Yosemite National Park is currently developing alternatives for protecting the Wild and Scenic River status of the Merced River through the Park. But just HOW did the river become designated as a WSR flow? The original WSR Act was passed by Congress in 1968. In summary it states: “. . . to preserve certain rivers with outstanding natural, cultural, and recreational values in a free-flowing condition for the enjoyment of present
and future generations.” To illustrate the size of the project, the National System protects 12,598 miles of 203 rivers in 38 states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico; this is a little more than one-quarter of one percent of the nation’s rivers. By comparison, more than 75,000 large dams across the country have modified at least 600,000 miles, or about 17%, of American rivers.
But in 1968, the Merced was not designated as such. Porque? Why? Well it seems developers were getting antsy to dam up the Merced again. This time south of the park. There is a massive downstream dam called the Exchequer Dam that stops the flow as Lake McClure. Locals got wind of the plans and lobbied to stop a new dam by getting WSR status for the Merced. Clever. The Friends of the River lobbied and maneuvered
and finally on May 7, 1991, the Merced Irrigation District’s Board of Directors voted 4-0 to support protecting the Merced River in the National Wild & Scenic Rivers system.
So after the ’97 flood and subsequent lawsuit/injunction, as a result of a 2004 court ruling, the National Park Service has to address user capacities in the Merced River corridor, reassess the river boundary in El Portal, and amend the park’s General Management Plan. In response to the October 27, 2003, opinion of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, this Final Revised Merced River Plan/SEIS addresses two deficiencies identified by the Court: (1) the revised plan must implement a user capacity program that presents specific measurable limits on use, and (2) the revised plan must reassess the river corridor boundary in the El Portal Administrative Site based on the location of Outstandingly Remarkable Values.
Unrelated thought worth quoting: “Ol’ man river, Dat ol’ man river. He mus’ know sumpin’. But don’t say nuthin’, he jes ‘keeps rollin’, he keeps on rollin’ along.” – Paul Robeson
*MrHalfDome™ – Rick Deutsch – www.HikeHalfDome.com