Merced River given ‘special mention’ in America’s Most Endangered Rivers of 2013
Cutting Wild and Scenic River protections threatens habitat, recreationApril 17th, 2013
Washington, D.C.- American Rivers gave California’s Merced River a ‘special mention’ in America’s Most Endangered Rivers® of 2013 today, shining a national spotlight on the threat to habitat and recreation posed by cutting Wild and Scenic protections. American Rivers is calling on Congress to reject H.R. 934 and any other attempts to weaken Wild and Scenic River protections for the Merced. American Rivers gave the Merced River a ‘special mention’ because the threat arose after the ten rivers were chosen.
H.R. 934, introduced by Representative Tom McClintock (R-CA), would remove long-standing Wild and Scenic River protections from a section of the Merced River, allowing the local irrigation district to pursue raising a spillway at New Exchequer Dam. The raised spillway would inundate a stretch of the Merced. If the U.S. Congress passes legislation in favor of removing protections from the Merced River, it would mark the first time a federal Wild and Scenic River was stripped of its protected status for the purpose of raising a dam, setting a harmful precedent for other Wild and Scenic rivers nationwide.
“The America’s Most Endangered Rivers report is a call to action to save rivers that are facing a critical tipping point,” said Steve Rothert of American Rivers. “The Merced is one of our state’s natural treasures and citizens have worked hard to protect it. We have a responsibility to uphold those protections for future generations.”
The Merced River was federally designated as Wild and Scenic in two portions (1987 and 1992; 122.5 miles total) to protect its outstanding values, including whitewater boating, bald eagle nesting, scenic fishing, and unique plant communities.
The proposed raising of the New Exchequer Dam spillway by 10 feet would allow Merced Irrigation District to store a small amount of additional water, about 2.5% of their annual diversions. In return, a beautiful recreational and ecological haven would be harmed. Merced Irrigation District doesn’t need this legislation to conduct the studies necessary to determine whether it is feasible to raise the spillway.
“We recognize that California is facing a second year of limited water supply due to a below average Sierra snowpack, and this will cause hardship for many in our state. However, the proposed project would not contribute meaningfully toward solving our state’s longer term water challenges,” said Rothert.
The annual America’s Most Endangered Rivers® report is a list of rivers at a crossroads, where key decisions in the coming months will determine the rivers’ fates. Over the years, the report has helped spur many successes including the removal of outdated dams, the protection of rivers with Wild and Scenic designations, and the prevention of harmful development and pollution.