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Re: Yosemite National Park Announces the Release of Two Wild and Scenic River Comprehensive Management Plans

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Yosemite National Park Announces the Release of Two Wild and Scenic River Comprehensive Management Plans - news release
Draft Environmental Impact Statement for Merced River and Tuolumne River Available for Public Review
Scott Gediman 209-372-0248
Kari Cobb 209-372-0529

Yosemite National Park announces the release of two Wild and Scenic River Comprehensive Management Plan Draft Environmental Impact Statements for the Merced River (MRP) and the Tuolumne River (TRP) for public review and comment. The public comment period for the MRP is open now through Thursday, April 18, 2013. The public comment period for the TRP is open now through Monday, March 18, 2013. Both documents, in their entirety, are available for public review on the park’s website beginning today.

In accordance with the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, Yosemite National Park is required to release a management plan that adequately protects the Merced River and the Tuolumne River. The Merced River was designated Wild and Scenic by the U.S. Congress in 1987 to preserve its free-flowing condition and to protect and enhance the values that made it unique. The Tuolumne River was designated Wild and Scenic in 1984 due to its rich natural, cultural, and scenic values.

The MRP presents the environmental analysis of six alternatives, including a No Action Alternative, the National Park Service (NPS) is considering, according to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The park has identified Alternative Five as the Preferred Alternative: Enhanced Visitor Experiences and Essential Riverbank Restoration.
The Preferred Alternative will protect and enhance the Merced River’s iconic resources in perpetuity and allow visitors the freedom to access Yosemite Valley by private vehicle, with expanded options for public transit; reduce traffic congestion and crowding and provides organized and efficient parking for day use visitors; expand the opportunity for overnight accommodations (camping and lodging) in Yosemite Valley; maintains Yosemite’s positive effect on local and regional economies; replace substandard, temporary, and aging employee housing currently in the park with code compliant residences that fit the historic character and significance of Yosemite; and promote environmental sustainability and public safety by relocating facilities away from flood and rockfall hazards and on to more resilient, buildable sites.

The TRP presents the environmental analysis of four alternatives the National Park Service is considering, according to NEPA. The park has identified Alternative Four as the Preferred Alternative: Improving the Traditional Tuolumne Experience.

The Preferred Alternative seeks to retain a traditional Tuolumne experience while reducing development and making the visitor use more sustainable. Specifically, the alternative will allow for the restoration of informal trails, replanting of native vegetation, and the restoration of natural hydrologic conditions; continue to provide visitor access to the Tuolumne River; repair damaged riparian areas near the river and in meadows; maintain the health and integrity of the river system, while still providing access to the river without damaging sensitive areas.

For a copy of the plans and a complete description of all alternatives, please visit the park’s website at http://www.nps.gov/yose/parkmgmt/mrp.htm (MRP) or http://www.nps.gov/yose/parkmgmt/trp.htm (TRP) Comments on either DEIS can be made through the Planning Environment, and Public Comment (PEPC) website at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/yose_mrp (MRP) or http://parkplanning.nps.gov/yose_trp (trp). Comments made through the PEPC website are the preferred method of submission. However, comments can also be sent via email to yose_planning@nps.gov or via U.S. mail to:

Yosemite National Park
Attn: Merced River Plan or Attn: Tuolumne River Plan
P.O. Box 577
Yosemite, CA 95389

Public meetings will be held in multiple locations throughout the Yosemite area. Specific dates, locations, and times will be announced soon. To learn more about how Yosemite inspires generations of visitors, please see our video entitled “The Yosemite Inspiration” at http://www.nps.gov/yose/parkmgmt/planning.htm
This link: http://www.nps.gov/yose/parkmgmt/upload/mrp-deis-maps-alt5.pdf has a good summary of the Merced River Plan's preferred alternative. Some key changes: more camping in the valley (including walk-in at Upper River, Upper Pines, and Camp 4), a bit more lodging and parking, and a reduction in the size of the Merced Lake HSC (which rarely fills since it's larger than the two camps on either side of it on the HSC loop). I'm a bit surprised to see a new campsite in the "west" valley: Eagle Creek, southeast of the El Cap Picnic area (I think there used to be a picnic area at this site...?)
I'm okay with the preferred alternative EXCEPT for the additional campground (Eagle Creek) and parking lot in west Yosemite Valley. They should not develop that part of the valley any further.

I'm okay with the preferred alternative EXCEPT for the additional campground (Eagle Creek) and parking lot in west Yosemite Valley. They should not develop that part of the valley any further.
I want more camp sites, but it might be best for them to be outside the Valley and have frequent shuttle busses to the Valley.

I want more camp sites, but it might be best for them to be outside the Valley and have frequent shuttle busses to the Valley.

...and, this link: http://www.nps.gov/yose/parkmgmt/upload/TRP-Reader-s-Guide-1-4-13-low-res.pdf has a decent summary (and map) for the Tuolumne River Plan's preferred alternative (p. 19). There are no significant changes to the TM HSC, campground, or store/grill complex.

The main changes are:

- As part of reducing/eliminating roadside parking, the Cathedral Lakes trailhead would be relocated to the location of the current visitor center, which would be repurposed as NPS office space. This would make the Cathedral Lakes trail ~1 mile longer.

- The visitor center would be relocated to a location just west of the campground (see map) as a "visitor contact station", which would also become the Parsons Lodge trailhead (perhaps replacing the parking along the stables spur past the Lembert Dome picnic area?)

- The gas station and mountaineering shop would be closed

- 12 beds would be removed from Glen Aulin HSC due to septic limitations*; the new size would be 20 beds. An indirect effect of this reduction would be a significant reduction in the number of "full-loop" HSC trips available since Glen Aulin would be by far the smallest camp (it would be roughly 1/2 the size of the other camps). Since guided and pack trips to Glen Aulin would continue, unguided hikers will probably be more challenged to obtain a full-loop itinerary. Meals-only service to backpackers and wood stoves for HSC guests would also be discontinued.

Most of the other changes involve various administrative and residential facilities.

* Glen Aulin would still be converted to composting toilets, so the septic limitation would appear to be mostly greywater processing, although I suspect there was also interest in reducing the impacts of stock manure on the watershed.
... although I suspect there was also interest in reducing the impacts of stock manure on the watershed.

I thought they packed that out? Not sure where I got that idea though.
OMG I just got my hard copies of the plans and I can't believe how much information there is. The TRP came in a binder over 3 inches thick and the MRP came as multiple books and when you stack them up it is over 6 inches. I can't imagine being able to read and analyze all of this information by the end of the comment times and I am a speed reader.
Here at the Central Sierra Environmental Resource Center (CSERC) we have been pouring over these plans since their release, and are making informed comments. Please, I encourage you to check out our Website at www.cserc.org and to consider supporting our efforts! This plan is so critical to the future of this place we all love, and I assure you we are doing our best to advocate for defense of Water, Wildlife and Wild Places of the Northern Yosemite Region! Thank you all for your concern, and for your love for the High Sierra!
I'd still like to see the Upper and Lower River campgrounds rebuilt; campgrounds are a good use for river floodplains, particularly if they are comparatively primitive. Those are the best spots for additional campsites in the valley, in my opinion. They should be smaller than the old campgrounds and configured differently, but I'd rather see more campsites there than in the other locations.
I agree. I have fond memories of camping in Upper River. There can be less sites and none close to the river and road.
I agree. I have fond memories of camping in Upper River. There can be less sites and none close to the river and road.

I agree also. I would like to see Upper and Lower River restored to more environmentally-responsible campgrounds with
car sites. There are a lot of walk in sites in the new plan. Walk in sites are great if you don't have a lot of gear, but only 30
walk in sites between the two former Rivers campgrounds is not enough.
I grew up camping in Lower River. My favorite sites were always the ones that backed up to the path and roadway because I could get on my bike directly from the campsite and go exploring without my parents knowing!
A while back, when the plans were being developed for the Merced River use, I was asked if I wanted the plans in printed form when available. I thought I could leisurely peruse them without having to sit in front of the computer reading the .pdf, so I said ok. These summaries were to be published and sent at no cost to those who wanted them.
Well---- yesterday FED-EX rings my bell and leaves a package.
Holly Cow!!! 14 pounds, 2600 pages, 3 volumes, one Summary Guide, and CD later, I had all the info a bureaucratic entity could conceive. It's bigger than five Fresno phone books. No way am I gonna be able to digest it all. Looks like I have a lot of reading to get to.
Did you get the TRP also? At least that is only one binder. Last night I decided to try to approach the reading in a manner that might speed things along. I read the whole summary guide first to get an overall view. Then I looked over the other books. Chapters 1 - 7 and chapter 9 are a more in depth analysis of things that have been gone over in the other plans so I am going to leave those to last. I took the suggestions made in the summery guide and decided to look at the alternatives first. Last night I skimmed over all of the alternatives in Chapter 8. By doing this, I know that there are three alternatives that I would not accept because they either do nothing or are on the extreme ends of the spectrum. I will now go over the other alternatives in depth and compare those and see if there is one alternative that I agree with in it's entirety or would I rather see a mix and match of several alternatives. After I do that I will go back and skim the other chapters to see if there is any new information or clarification of the information in the past things that I have read. Then I will start organizing my thoughts and put together a rough draft of my comments and then fine tune it.

All I can say it that I am grateful that I am a speed reader and can get through all of the information quickly and then will go back and reread the portions that I feel are important for me to make my comments. One of the reasons that I request hard copies of plans is that I highlight and use post its to mark portions that I want to review in greater depth. However, it is still going to take me a lot of time to go through things at the depth that I usually do and I don't expect that I will be ready to write my final comments for at least a month, possibly more. It also takes me a while to write my comments since I go into the pros and cons of the alternatives and why I chose certain aspects and like to get it into a summary format so my comments are not pages long. Guess I had better get off the computer and start reading.
parklover- no I didn't order the TRP. Reading through the MRP will take so much time that I'd never get to the other one before the deadline.
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