Water Storage, Auburn Dam & Raising Shasta Dam

As the news release from the Department of Water Resources (Item #3) shows, the only reason we are able to get through this dry year comfortably is because of the water stored in reservoirs from last years abundance.

1) We cannot count on abundance. 

For the long term future we need the Auburn Dam, addressed in the January 15, 2011 article from Congressman Tom McClintock in the Sacramento Bee: “Auburn dam back in play as McClintock takes over House panel, (The article is no longer on the Bee’s website).

An excerpt.

“The long-debated proposal for a dam on the American River seemed to formally die two years ago, when the state water board revoked rights for the project estimated to cost upward of $10 billion.

“McClintock, though, insists the dam could live again given the proper cost-benefit analysis.

“Ultimately, it will be constructed,” McClintock said. “The only question is if it’s built in time to prevent the (Sacramento flooding) calamity.”

2) Additionally, for the absolute best storage, increase the raising of Shasta Dam from what is currently planned to what it was originally engineered to be, as noted in a detailed Wikipedia entry, and in this article from the Los Angeles Times:

“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.

“Still, tripling the size of Shasta Lake, on paper at least, would store nine times the projected 2020 water deficit for the Sacramento, San Joaquin and Tulare Lake basins during normal water years.

“But the Bureau of Reclamation concluded in its 1999 report on Shasta Dam that raising it by 200 feet would be prohibitively expensive – $5.8 billion.

“Given what’s under discussion now in the Cal-Fed process, however, the cost of a maximum raise of Shasta is not that far out of line with other projects authorized for study by the recent California water bill.”

3) News Release abstract from DWR, full pdf release here.

An excerpt.

“Final Snow Survey of 2012 Shows Low Water Content
Manual and electronic readings today show that California’s drier than usual mountain snowpack is steadily melting with warming spring weather. Statewide, snowpack water content is only 40 percent of normal for the date, and was only 55 percent of normal the first of April, the time of year when it is historically at its peak. “The fact that we just had a dry winter right after an unusually wet season last year shows that we must be prepared for all types of weather,” said DWR Director Mark Cowin. “Reservoir storage will mitigate the impact of dry conditions on water supply this summer, but we have to plan for the possibility of a consecutive dry year in 2013, both by practicing conservation, continuing to develop alternative local water supplies, and working toward improved water storage and conveyance.”

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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