One of my gazillion water book ideas was “The Last Concrete”. It was going to be about the end of big water infrastructure in the West. Except there’s no way to know when the last one happens, because there are a bunch of lingering projects that probably won’t ever get built, but that don’t ever quite get killed.
I’ve assumed the proposal to raise Shasta Dam in California is one of those. Or not:
In February of 2012, the Bureau of Reclamation released a Draft Feasibility Study that determined the project was both technically and environmentally feasible, as well as economically justified; the study determined that raising the dam 18.5 feet would cost just over $1 billion dollars and would produce from $18 to $63 million in net economic benefits per year.
More from Maven on the release of the project National Environmental Policy Act draft studies.
When that Feasibility Study came out, my colleagues and I reviewed it, and found that the authors were barely able to eke out a Benefits:Cost ratio greater than 1 by assuming unrealistic discount rates, exaggerating certain benefits, and ignoring certain costs. We like to call these “zombie projects” around the office. You think they’re dead and defeated, and they keep coming back from the grave.
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