CURRENT ANNOUNCEMENTS AND NEWS RELEASES
COMMENTS ARE DUE BY MARCH 14, 2000
National Park Service: Draft Environmental Impact Statement and Comprehensive Management Plan for the Merced Wild and Scenic River, Yosemite National Park, Madera and Mariposa Counties, California; Notice of Availability SUMMARY: Pursuant to Sec. 102(2)(C) of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (Pub L.91-190, as amended), and the Council of Environmental Quality regulations (40 CFR Part 1500), the National Park Service, Department of the Interior, has prepared a Draft Environmental Impact Statement identifying and evaluating five alternatives for a Merced Wild and Scenic River Comprehensive Management Plan for segments of the river within Yosemite National Park, California. Potential impacts, and appropriate mitigations, are assessed for each alternative. When approved, the plan will guide management actions during the next 15-20 years which will be necessary to preserve the free-flowing condition of the Merced Wild and Scenic River and to protect and enhance the ``Outstandingly Remarkable Values'' (ORVs) for which the river was designated, pursuant to the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1271). Proposal The proposed Merced River Plan (Alternative 2--Preferred) would manage the Merced River corridor by modifying the ORVs and boundaries from the present situation to reflect current information. No change is proposed in the present classifications of the river segments. This alternative also proposes implementing criteria to guide future decision-making and management actions. These measures include establishing management zones to appropriately constrain use and development, and creation of a river protection overlay along the river and its banks with the intent that natural processes will prevail. Alternatives In addition to the proposal, four other alternatives are identified and analyzed. Alternative 1 (``no action'') is a continuation of the existing situation, based on the ORVs, boundaries, and classifications as published in the 1996 Draft Yosemite Valley Housing Plan/ Supplemental EIS. If approved, Alternative 1 will not impose decision- making criteria, and would establish neither management zoning nor a river protection overlay. Alternative 3 differs from the actions propopsed (Alternative 2) with regard to boundaries, in that limits would be generally one- quarter mile from the river--except that in El Portal, all of Yosemite Valley, and Wawona, the 100-year floodplain and adjacent meadows and wetlands would define the extent of the boundary. In addition, management zones are differently allocated, the effect of which would be to promote more resource protection within the river corridor than would Alternative 2. Alternative 4 is the same as Alternatives 2 and 3, except that: (i) The boundary would extend a continuous one-quarter mile from the river throughout the park; (ii) a change in classification from ``Scenic'' to ``Recreational'' is proposed in the east end of Yosemite Valley and in Wawona; and (iii) the allocation of management zoning promotes the most resource protection overall. Alternative 5 is the same as Alternative 4, except that no river protection overlay is proposed, and the allocation of management zoning promotes the greatest diversity of visitor experience opportunities. Planning Background The draft Merced River Plan/EIS was prepared pursuant to the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act and National Environmental Policy Act. A Scoping Notice was published in the Federal Register on June 11, 1999; and the Notice of Intent was published on August 23, 1999. An intensive scoping phase was undertaken during June and July, 1999, which included a series of six public meetings. The invitation letter requesting input into the development of the draft Merced River Plan/EIS was sent to the park's general mailing list. In addition, the scoping effort was publicized via regional and local media and on the park's Webpage. As a result of this outreach, over 330 responses were received and used in the development of issues upon which preparation of the draft Merced River Plan/EIS was based. A summary of the scoping process is available on the park's Webpage (address noted below). Public Meetings In order to facilitate public review and comment on the draft Merced River Plan/EIS, the Superintendent has scheduled public meetings in the following California cities: January 31, Mammoth Lakes; February 1, Bakersfield; February 2, San Diego; February 3, Los Angeles; February 5, Palo Alto; February 6, Berkeley; February 8, Sacramento; February 9, Merced; February 10, Mariposa; February 11, El Portal; February 14, Yosemite Valley; February 15, Fish Camp. Meetings on February 5 and 6 begin at 11:30 am; all other sessions begin between 4 and 5:30 pm and end at 9 or 9:30 pm. Participants are encouraged to review the document prior to attending a meeting. Detailed information on location and times for each of the public meetings will be published in local and regional newspapers several weeks in advance, broadcast via radio and television stations, and listed on the park's Webpage. Yosemite National Park management and planning officials will attend all sessions to present the draft Merced River Plan/EIS, to receive oral and written comments, and to answer questions. Comments The draft Merced River Plan/EIS will be direct mailed to the park's general mailing list. Copies will be available at park headquarters in Yosemite Valley, the Warehouse Building in El Portal, and at local and regional libraries (i.e., San Francisco and Los Angeles). Also, the complete document will be posted on the Yosemite National Park Webpage (http://www.nps.gov/yose/planning). Written comments must be postmarked (or transmitted by e-mail) not later than 60 days after the Environmental Protection Agency publishes the notice of filing of the draft Merced River Plan/EIS in the Federal Register (anticipated to occur on January 7, 2000). All comments should be addressed to the Superintendent, Attn: Merced River Plan, P.O. Box 577, Yosemite National Park, California 95389 (or e-mailed to: Yose__Planning@nps.gov). All comments received will be available for public review in the park's research library. Decision Process Depending upon the degree of public interest and response from other agencies and organizations, at this time it is anticipated that the Final Merced River Plan/EIS will be completed during June, 2000; availability of the document will be duly noticed in the Federal Register. Subsequently, notice of an approved Record of Decision would be published in the Federal Register not sooner than thirty (30) days after the final document is distributed. This is expected to occur by mid-July, 2000. The official responsible for the decision is the Regional Director, Pacific West Region, National Park Service; the official responsible for implementation is the Superintendent, Yosemite National Park.
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