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CRITICAL - H.R. 934 Will Have Adverse Impacts on Merced Wild and Scenic River
Update February 2014: The language of H.R. 934 has been included in Republican sponsored H.R. 3964, the "Sacramento-San Joaquin Valley Emergency Water Delivery Act" which has now passed the House of Representatives. California's Democratic Senators have proposed their own drought relief bill that does not de-designate the segment in question of the Wild and Scenic Merced River.
Tom McClintock, Congressman from Elk Grove, who now includes Mariposa County in his district, has introduced H.R. 934, a bill that would remove Wild and Scenic Protection for a half mile of the lower Merced River above Bagby.
Merced's Irrigation District (MID) has proposed increasing the water storage in Lake McClure by raising the maximum lake water level to 877'. This increase would impact or flood a segment of the Merced Wild and Scenic River, a violation of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.
In the last session of Congress, Congressman Jeff Denham first proposed H.R. 869 and then H.R. 2578 to support MID’s effort by removing this segment of the Merced River from Wild and Scenic protection. While H.R. 2578 passed the Republican controlled House of Representatives, a companion bill was never introduced in the Senate and Denham’s bill died when that session of Congress adjourned.
Now Tom McClintock has introduced H.R. 934 with language identical to H.R. 2578 and is promoting the bill by suggesting that the current Wild and Scenic River boundary is a simple “mistake” that his bill would “fix it” by adjusting the Wild and Scenic boundary to the current FERC boundary ½ mile upstream, thus allowing MID to raise the reservoir level by 10 feet.
The current Wild and Scenic boundary is not a “mistake” but was set at the legal maximum high water level for the reservoir with the unanimous approval of the MID Board of Directors when that segment of the Merced River was added to the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act in 1992. You can read more about the logic and standard practice of setting the Wild and Scenic boundary inside the FERC boundary here.
MERG has compiled our thoughts on the impact of these bills, along with substantial background materials, which may be accessed by clicking on this link.
Friends of the River also has an excellent Fact Sheet on the current status of the MID project and the threats to the Wild and Scenic Merced River.
To date no segment of a Wild and Scenic River has ever been removed from protection, so passage of H.R. 934 bills would set a significant, negative precedent with national consequences for other Wild and Scenic Rivers.