A March 20 commentary by Michael Martin criticizes HR 934, which I have introduced at the request of the Merced Irrigation District. When Congress established the Wild and Scenic River boundary for the Merced River in 1992, it overlapped with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission boundary for the New Exchequer Dam by about 1,800 feet. HR 934 simply corrects this by conforming the Wild and Scenic River boundary to the pre-existing FERC boundary.
For the writer to equate this simple boundary change with flooding Yosemite Valley seems somewhat hyperbolic.
This modification is the necessary first step toward adjusting the existing dam spillway by about 10 feet, in order to capture and temporarily store about 70,000 acre-feet of water that would otherwise be lost during wet years. That's enough to support more than 800 agricultural jobs (or satisfy the annual water needs of 70,000 households) and generate enough electricity for 1,700 homes.
As water and electricity supplies become tighter and more expensive and as unemployment continues to stalk our communities, the necessity of this project should become increasingly clear and more and more compelling even to the most hard-hearted environmentalists.
The writer is correct that if the dam is modified, it will still have to undergo extensive environmental and engineering review and meet all environmental laws but there is no point to incurring these costs if the current boundary would prevent it from proceeding.
4th Congressional District