February 2013 Meeting

Kathleen Morse

Our February meeting featured the National Park Service presenting the Merced River Plan Draft Environmental Impact Statement containing six Alternative Concepts.

Kathleen Morse, Yosemite Planning Division Chief gave an excellent 45 minute presentation on the steps that the NPS was taking in all Alternative Concepts to protect and enhance the Wild and Scenic Merced River and the details of the preferred Alternative 5.  

Yosemite Superintendent, Don Neubacher, was at the meeting to answer questions, as was Woody Smeck, the Deputy Park Superintendent. Elizabeth Munding from the Yosemite Planning staff also provided technical support.

Click here to view a web-based version of Kathleen's presentation.  An 8 Mbyte pdf version of the presentation is available for download here. A press release from the club on meeting is also available.

Meeting Minutes:

Mariposa Democratic Club
Minutes, Feb 9, 2013
Attendees: 32

Intros, Salute to the Flag

Speakers: Yosemite Superintendent  Don Neubacher and Kathleen Morse Director of Planning.

Sup’t. Neubacher –They have had 40 public meetings before the draft; will do another 40 public meetings now. They have been working on it for years. He showed a video by Dayton Duncan discussing the importance of the park and the National Parks system.

After the video, Kathleen Morse then gave her presentation (see links above for full versions of the presentation).  Both Tuolumne and Merced River plans are now available (this meeting focused on Merced plan).  During the creation of the plan, they had to consider both the Wild & Scenic River Act (WSRA) and the national environmental plan.

The presentation discussed actions taken in all alternatives being considered, but focused on the preferred alternative (#5) that promotes sustainability over generations, access by private vehicles while reducing traffic congestion, removes industrial and administrative functions, and creates a sense of “arrival” at Yosemite Village.

Notes: Seven miles of the wild and Scenic Merced River go through the most heavily used areas of Yosemite Valley.  The Merced River Plan is required by the WSRA to protect and enhance the free flowing condition of the river, the water quality and the Outstanding Remarkable Values (ORVs) of the River – those value that make the Merced River in Yosemite Valley unique, while at the same time, providing for enjoyment by the public in a way does not adversely impact or degrade those values.

The WSRA requires the area a quarter mile from the high water mark of the river be protected and enhanced.   If one combines this requirement with the 25-year flood plane and the rock fall areas, there is very little of Yosemite Valley where development is appropriate.

While the draft report states that the river corridor in general is not degraded, there are some local impacts that require restoration.   Problem area included the impact to El Capitan Meadow; the Riparian areas between Clark’s and Sentinel Bridge; hydrologic impacts of Sugarpine Beach; informal trails through valley meadows; condition of nat’l historic landmarks.

The WSRA and the implementation guidelines require that any facility within the river corridor be looked at to determine whether the facility was necessary for public use; if no, it should be eliminated, if yes, can it be relocated? If it can’t be relocated, can impact be mitigated? This is the logic that has led to the proposed removal of some of the commercial activities in the river corridor.  Plus, by removing certain facilities, the need for employee housing is reduced and those areas can either be restored to natural conditions, or in many cases, provide additional camping and day use parking.

In particular, while the preferred alternative eliminates horse rentals, bike rentals and raft rentals, Sup’t Neubacher clearly stated that private parties could bring in their own horses, bikes, and rafts, and that bike and horse trails would remain. The ice rink is used by 10,000 people out of 4 million visitors but requires 20 employees who need housing.  Also discussed were bike accidents.  

One of the more controversial items in the proposed alternative is parking in the West Valley.  It was noted that idea of a major parking area at “Taft Toe” is dead, although in the preferred alternative there is a provision for a one acre parking lot for about 100 cars there to allow people to get orientated or turnaround on busy days.  The lot would not have impervious pavement.

Public comment due by 3/8 for Tuolomne; 4/18 for Merced.
Public meetings at http://www.nps.gov/yose/parkmgmt/mrp_meetings.htm

Letter to Feinstein re raising of Exchequer Dam –
It was discussed and approved that club will send a letter to Senator Feinstein and other politicians opposing the bill to raise the Exchequer Dam, focusing on the fact that we Democrats are the locals who know that it will impact the local economy and future status of Wild and Scenic Rivers. We reject the bill.

Resolutions to State Dem Convention
Discussed and approved sending two resolutions to the state dem convention – one for them supporting additional funding for John C Fremont Hospital; the other for supporting adding hearing, vision, dental to health care plans proposed by state.

We have a membership chair! Lesley Lovelace is taking on membership chair.

Discussed Visitor’s Center – While we might not all agree with “where” we all agree that we want the Yosemite visitor’s center in Mariposa; McClintock is opposed to that; discussed ways to show local support for it, including starting a change.org petition.

Question – did others get call asking them to join McClintock’s conference call? Yes.

Treasurer’s report now online.

Discussed having newsletters sent electronically rather than through USPS. Now that we are taking over labels, this may be possible. We will come up with a process.

Central committee report – MCDCC reorganized; there are 15 members; a report and a list of members on website.

Adjourned 11:40
Minutes submitted by Anne Brock, secretary

Below are more pictures from the meeting.Audience

Don and Rosemaire

Visitor Experience

User Capacity