SOURCE: Federal Register, January 7, 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).


    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.


    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.


    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 
    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: 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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