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Salamanders Could Threaten Project to Raise Shasta Dam

The Shasta salamander has the smallest known range of any Pacific Northwest amphibian and is only found near Shasta Lake.

Posted: Dec. 5, 2018 6:36 PM
Updated: Dec. 6, 2018 10:11 AM

NORTHERN CALIFORNIA, Calif. - The $1.4 Billion dollar project to raise Shasta Dam is said to provide more than half a million acre-feet of stored water for the agricultural, and environmental uses.

But a new lawsuit filed against the United States Fish and Wildlife Service could put that project on hold.

The Center for Biological Diversity, a non-profit known for its work protecting endangered species says U.S. Fish and Wildlife failed to act on a 2012 petition to put the Shasta salamander on the endangered species list.

"And so we're simply pushing for them to make a determination on that petition on whether or not to list the species," said Jenny Loda, an attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity.

According to the U.S. Forest Service, the Shasta salamander has the smallest known range of any Pacific Northwest amphibian and is found only in the Shasta Lake region.

Loda says higher water levels could potentially destroy the salamander's habitat possibly driving it to extinction.

"We are concerned much larger about the Shasta Dam, the raising of the Shasta Dam and the impacts it will have on a larger number of wildlife and plants, not just the Shasta salamander," Loda said. 

Species like rainbow trout and the endangered winter-run chinook salmon.

The river is kept cold because of the salmon and it's the reason trout fishing is so great on the Sacramento.

Assistant director of outfitters at the Fly Shop in Redding Bryan Quick says he hopes the project doesn't do anything to affect those perfect temperatures.

"It's one of the best tailwaters around," Quick said. "So that's pretty much our primary concern is making sure that's maintained."

Loda says the future of the project could depend on the outcome of the lawsuit.

"If it's basically going to potentially push them forward to extinction, then they would need to seriously consider just scrapping the project," she said.

Congress has already allocated $20 million to help build the dam and contracts are expected to be awarded about a year from now.

Construction to raise the dam is expected to begin around summertime of 2020.

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