FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                                       

Jennifer Witherspoon
Executive Director
Mount Shasta Bioregional Ecology Center

Environmental Groups Release Scientific Report;
Medicine Lake Highlands & Aquifer More Important To California’s Water Supply
Than Previously Known

Call for protecting high quality groundwater drought buffer from toxic geothermal fracturing

(MOUNT SHASTA, CA – March 10, 2015) Today the Mount Shasta Bioregional Ecology Center and Medicine Lake Citizens for Quality Environment released a study: California’s Water Future: Hydrogeological Report on the Risks to the Medicine Lake Volcano Aquifers Associated with Geothermal Development. The new scientific study sums up over a dozen years of research by its author, Dr. Robert Curry, a registered hydro-geologist and professor emeritus at the University of California-Santa Cruz. The study concludes that the Medicine Lake Volcano region in far northern California contributes much more water to the State of California than previously thought.

“The Medicine Lake Aquifer provides an enormous free reservoir of pristine drinking water to the State of California that buffers drought and provides surplus resources for farms and cities throughout the state,” Curry stated. “Adequate baseline information is not presently available to allow preparation of an Environmental Impact Study for the expanded 480 megawatt scope of the currently proposed Medicine Lake geothermal project.”

“We decided to release the report at this time as the State of California is undergoing a more extensive review and prioritization of its groundwater basins,” said Michelle Berditschevsky, senior conservation consultant for the Mount Shasta Bioregional Ecology Center. “This report contains significant new information that was not previously considered in the government’s review of geothermal industrial development. The Medicine Lake Highlands provide California with immense volumes of pristine water each year – nearly twice the annual amount of water used by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. This is not a water resource that should be put at risk from geothermal development, especially considering that it would include hydraulic fracturing using toxic chemicals.”

The Medicine Lake Highlands, a remote and spectacular volcanic wonderland about 30 miles northeast of Mount Shasta in far northern California, serve as a high elevation recharge area that captures snowpack and rain and stores it as groundwater in immense natural aquifers that nearly equal the combined volume of California’s 200 largest built surface reservoirs. The Medicine Lake groundwater emerges as the source of about 80 percent of the largest spring system in California, the Fall River Springs, a world-class trout fishery and home of the endangered Shasta crayfish. This water flows into the Fall and Pit Rivers, reliably delivering between 1 and 1.4 million acre-feet of water each year to the Shasta Lake Reservoir, part of the Bureau of Reclamation’s Central Valley Project, before making its way to the Bay Delta and on to California farms and urban areas.

The Mount Shasta Bioregional Ecology Center (Ecology Center) and its Native American and environmental allies have worked for nearly two decades to prevent industrialization by geothermal development on U.S. forest service lands in the Medicine Lake Highlands. Yet Calpine Corporation continues to press for expanded geothermal development of up to 480 megawatts in the Medicine Lake Highlands, over 60 square miles through leases granted by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in the 1980s.

“The Pit River Tribe appreciates Dr. Curry’s report that highlights the significance of this fragile water source,” said Morning Star Gali,  tribal historic preservation officer of the Pit River Tribe. “The Curry report demonstrates how geothermal is not a benign source of energy, in addition to these projects’ potential for desecration and the impacts to the pristine Medicine Lake Highlands.”

“Geothermal development in the Medicine Lake Highlands would be an industrial nightmare,” said Janie Painter, executive director of the Medicine Lake Citizens for Quality Environment, consisting of Medicine Lake cabin owners and recreationalists. “Geothermal development in the surrounding national forest would increase traffic, noise, water and air pollution and would fragment wildlife habitat, turning the remote landscape into an industrial wasteland and threatening a reliable source of pure water.”

The Ecology Center and Medicine Lake Citizens are working with local, state and national environmental organizations to bring awareness to the need to protect the Medicine Lake Highlands and Aquifer from geothermal development. Together with Native Americans, the environmental organizations have formed the Medicine Lake Highlands and Aquifer Protection Alliance, made up of the Mount Shasta Bioregional Ecology Center, the Medicine Lake Citizens for Quality Environment, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Earth Island Institute, and the Center for Biological Diversity.

“California is facing its fourth year of devastating drought and is prioritizing how it manages its groundwater resources in light of drought and climate change – yet the Medicine Lake Highlands and Aquifer are little known or understood in the State of California,” said Marcus Griswold, a water resources scientist  with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). “State and federal agencies should move forward now to protect this important pristine aquifer so that it remains a source of clean and abundant water into the future.”

On Thursday March 12, 2015, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco will hear a legal challenge related to renewal of the geothermal leases, brought by the Stanford Environmental Law Clinic on behalf of Native Tribes and the Mount Shasta Bioregional Ecology Center and the Medicine Lake Citizens for Quality Environment. For more information please visit:


The Mount Shasta Bioregional Ecology Center is a nonprofit, grassroots environmental advocacy organization based in Mt. Shasta, California, near the headwaters of the Sacramento River, about 60 miles south of the Oregon border. Since 1988 the Ecology Center has worked to protect and restore the outstanding natural environmental and cultural values of Mount Shasta and its surrounding bioregion. To Learn About the Medicine Lake campaign please visit & Follow us on Twitter & Facebook.