Citing violations of California’s Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, the State of California and several environmental and fishing groups are suing a San Joaquin Valley irrigation district over its efforts to help the federal government raise the height of California’s largest reservoir, Shasta Dam.  The lawsuit argues that the project poses significant risks to the McCloud River and that the project will harm the “extraordinary resources” of the free-flowing McCloud River and its wild trout fishery.  Under the law, state agencies like Westlands Water District are prohibited from partnering on projects that could negatively impact the McCloud River. The Westlands Water District, however, has responded by stating that the district is only studying whether or not it wants to support the project.

The State’s lawsuit is no surprise given that State officials have for years maintained that raising the height of the dam would violate the State’s Wild and Scenic Rivers Act because a higher dam would further inundate the McCloud River, a protected river under State law.  The Bureau of Reclamation has been interested for many years in raising the height of the dam 18 ½ feet to increase the amount of water in Lake Shasta by 14 percent.  Under the Trump administration, the Bureau of Reclamation has revived this interest, and Congress approved $20 million in funding for early construction and design engineering to raise the dam in March 2018.  Plaintiffs allege that Westlands has also allocated more than $1 billion to consulting services related to the project, and that Westlands has published an initial study on the impact of the project.