A Northern California native tribe is accusing federal agencies of using COVID-19 as a cover to fast-track approval of the Shasta Dam raising project. The Winnemum Wintu are also alleging the continued involvement of the Fresno-based Westlands Water District. Last August a judge ordered Westlands not to have a role in the push to raise Shasta Dam. Westlands, which covers about 600,000 acres of farmland in the San Joaquin Valley, is the largest and most powerful water district in the country. The district’s lobbyists have including current U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt. Westlands had led the way in the fight to raise Shasta Dam and had assumed lead agency status, which California objected to, saying it’s illegal. In 2018 Bureau of Reclamation geologists started taking core samples on, around, and deep within the dam to see if the concrete and surrounding rock can handle the extra stress of raising the height by 18.5 feet. The bureau says that would increase the lake’s capacity by 630,000 acre-feet. They launched into the pre-construction and design phase of the dam-raising after Congress approved $20 Million for water infrastructure. The total cost is estimated at 1.4 Billion Dollars, according to a study done in 2004. The Winnemum Wintu, who lost most of their ancestral lands when the dam was built, will host a live panel discussion Friday night on their “run4salmon” Facebook page.