Delay granted for Merced River Plan

mgrossi@fresnobee.comJuly 27, 2013 

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SUN-STAR PHOTO BY MARCI STENBERG The Merced River starts in Yosemite National Park and flows to the San Joaquin River.

MARCI STENBERG — Merced Sun-Star Buy Photo

— Yosemite National Park's long-running effort to finish a protection plan for the Merced River will take a little longer.

The U.S. District Court in Fresno on Thursday granted a delay in the controversial plan until Dec. 31. It was supposed to be completed by July 31 — a date set by a previous request for a delay. Yosemite needs time to process more than 30,000 comments received this year on the draft.

The National Park Service and the activist groups late Wednesday filed papers to push off the deadline, which adds time to an effort that already is more than a decade old. This is the third version of the plan since 2000. Previous versions were struck down by federal courts.

The current plan is a result of a lawsuit settlement in 2009.

Park Service leaders say they are not reopening the comment period on the controversial plan, as business leaders and many others had hoped.

The plan was attacked earlier this month in a hearing before the House of Representatives. Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Elk Grove, led a Republican charge to have Yosemite back away from plans to remove the ice rink and other amenities in Yosemite Valley.

He termed the plan "exclusionary and elitist, " and asked, if facilities are removed from Yosemite Valley, "where does a dad go to get ice cream for a kid on a hot summer's day?"

Activist groups, including Friends of Yosemite Valley and Mariposans for the Environment and Responsible Government, also want to negotiate the content of the draft. They and the Park Service are asking for time for that negotiation.

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