A bill introduced March 5 (HR 934) by Representative Tom McClintock (R-CA), would remove long-standing Wild and Scenic River protections from a section of California’s Merced River and allow the Merced Irrigation District to pursue raising a spillway at New Exchequer Dam and inundate almost a mile of one of California’s last, best, free-flowing rivers.
The bill would also mark the first time a federal Wild and Scenic River is essentially de-designated for the purpose of raising a dam.
The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act was established in 1968 to protect the nation’s highest quality rivers in their free-flowing condition for future generations. One of the strongest provisions of the Act prevents construction of water projects or other activity that would affect a protected river’s free-flowing nature.
The rivers in the Wild and Scenic Rivers System are national treasures, as significant and cherished as our National Parks. Currently only one quarter of one percent of the nation’s rivers are preserved under the Act, including the Merced River, which was designated only after hard-fought negotiations between conservationists and water users to determine the precise sections of the river that would be protected.
“For decades California has struggled between water resource development and protection of its finest rivers and stunning landscapes,” said Bob Irvin, president of American Rivers. “This bill would abandon the commitment California’s leaders made to protect one of the Golden State’s most iconic rivers.”
“American Rivers strongly opposes Representative McClintock’s legislation which would not only harm the Merced River, but runs roughshod over the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, one of our nation’s most important laws for safeguarding healthy rivers, clean water, and wildlife habitat,” said Irvin.
Raising the spillway and inundating the section would adversely impact wildlife, including the limestone salamander, a rare species protected under California state law.
A total of 122.5 miles of the Merced River are currently protected as Wild and Scenic.
American Rivers was founded forty years ago to safeguard the nation’s last wild rivers, and protecting Wild and Scenic Rivers remains a core focus today. For more information about Wild and Scenic Rivers visit AmericanRivers.org.
American Rivers is the leading organization working to protect and restore the nation’s rivers and streams. Rivers connect us to each other, nature, and future generations. Since 1973, American Rivers has fought to preserve these connections, helping protect and restore more than 150,000 miles of rivers through advocacy efforts, on-the-ground projects, and the annual release of America’s Most Endangered Rivers. Headquartered in Washington, DC, American Rivers has offices across the country and more than 100,000 supporters, members, and volunteers nationwide. Visit www.americanrivers.org, www.facebook.com/americanrivers and www.twitter.com/americanrivers.