Merced River Instream and Off Channel Habitat Restoration Project

Rows of mined tailings are sorted by size and the rock and gravel eventually reintroduced into the river to provide crucial spawning and rearing habitat.

Merced River Instream and Off Channel Habitat Restoration Project 
As part of its decades-long commitment to environmental stewardship, Merced Irrigation District is currently restoring a half-mile of Merced River salmon spawning and rearing habitat below Lake McClure. The project will tie into several other projects in the area that have restored riparian and floodplain habitat that had been destroyed by large-scale, state-sanctioned dredge mining between the early and mid-1900s.

The invasive mining involved large dredging machines being placed in the middle of the Merced River between Snelling and Crocker Huffman Diversion Dam. The dredging resulted in salmon spawning and rearing habitat being pulled up from the river and spread for miles on either side of the river. The result is a river capable of conveying water downstream, but lacking natural floodplain and habitat needed by salmon and benefitting other natural flora and fauna.

In total, the Instream and Off Channel Habitat Restoration Project consists of re-grading and enhancing more than 7-acres of riparian and upland habitat. It also involves the enhancement of approximately 1.7-acres of salmonid spawning habitat; 3.9-acres of seasonally inundated juvenile rearing habitat; and approximately 13-acres of the Merced River channel. The Project is located approximately 1,400 feet downstream of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Merced River Salmon Hatchery. Funding for the $2.27 million project has been provided by MID, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

In recent years, approximately 1.25 miles of the river section has been restored through various projects. The current Instream and Off Channel Habitat Restoration Project will bring the total to 1.75 miles of restored river. Additionally, another 0.25 river miles above Henderson Park has been approved for restoration funding by the California Department of Water Resources. Upon completion of both projects, approximately half of the river stretch between Crocker Huffman Dam and Snelling will have been restored.

Similar to the Instream and Off Channel Habitat Restoration Project, the Merced River Ranch Project restored and established an off-stream channel and rearing floodplain habitat for juvenile salmon.

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