On Monday, March 4th, Congressmen Tom McClintock and Jim Costa of California reintroduced
legislation that would roll back the boundary of the Wild and Scenic Merced River in order to
allow Merced Irrigation District to increase the height of New Exchequer Dam. If implemented,
H.R. 934 would drown a
segment of the free flowing Merced, inundate critical habitat for the California limestone
salamander, and bury important cultural, historic and recreational areas. If passed, this would
be the first time in the 45 year history of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act that a designated
reach would be shortened in the name of development. H.R. 934 was introduced in the House of
Representatives after its predecessor–H.R. 2578–stalled in the Senate last year.
The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act prohibits the construction of dams that would affect designated rivers. The Merced joined the Wild and Scenic System in 1992 for its outstandingly remarkable recreation, wildlife, vegetation and scenery values. H.R. 934 would open the door for Merced Irrigation District to increase the height of the spillway at New Exchequer Dam by 10 feet and expand McClure Reservoir's storage capacity by 70,000 acre feet–just 2% of MID's average annual diversions. The reservoir has never filled and spilled since it was built in the mid-1960's, bringing into question the need for the project.
H.R. 934 threatens not only the Merced River, but the Wild and Scenic Rivers System as a whole. The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act was passed in 1968 with the intention to bring balance to our nation's policy and practice of dam building. Less than 0.25% of the nation's rivers are protected under the Act, while 17% of rivers are impacted by the 75,000 (+) large dams throughout the country. Building a higher dam won't make more water come, but sacrificing the integrity of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act will create a slippery slope for other beloved Wild and Scenic Rivers throughout the country. We encourage you to contact your Representatives [link to congressional contact info] to share your thoughts about the future of the Wild and Scenic Merced River and the national Wild and Scenic Rivers system today. No matter where you live, also please contact California Senator Diane Feinstein and Senator Barbara Boxer, as they play a key role in determining the future of the Wild and Scenic Merced River.
Wall Street Journal on the Wild and Scenic Merced
January 10, 2013
House Passes Bill to Flood Wild and Scenic Merced
June 22, 2012