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Merced River Endangered?

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Sonora, CA — A national environmental group is taking issue with a bill authored by U.S. Congressman Tom McClintock.

The group American Rivers has released its 2013 list of “Most Endangered Rivers,” and the Merced River in Yosemite National Park has received special mention this year.

A spokesperson for the organization says it stems from legislation introduced by Congressman McClintock that would eliminate Wild and Scenic designation for a stretch of the river. The bill is part of an overall effort to increase the storage capacity at Lake McClure by up to 70,000 acre ft.

McClintock, a Republican, earlier stated, “At a time when California is suffering increasingly scarce water supplies and paying among the highest electricity prices in the nation, this legislation would allow for both increased water storage and additional hydropower generation.”

Steve Rothert with American Rivers counters by saying, “The Merced is an extremely important resource to the whole region, and provides important opportunities for recreation, fishing, whitewater boating, and supports a lot of jobs in the recreation industry. This legislation would be a permanent change to the protection of the river, and we believe it is unnecessary and premature.”

The bill would remove about a half-of-a-mile of federal Wild and Scenic River protection. The bill is also authored by Fresno Democratic Congressman Jim Costa. McClintock’s District Four includes Tuolumne and Calaveras Counties.