West Coast Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Licensed Hydroelectric Projects: Merced River
Lower Merced River, California.
Project Profiles & Licensee
The Merced River Hydroelectric Project (P-2179) (owned by Merced Irrigation District (MID)) is being relicensed concurrently with the Merced Falls Hydroelectric Project (P-2467) (formerly owned by Pacific Gas and Electric Company, but now owned by MID). These two FERC Projects are located next to each other on the Merced River in Mariposa County, California.
The P-2179 Project: Two dams, the uppermost New Exchequer Dam (River Mile [RM] 62.4, creating 1+ million acre-feet Lake McClure Reservoir) and then McSwain Dam (RM 56.1, creating a much smaller McSwain Reservoir). Both dams have Powerhouses and there are various recreation facilities around these reservoirs. The installed capacity of the Project is 103.5 megawatts.
The P-2467 Project: Consists of Merced Falls Dam (RM 55.0), a Powerhouse, and a Reservoir that receives water directly from the P-2179’s McSwain facility. The P-2467 Project is dependent on water released from the P-2179 Project, the dam has an inactive fish ladder, and the installed capacity of the Project is 9.0 megawatts.
Crocker-Huffman Dam: Crocker-Huffman Dam (RM 52.0) is owned by MID, a non-FERC irrigation dam, and 3 RM downstream of Merced Falls Dam and P-2467 Project. MID operates this dam in tandem with the upstream FERC projects, and diverts 2,000 cfs from the Merced River into MID’s Main Canal during the 6-8-month irrigation season. This dam also has an inactive fish ladder, is the current limit of anadromy, and creates about an equal amount of upstream riverine and reservoir habitat. Coldwater refugia for anadromous fish exists upstream of Crocker-Huffman Dam, should fish passage become re-established.
Federally Threatened - Listed Species/Species of Concern
- The distinct population segment (DPS) of California Central Valley (CV) steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss) and its critical habitat.
- The evolutionarily significant unit (ESU) of spring-run Chinook salmon (O. tshawytscha), when determined by NOAA Fisheries to be present in the Merced River.
- The DPS of North American green sturgeon (Acipenser medirostris), when determined by NOAA Fisheries to be present in the Merced River.
- The ESU of CV fall-run Chinook salmon (O. tshawytscha) [Species of Concern].
FERC Relicensing Status
Integrated Licensing Process since November 3, 2008: Currently, FERC’s issued a “Ready for Environmental Analysis” (REA) Notice on in May 2014 and NOAA Fisheries filed its REA Terms (Federal Power Act Section 10(j), 10(a), and to exercise/not exercise Section 18 fish passage prescription) in July 2014. FERC issued a FEIS in 2015 and asked for ESA concurrence. NOAA Fisheries responded with an ESA insufficient information letter in 2016.
From 2016 to 2019, MID issued several updated BA and EFH assessments. FERC has not yet adopted the recent EFH assessment. However, as of 2019, FERC has yet to request ESA concurrence or to do California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) review. NOAA Fisheries is currently drafting a preliminary biological opinion. The State Water Board is working on 401 certification but no timeline is known.
- Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
- FERC eLibrary: Dockets P-2179 and P-2467
- MID Relicensing Information