The Merced Wild and Scenic River Final Comprehensive Management Plan and Environmental Impact Statement, released in February 2014, addresses the renowned Merced Wild and Scenic River's 81 miles within Yosemite National Park and the El Portal Administrative Site and functions as the guiding document to protect and enhance river values and manage use within the river corridor for the next 20 years.
The Final Merced River Plan/EIS protects the Merced River's free-flowing condition, water quality, and the unique values that has made the celebrated river worthy of special protection under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act (WSRA). The final plan represents a rich collaboration amongst the public, research scientists, park partners, traditionally-associated American Indians, and park staff to explore visions for the future of Yosemite Valley and the Merced Wild and Scenic River. The final plan brings forward the best in science, stewardship, and public engagement to ensure continual protection and enhancement of the rare, unique, and exemplary qualities of the Merced River.
The Final Merced River Plan/EIS will:
Specific Highlights of the Final Merced River Plan
Protecting the Merced River's Health and Other Resources
Preserving and Enhancing Recreational Opportunities
Improving Transportation System
Managing Visitor Use to Ensure High Quality Visitor Experience
Public involvement was a cornerstone of the planning process for the Merced River Plan. Over 30,000 comments were received on the draft plan during a formal public comment period, which ran from January 8, 2013 through April 30, 2013. Originally, the 100-day comment period was slated to close on April 18, 2013. In response to several requests for an extension, the comment period was extended through April 30, 2013. The NPS hosted ten public meetings and four webinars. The NPS received 4,098 individual unique correspondences and 25,302 form letters. Throughout the entire plan's development, the park conducted over 60 public meetings, both in the park, and throughout the state. The park also conducted several webinars to help people understand some of the more complex elements of the plan so they could provide informed comments. Many of the changes between the draft and final plan were the direct result of concerns raised during public meetings, agency and tribal consultation, and in public comments.
The Final Merced River Plan/EIS presents and analyzes six alternatives. Alternative 1 (No Action) would have continued current management and trends in the condition of river values. Alternatives 2, 3, 4, and 6 would have protected and enhanced river values by improving conditions that threaten sensitive meadows, archeological resources, and scenic vistas. The action alternatives varied primarily with regard to the degree of restoration proposed and the amount of visitor use that would be accommodated.
The final preferred alternative (Alternative 5: Enhanced Visitor Experience and Essential Riverbank Restoration) is based on guiding principles that include restoring natural conditions to riparian areas, riverbanks and meadows, modifying the transportation system to provide a better visitor experience in Yosemite Valley, enhancing recreational opportunities, and reducing or eliminating unnecessary facilities and services in the river corridor.
Under the selected alternative, visitors to Yosemite Valley will see marked improvements in the transportation system, including more efficient parking and traffic flow. Coupled with enhancements to meadows, improvements to river access, and extensive riverbank restoration, the visitor experience will be significantly improved. Visitors to Yosemite Village will experience an enhanced "sense of arrival" to the heart of Yosemite Valley, as the plan fully integrates the primary day-use parking area with pathways to visitor services, restrooms, and food service.
Record of Decision (March 2014)
Merced Wild and Scenic River Final Comprehensive Management Plan and Environmental Impact Statement (February 2014)
The Merced Wild and Scenic River Final Comprehensive Management Plan and Environmental Impact Statement (Final Merced River Plan/EIS) is divided into three volumes (The complete five-volume Plan and EIS (approximately 3,000 pages). Volume 1: Chapters 1-8 provides the framework for comprehensive management plan, as well as the range of alternatives. Volume 2 contains Chapters 9-13, which provides the analysis of impacts associated with each alternative and information about consultation efforts. Volume 3 contains Appendices A-T which provide additional detail and specific evaluations to support the plan's framework and decisions.
Last updated: April 26, 2023