Fish Sniffer On Demand Digital Edition 3813 June 7-21 2019 - Page 28

26 June 7 - 21, 2019 VOL.38 • ISS. 13 A.G. Xavier Becerra, Fishing Groups Sue Westlands over Shasta Dam Raise Plan C alifornia Attorney General Xavier Becerra and a coalition of fishing and environmental groups have each filed a lawsuit to block the Westlands Water District, the largest agricultural water district in the U.S., from taking what they described as “unlawful” action to assist in the planning and construction of a project to raise the height of Shasta Dam. “The project poses significant adverse effects on the free-flowing condition of the McCloud River and on its wild trout fishery, both of which have special statutory protections under the California Wild and Scenic Rivers Act,” according to a statement from Becerra’s Office. “The Act prohibits any agency of the State of California, such as Westlands, from assisting or cooperating with actions to raise the Shasta Dam.” The dam raise would also destroy many of the remaining sacred sites of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe that already lost 90% of its ancestral lands when the dam was completed and Shasta Reservoir filled in 1945. “This project is unlawful. It would create significant environmental and cultural impacts for the communi- ties and habitats surrounding the Shasta Dam,” said Attorney General Becerra. “Today we ask the court to block this illegal attempt by the Westlands Water District to circum- vent state law.” The lawsuit alleges that under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, “Westlands is prohibited from planning, funding, or assisting with any project that could adversely affect the McCloud River’s flow or its fishery.” Federal studies of the proposal concluded that raising the dam would increase the already inundated portion of the lower McCloud River by 39 percent, according to the A.G.’s Office. “This further inundation would have a significant negative impact on the river’s fisheries and habitats, and submerge sacred sites of the Winnemem Wintu Native American Tribe,” Becerra said. Despite these impacts, Becerra said Westlands has “unlawfully assumed” the lead agency status for the $1.3 billion project and has allocated funding of over $1 million for the preparation of an Environ- mental Impact Report under the California 100 Rounds Environmental Sporting Clays Quality Act Only $35 (CEQA) as part 1000 Rounds of its planning Sporting Clays Only $320 to become a 50 Company or Corporate shoots percent cost- available at reasonable prices! sharing partner with the federal government. 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Fisheries Resources, Sierra Club, Defenders “Since assuming leadership of the of Wildlife, and the Natural Resources Winnemem Wintu Tribe in 2000, Chief Defense Council (NRDC), represented by Sisk has focused on uplifting the cultural Earthjustice, are also urging the court to find Westlands in violation of the California Wild and religious traditions of the tribe, such as the revitalization of the Winnemem’s H’up & Scenic Rivers Act in their lawsuit. Chonas (War Dance) and BaLas Chonas “The dam raise would harm—not help— (Puberty Ceremony),” the Rose Founda- salmon downstream of the dam,” said John tion said. “She also advocates tirelessly McManus, President of the Golden Gate for salmon restoration, the undamming Salmon Association (GGSA). “The science, of rivers and lakes, and the basic human including the findings of the U.S. Fish and right to clean water. Chief Sisk is currently Wildlife Service, clearly shows this harm, leading the Tribe’s resistance against which is why we’re taking action to protect the proposal to raise the Shasta Dam, all of the salmon in the Sacramento River.” and is an integral voice in the efforts to “Californians decided to protect the McCloud River in 1989 because it’s valuable bring salmon home to the tribe’s sacred to all of us,” said Ron Stork of Friends of the watershed above the dam.” The Westlands Water District responded River. “The ill-conceived dam raise would to the lawsuit filed by Attorney General flood a free-flowing reach of the river, harm Becerra with the following statement: a prized fishery, and destroy sacred tribal “In the complaint, Attorney General sites. It’s time to end Westlands’ disrespect Becerra asserts that the District is violating of the California Wild and Scenic Rivers Public Resources Code section 5093.542. Act.” A 1989 amendment to that law protects the Contrary to the allegations by the Attorney General, the District is not violating the McCloud River by prohibiting any agency law. The District explained its actions in of the State of California from assisting or two letters in February to the State Water cooperating with the planning or construc- Resources Control Board and the Cali- tion of any dam that could adversely affect fornia Department of Fish and Wildlife. the McCloud River’s free-flowing condition As explained in those letters, if Recla- or its wild trout fishery, according to Stork. mation decided to proceed to construc- “Westlands is violating the law by coop- tion, federal law (Water Infrastructure erating with the Trump Administration’s Improvement for the Nation Act) requires aggressive plan to raise Shasta Dam,” added Stork. “The largest agricultural water district Reclamation to have a local cost share partner(s). The District has not yet made in the country is trying to use taxpayer dollars to gain more water to sell to corporate any determination regarding the Shasta Dam Raise Project. Rather, the District agriculture in the San Joaquin Valley.” is conducting the environmental review Stork said efforts to raise Shasta Dam that Attorney General Becerra complains have “rumbled for years,” but the Obama of to adequately evaluate the question Administration tabled the project. Now the before it: whether Public Resources Code Trump Administration, with Westlands’ section 5093.543 precludes the District former lobbyist David Bernhardt serving as from becoming a local cost share partner. Secretary of the Interior, has brought it back The District’s approach to the environ- despite protests from California leaders. The mental review will allow it to consider that project timeline has been fast-tracked with question with the full breath of informa- construction to begin by the end of this year. tion required by the California Environ- “Westlands is playing a key role in mental Quality Act. advancing the project by leading and Westlands Water District supports state funding an environmental impact review and federal efforts to improve the water and negotiating to cover part of the more system and provide additional storage for than $1.4 billion project cost. The irrigation communities throughout the state.” district even purchased 3,000 acres along the McCloud River to clear the way for the project,” said Stork. 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