusion of water from northern California.
At least one state agency has indicated it will not issue
necessary permits to allow federal officials and a Fresno-based
water district to begin construction to raise the height of
Shasta Dam. In addition to facing opposition from the
state, the project could also face fresh hurdles from Congress,
which this year came under control of Democrats. In a
letter to the Fresno-based Westlands Water District, the State
Water Resources Control Board says raising the height of Shasta
Dam would violate state law.
The growing leadership of women in water. The Colorado River’s persistent drought and efforts to sign off on a plan to avert worse shortfalls of water from the river. And in California’s Central Valley, promising solutions to vexing water resource challenges.
These were among the topics that Western Water news explored in 2018.
We’re already planning a full slate of stories for 2019. You can sign up here to be alerted when new stories are published. In the meantime, take a look at what we dove into in 2018:
A water district that provides irrigation to San Joaquin
Valley farmers heard mostly negative comments in Redding on
Wednesday about its role in the ongoing proposal to raise the
height of Shasta Dam. The Fresno County-based Westlands Water
District, which has stepped forward to help pay the cost to
raise the dam, held a meeting at the Holiday Inn to take
comments that will be used to develop an environmental impact
report on the project.
A trio of tiny salamanders could stand in the way of a massive
$1.4 billion project to raise the height of Shasta Dam. An
environmental organization has filed a lawsuit against the U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service, asking a judge to force the federal
agency to make a determination on whether three salamander
species living around Lake Shasta should be protected
under the Endangered Species Act.
President Donald Trump signed a bipartisan infrastructure bill
this week that could lead to raising the Shasta Dam and funding
other reservoir projects. The plan is to spend $6 billion
throughout the country over 10 years.
The Carr Powerhouse area at Whiskeytown Lake has reopened
following this past summer’s deadly and destructive Carr Fire.
Officials with the Whiskeytown National Recreation Area said
Wednesday that lakeshore access from the pullouts on the east
side of Whiskey Creek Road have also reopened as part of the
ongoing and phased effort to reopen the entire park.
About 130 private property owners around Lake Shasta could be
forced to move if a plan to raise the height of Shasta Dam goes
forward. That was just one of the pieces of information that
came out of a community meeting about the project Monday night
in Lakehead. … About 90 people attended the meeting to hear
from U.S. Bureau of Reclamation officials about how Lakehead
residents and business owners will be affected if the height of
the dam is raised 18½ feet.
This tour explored the Sacramento River and its tributaries
through a scenic landscape as participants learned about the
issues associated with a key source for the state’s water supply.
All together, the river and its tributaries supply 35 percent of
California’s water and feed into two major projects: the State
Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project. Tour
participants got an on-site update of Oroville Dam spillway
The event, called Run4Salmon, is part of the [Winnemem Wintu]
tribe’s plans to change the course of history for endangered
Chinook, once plentiful in this part of the world. …
[Winnemem Chief Caleen] Sisk says heightening Shasta Dam would
further harm salmon and flood ancestral land. She advocates for
the construction of new swim-ways to bypass the dam to allow
salmon to spawn above it.
Nathan Morgan has been hanging over the side of side of Shasta
Dam recently — sometimes upside down — making marks on the side
of the dam. Morgan is part of a U.S. Bureau of Reclamation crew
drilling holes in the side and on the top of the dam to test
the strength of the concrete. The drilling is part of the prep
work to raise the height of the dam 18½ feet. … Earlier
this year Congress set aside about $20 million for
pre-construction work and design on the dam raise.
The Colorado River Basin is more than likely headed to
unprecedented shortage in 2020 that could force supply cuts to
some states, but work is “furiously” underway to reduce the
risk and avert a crisis, Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner
Brenda Burman said during a talk in Sacramento. Burman,
speaking at the Water Education Foundation’s Sept. 20 Water
Summit, also said California needs more water storage, and
added that raising Shasta Dam could be one way to effectively
The Colorado River Basin is more
than likely headed to unprecedented shortage in 2020 that could
force supply cuts to some states, but work is “furiously”
underway to reduce the risk and avert a crisis, Bureau of
Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman told an audience of
California water industry people.
During a keynote address at the Water Education Foundation’s
Sept. 20 Water Summit in Sacramento, Burman said there is
opportunity for Colorado River Basin states to control their
destiny, but acknowledged that in water, there are no guarantees
that agreement can be reached.
A recent trip to the basement archive turned up a negative pack
dated 1952, but upon closer examination it was clear the “6-38”
etched on the images was the month and year (June 1938) that
they were shot. It didn’t take long to confirm these were
Depression-era photos of the Shasta Dam’s construction and the
ramshackle “boomtowns” that grew in its shadow.
The Trump Administration appears to be bringing President
Trump’s recent tweets about California’s wildfires and
environmental laws to life. U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur
Ross has directed fisheries officials to “facilitate” access to
water in order to aid in firefighting efforts in California.
After years of environmental studies, feasibility reports and
stalled plans, federal officials are once again moving forward
with plans to raise the height of Shasta Dam and intend to
award the first construction contract next year. The U.S.
Bureau of Reclamation plans to advertise for bids on a
construction contract in September 2019 and award a bid by
December 2019, said Todd Plain, a spokesman for the agency.
California’s largest reservoir, Shasta Lake, sits where the dry
Central Valley meets the rainier, mountainous northern part of
the state. At its western edge is Shasta Dam, 602 feet high,
built by the Bureau of Reclamation between 1938 and 1945 to
help irrigate California. For decades, agricultural and
municipal water districts have sought to heighten the dam to
capture more water as it runs out of the Cascade Range through
the McCloud, Pit and Sacramento rivers.
Officials with the federal government seem determined to
realize a controversial proposal to raise Shasta Dam and
increase the storage capacity of the reservoir behind it –
despite objections from fish and wildlife agencies and
California law that technically forbids such a project.
For Shasta Marina, where about nine out of every 10 customers
come from out of the area, 2018 business could be better
than last summer, when high water levels were a welcome change
from the drought that made it tough on lake businesses, owner
John Harkrader said.
While the cause hasn’t been determined, a University
of Oregon student’s death at Lake Shasta over the weekend
should be a reminder for people who visit in the future to take
their safety there seriously, Shasta Caverns General Manager
Matt Doyle said. … Doyle said visitors to the lake need
to remember to have “respect for the environment,” which
includes bears, extreme heat, rattlesnakes and, of course, a
huge body of water.
The final stretch of the McCloud River before it empties into
the state’s largest reservoir is a place of raw beauty. …
This part of the McCloud is off limits to almost everyone
except a few Native Americans and some well-heeled fly
fishermen. Its gatekeeper is an unlikely one, an organization
that also happens to be a hugely controversial player in
California water politics.
Congress and the Trump administration are pushing ahead with a
plan to raise a towering symbol of dam-building’s 20th century
heyday to meet the water demands of 21st century California — a
project backed by San Joaquin Valley growers but opposed by
state officials, defenders of a protected river and an American
Indian tribe whose sacred sites would be swamped.
Inclusion of money for raising Shasta Dam got the most
attention in a recently released federal budget proposal, but
the same package also includes money for Sites Reservoir. The
Department of Interior is recommending spending $33.3 million
under the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act,
which was signed into law in December 2016.
Democrats in Congress have stalled an attempt to jump start an
expansion of Shasta Dam, California’s largest reservoir and a
major water source for the Central Valley. Their objections
blocked a Republican gambit to allow the $1.3 billion project
to move forward without full up-front funding and despite
objections from Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration.
While one federal agency wants to go forward with plans to
raise the height of Shasta Dam, the congressman whose district
includes the dam called it a “rumor that is going around all
the time,” and said it is not his top priority for water
projects in Northern California.
The proposal to raise the height of Shasta Dam is back on the
table, with a 2019 federal budget request of $20 million for
pre-construction and design work on the structure. The U.S.
Bureau of Reclamation and several other water agencies in the
state have been interested in raising the height of the dam for
The Trump administration is pushing forward with a colossal
public works project in Northern California — heightening the
towering Shasta Dam the equivalent of nearly two stories. The
problem is that California is dead-set against the plan, and
state law prohibits the 602-foot New Deal-era structure from
getting any taller.
For the past 80 years life has only gotten worse for winter-run
chinook salmon. When Shasta and Keswick dams were built on the
Sacramento River, they kept the salmon from getting to their
ancestral spawning grounds, while smaller dams and diversions
also were constructed on other streams where the salmon once
Friday night’s federal government shutdown had a minimal effect
in the North State over the weekend but those who drove to
Shasta Dam and Whiskeytown National Recreation Area found
themselves locked out of the visitors centers there.
This tour explored the Sacramento River and its tributaries
through a scenic landscape as participants learned about the
issues associated with a key source for the state’s water supply.
All together, the river and its tributaries supply 35 percent of
California’s water and feed into two major projects: the State
Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project. Tour
participants got an on-site update of repair efforts on the
Oroville Dam spillway.
Removing Shasta Dam is the single best action we can take to
save California’s wild salmon. Not possible, you say?
Then there are two alternatives. One is to provide plenty of
cold water and diverse, highly managed habitat below dams. The
other is to transport fish to now-inaccessible habitat above
A team of engineers were out this week with hammers banging on
the face of Shasta Dam. Hanging by ropes from the top of the
602-foot-tall dam, the group was inspecting the spillway,
looking for weak spots in the concrete.
As boaters, swimmers, anglers and others splash around in
Lake Shasta this summer, all around them millions of gallons of
water are disappearing into thin air through evaporation. And
not just a little bit of evaporation.
“Four or five Friday nights” of work has paid off for Briana
Conners, who recently won $10,000 for her winning entry in a
contest seeking proposals to get fish past tall dams like
Shasta Dam. … While the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation sponsored
the contest to solicit ideas for getting fish around tall dams,
the agency is specifically interested in finding ways to get
young endangered salmon around Shasta Dam.