Democrats Try Poison Pill to Stop Trump’s $1.4 Billion Shasta Dam Expansion

Shasta Dam (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)
Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press

Congressional Democrats have tried inserting a poison pill into new spending proposals in an effort to stop the Trump administration’s planned $1.37 billion Shasta Dam expansion.

U.S. Bureau of Reclamation officials told Breitbart News that the agency had requested $20 million in funding for expansion of the federally owned Shasta Dam, as the first tranche of the $67 million requested for pre-construction work on seven dam and reservoir projects to address California’s recurring drought challenges.

Congressional Democrats agreed to include the $20 million Shasta Dam funding in the current budget bill, knowing that Gov. Jerry Brown and the Winnemum Wintu Indian Tribe would never agree to the 50 percent up front state or private funding commitment required under President Donald Trump’s massive Infrastructure Plan.

The 125 Wintus complain that they are among the 75,000 members of California’s “ghost tribes” that have not been officially recognized by U.S.  Bureau of Indian Affairs, according to the California Native American Heritage Commission. Federal recognition would allow the new tribes to claim legal sovereignty over numerous areas as protected sacred sites, among other powers.

U.S. House Democratic leaders were incensed when Republican House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) attached a rider to the spending bill that would waive the 50 percent up front requirement for a Shasta Dam expansion, according to the Los Angeles Times. Democrats rejected the move and are now battling to include a provision in the spending bill that would force the Bureau of Reclamation to comply with all state and federal laws.

The move is a poison pill, because California’s “Wild and Scenic Rivers Act” specifically forbids inundating the supposedly unique wild trout fishery around the lower mouth of the McCloud River, which feeds directly into the Shasta Reservoir. The Wintu Indians also claim that the area is dotted with sacred tribal burial sites.

Congressional Democrats and the Brown administration know that Shasta Dam is the easiest above ground water storage to build in California, because the federal government had all the approvals to build a 621-foot cement dam and massive hydroelectric power plant when construction on the dam began in 1938. But with World War II resource demands temporarily halting construction in 1945 at a height of 602 feet, the Bureau of Reclamation has been waiting and ready for over 70 years to finish adding the dam’s last 18.5 feet.

With the U.S. government having supremacy over the 12 storage dams as part of the Central Valley Project, California’s senior U.S. Senator, Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and bipartisan Congressional representatives from rural and agricultural districts made a major push in 2014 — at the height of the five-year drought — to prioritize raising Shasta Dam by 18.5 feet.

To supposedly facilitate the effort to build more above ground water storage, Gov. Brown and his Democrat allies campaigned in 2014 for voter approval of the Proposition 1 water bond, which was meant to fund $2.7 billion for new and expanded dams.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation continues to be ready for Congress to allow the Shasta Dam expansion to add 634,000-acre feet of water storage — if Congress passes the funding and the rider.



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