Staff Report/Resolution Resolution in Support of Merced Irrigation District’s New Exchequer Dam Spillway Modification and Increased Water Storage Project.

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AGENDA ITEM: Resolution in Support of Merced Irrigation District’s New Exchequer Dam
Spillway Modification and Increased Water Storage Project.

MEETING DATE: April 18, 2011

PREPARED BY: Victoria Lewis, Interim City Manager

REVIEWED BY: Victoria Lewis, Interim City Manager


Adopt Resolution No. 2011- in support of Merced Irrigation District’s new Exchequer Dam SpillwayModification and Increased Water Storage Project.


Agriculture is vital to Central California’s economy, representing approximately $36 billion in economic activity. The region’s crop production is significantly dependent on, and challenged by, the amount of irrigation water available to growers in a given year. Due to California’s ongoing cycles of drought and wet years, the agriculture community has long faced the need for more dependable water sources and increased storage. At the same time, groundwater overdraft from pump irrigation is becoming an increasingly significant challenge in the Valley. Construction of a large surface water storage project is considered by most to be an impractical endeavor during the current economic challenges and within the current regulatory environment.

The Merced Irrigation District is proposing an alternative: increasing the storage capacity of the reservoir it already maintains, Lake McClure, located 30 miles east of Merced. The lake is created on the Merced River by New Exchequer Dam and currently has a capacity of just over I million acre feet. Among the lake’s many uses is supplying irrigation water to more than 2,200 growers in Merced County.

The District is proposing modifying its spillways, not New Exchequer Dam itself, allowing it to increase its storage capacity by up to 70,000 acre feet. The project would raise the overall vertical elevation of the lake by approximately 10 feet. It is critical to note the new storage space would be used only during wet years, such as California is currently experiencing, and only for between two and three weeks during such years.

The project would have significant benefits, ranging from increased recreational use to increased irrigation water storage and groundwater recharge downstream of the reservoir. The benefits to groundwater discharge are especially noteworthy: Significant concerns are being raised about the overdraft of this resource. An increased supply of storage water at Lake McClure would resu lt in less groundwater use, as well as increased groundwater recharge benefits.


In order for the project to proceed, the District would need authority from the Federal Energy Regulatory
Commission (FERC). MID is currently working toward rel icensing its hydroelectric project on new
Exchequer Dam through FERC and would like this project considered as part of that process. Proposed legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives, H.R. 869, would give FERC the authority to consider and evaluate the project. It is noteworthy that the legislation was jointly cosponsored and introduced with bipartisan support from Congress Members throughout the San Joaquin Valley.

Lake McClure is located approximately 122 miles downstream of Yosemite. The Merced River is protected by the Wild and Scenic River Act as it flows to Lake McClure. The increased transitory storage would require an encroachment approximately 1,700 feet up river into the Wild and Scenic River boundary. It is noteworthy that this section of river already floods. MID is requesting that the federal government allow it authority to temporarily maintain water in that section of the river every few years for between two and eight weeks.




1. Resolution No. 2011-





WHEREAS, agriculture is absolutely vital to the San Joaquin Valley and its economy; and

WHEREAS, irrigation water is absolutely critical to sustainable crop production and the overall economy; and

WHEREAS, California continues to face cycles of drought and years of excess precipitation; and

WHEREAS, the Merced Irrigation District is proposing to increase Lake McClure’s storage capacity by up to 70,000 acre feet by modifying its existing spillways; and

WHEREAS, the additional water storage would provide a host of benefits, ranging from groundwater recharge to increased hydroelectric output; and

WHEREAS, the additional storage space would only be used every few years and only for periods spanning two to eight weeks; and

WHEREAS, there is no need for state or federal funding; and

WHEREAS, the Merced Irrigation District is seeking consideration of the project as part of its current relicensing of the New Exchequer Dam Hydroelectric Project through the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission; and

WHEREAS, there is clear bipartisan support from the Members of Congress from across the San Joaquin Valley who have jointly introduced legislation, H.R. 869, in support of the effort.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the City Council of the City of Livingston hereby proclaims its strongest possible support for the proposed New Exchequer Dam Spillway Modification Project. This project would have significant benefits to the City of Livingston including groundwater recharge, irrigation storage supplies, recreational uses, economic activity and environmental stewardship.

Passed and adopted this 18`x’ day of April, 2011, by the following vote:




Rodrigo Espinoza, Mayor
of the City of Livingston

Page 1 of 2


I, hereby certify that the foregoing resolution was regularly introduced, passed and adopted at a regular meeting of the City Council of the City of Livingston this 18`h day of April, 2011.

Antonio Silva, City Clerk

of the City of Livingston


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