Sunday, February 28, 2010

Update on the Lower Merced River Hydropower Relicensings

Three dams are undergoing relicensing by FERC.  Two are owned by the Merced Irrigation District (New
Exchequer and McSwain and one is owned by PG&E (Merced Falls).

Relicensings usually take five years and we are at the point where the dam operators have to do studies on the impact of their projects. The Merced Irrigation District is extremely unwilling to acknowledge that their dams have an effect on the salmon and steelhead populations beneath their dams even though they control 100% of the water flows in the lower Merced. 

Last month, there was an important visit to the Merced Falls dam and the Crocker-Huffman Diversion dam
(operated by the Merced Irrigation District) to take a look at their inoperable fish ladders. Conservation groups, the National Marine Fisheries Service and the California Department of Fish and Game are pushing for their restoration so Central Valley salmon and steelhead can benefit from increased habitat.

We would like to see these fish get closer to the New Exchequer dam which permanently blocked these fish from getting all the way up to Yosemite Valley. There is a serious effort on the part of NMFS to get salmon and steelhead above dams such as this (and include Shasta dam on the Upper Sac and Englebright dam on the Yuba River) and they are looking at the truck and haul option which has been used successfully in Oregon and Washington. 

GWWF is an active participant in these relicensing procedures which is so important for the future of these anadromous fish.I will keep you informed of developments as they occur.

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