Nature to take some Emigrant dams

archive_import

By GENEVIEVE BOOKWALTER

In a decision that was 14 years in the making, 11 rock-and-mortar check dams in the Emigrant Wilderness will remain and seven will be allowed to erode.

Stanislaus National Forest Supervisor Tom Quinn's ruling caps years of controversy over the dams, built by the late Fred Leighton and others between 1921 and the early 1950s to help support high-country trout streams.

The tallest, at Y Meadow, stands 25 feet. It is the only one that creates a new lake. The others enlarge existing pools.

The dam at Y Meadow was originally slated for maintenance, but after more study, Quinn decided it can go.

Red Can, proposed for elimination in the Forest Service's environmental impact statement, under Quinn's decision will stay.

Despite their remote location covered in snow more months of the year than not, and requiring at least a day's hike to reach the stone dams have sparked intense controversy for the past 28 years.

After the U.S. Congress set the Emigrant aside as wilderness in 1975, arguments began swirling as to whether the dams fit the federal wilderness definition and should remain. That definition characterizes wilderness as "an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man."

The check dams have not been maintained since 1989, when the debate intensified. Since then, the Stanislaus Forest has issued two decisions on which dams should stay or go. Both were overturned by the regional forester.

U.S. Rep. John Doolittle, R-Rocklin, who then represented Tuolumne County introduced bills in 2000 and 2001 to preserve all 18 dams. After revisions dropped the list to 12, both bills passed in the House, but neither was heard in the Senate. Quinn said this decision should stick.

"We chose to include all seven (dams) that are eligible for the National Historic Register," Quinn said, adding that dams that did not improve fishing or raise water levels appreciably will be allowed to deteriorate.

11517473
The Union Democrat
This image is copyrighted.

Reach all of Sonora, Calaveras County, Tuolumne, Angels Camp, Twain Harte, & Jamestown with your items to sell.

Ads appear Online and in Print

View Classifieds Place an Ad

Connect with The Union Democrat

Union Democrat Newsstand

Wednesday August 24, 2016

Read digital interactive editions of our publications

Read Today's Edition Take A Tour

More Publications by The Union Democrat

View All Publications
More than a coach

08/17/2016

Thomas Kruetzfeldt had just returned from a late afternoon run with his ... more

Cal Fire battalion chief remembered

08/15/2016

Whenever Mike Spear’s children heard of a nearby fire, they worried about ... more

Sonora area group launches a new radio station

08/18/2016

First envisioned more than a decade ago, a Sonora-area radio station with ... more

Nursed back to health, hawk flies free

08/19/2016

Sonora resident Laura Reid was driving on Tuolumne Road when she saw ... more

No immunizations, no school in California

08/17/2016

Cyndra Joaquin, cradling her three-month-old during a recent visit to the health ... more