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State Files Lawsuit Over Raising Of Shasta Dam

A Central California water district with a lot of political clout is being sued by the state for taking a lead role in the push to raise the height of Shasta Dam. Westlands Water District, based in Fresno, covers about 600,000 acres of farmland in the San Joaquin Valley. It’s the largest and most powerful water district in the country and has been the central figure in the water wars that began in the 20th century. Farms in the district produce a Billion Dollars worth of food annually. Westlands has employed a number of powerful lobbyists, including current U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt, who delisted himself as a lobbyist in 2016 to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest. Westlands continued to pay him $20,000 a month for at least another 6 months. Westlands has led the way in the fight to raise Shasta Dam and have assumed lead agency status, which Attorney General Xavier Becerra says is illegal. He’s filed a lawsuit to block their involvement in the planning and construction process, based on prohibitions established by the California Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. A separate suit has been filed by a coalition of environmentalist groups. Last year Bureau of Reclamation geologists started taking core samples on, around, and deep within the dam to see if the concrete and surrounding rock can handle the extra stress of raising the height by 18-and-a-half feet. The bureau says that would increase the lake’s capacity by 630,000 acre-feet. They launched into the pre-construction and design phase of the dam-raising after congress approved $20 Million for water infrastructure last March. The Bureau expects to issue the first construction contracts by December of this year. The total cost is estimated at 1.4 Billion Dollars, according to a study done in 2004.