Congressman Jim Costa, who represents Merced County, and Congressman Tom McClintock, who represents Mariposa County, introduced a bill today that would allow Merced Irrigation District to apply to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to raise the spillway at Lake McClure. The legislation adjusts the Merced Wild and Scenic River boundary to match the FERC project boundary for the New Exchequer Dam.
Merced Irrigation District is proposing to raise the spillway by 10 feet, which would allow for the storage of up to 70,000 additional acre-feet of water in a wet year. The District is currently unable to apply to raise the spillway because it would cause temporary increases in the levels of approximately 1,800 feet of the Merced River where it joins Lake McClure. The Merced Wild and Scenic designation prohibits such increases in water levels.
"As we face a looming water crisis this year, it is more important than ever that we continue to explore long-term solutions that improve water reliability throughout the state," said Costa. "Though there is no silver bullet to solve our water challenges, increasing storage at Lake McClure Reservoir would give us another tool to prepare for dry years. Boosting storage is taking out an insurance policy to protect jobs and keep our economy moving."
"At a time when California is suffering increasingly scarce water supplies and paying among the highest electricity prices in the nation, this legislation will allow for both increased water storage and additional hydropower generation," remarked Congressman McClintock. "The benefits of a minor adjustment to the boundary rescue this desperately needed resource from truly outrageous bureaucratic red tape."
Lake McClure has the storage capacity of over a million acre feet of water, and the spillway raise could allow for the capture of up to an additional 70,000 acre feet of water in a wet year. This would increase carryover storage and increase average critical dry year water supply by 15,000 acre feet. It would also enhance groundwater storage, provide incidental flood control benefits and the additional water could generate up to 10,000 MW hours of hydropower per year, enough to serve 1,700 homes.