Water Shortage & Dams

We are seeing the continuing results from the current dry spell, as this article from today’s Sacramento Bee reports—and we pray it won’t be extended much longer—but there have been solutions available for public leadership to act upon and it involves the building of new dams, and perhaps the raising of an existing one.

Along with the obvious solution for our area, the building of Auburn Dam (which would double our storage capacity), supported by groups—including us—like the Auburn Dam Council, there is another that would solve the water problems for the larger region and that is the raising of Shasta Dam to its originally engineered height of 200 feet higher than it now is, tripling its water supply, which an 2004 article from the Los Angeles Times describes:

“….From an engineering standpoint, it’s a piece of cake. The dam, built between 1938 and 1945, was originally planned to be 200 feet taller. At 800 feet, it would have been the highest and biggest in the world.

“Sheri Harral, public affairs officer at the dam, said World War II and materials shortages associated with the war effort led to a decision to stop construction at 602 feet.

“The thinking was to come back and add on to it if ever there was a need to,” Harral said. “They started looking at raising it in 1978.”

“If Shasta Dam had been built up to its engineering limit in 1945, it is arguable that Northern and Central California would not be facing a critical water shortage now.

“According to a 1999 Bureau of Reclamation study, a dam 200 feet taller would be able to triple storage to 13.89 million acre-feet of water.”

The cost for these two projects is probably in the $20 billion range, a relatively low price to pay for the extra water, hydroelectric power, Parkway and salmon sustainability (from the stabilization of American River water flow and temperature from Auburn Dam) and extra flood protection.

About David H Lukenbill

I am a native of Sacramento, as are my wife and daughter. I am a consultant to nonprofit organizations, and have a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Behavior and a Master of Public Administration degree, both from the University of San Francisco. We live along the American River with two cats and all the wild critters we can feed. I am the founding president of the American River Parkway Preservation Society and currently serve as the CFO and Senior Policy Director. I also volunteer as the President of The Lampstand Foundation, a nonprofit organization I founded in 2003.
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