For most people traveling on Interstate 5 in Northern California, Lake Shasta is viewed as a recreational jewel along their journey. The fact is the reservoir is a major workhorse providing flood control, critical storage capacity and water deliveries that provide multiple benefits to the public, farmers, municipalities, aquatic species, waterfowl, wildlife and the environment.
Yet, Lake Shasta is being operated today for the primary purpose of protecting a single fish species at one specific point in its life. That protected species is the spawning winter-run salmon.
The Bureau of Reclamation has announced its summer operation plan for the Central Valley Project, which will finally enable water to flow from the nearly full Shasta Dam. The following day, the National Marine Fisheries Services released its 132-page document “concurring” with the bureau’s summer operation plan and included new data, non-peer-reviewed models and a hypothesis on why the operations plan needed to protect winter-run salmon.