Water, Power and More
Merced Irrigation District owns, operates and maintains the New Exchequer and McSwain dams, reservoirs, and hydroelectric facilities. These are MID’s primary water storage facilities on the Merced River. They are located in the foothills on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, approximately 23 miles northeast of Merced. The two dams and reservoirs are integral parts of the 1964 Merced River Development Project and are licensed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).
Lake McClure (New Exchequer Reservoir) has a storage capacity of about 1,025,000 acre feet, while Lake McSwain (McSwain Reservoir) has a storage capacity of 9,730 acre feet. The New Exchequer Dam project was completed in 1967 as a multi-purpose effort: Lake McClure provides irrigation and domestic water supply, flood control, hydroelectric power generation, recreation and support for environmental stewardship. MID produces up to 107 megawatts of emission-free electricity at its Exchequer, McSwain and Merced Falls hydroelectric facilities. The district’s water system diverts water from the Merced River at two locations below Lake McClure. The Northside Canal diversion serves acreage north of the river. The Main Canal diversion is located 3 miles downstream of McSwain Dam and serves acreage south of the Merced River.
MID’s boundaries encompass 164,000 gross acres. Of that, 132,000 acres are irrigable. Of that, approximately 100,000 acres receive water from MID. The total distribution system of MID spans 862 miles. It is comprised of natural waterways, unlined and lined canals, sloughs and pipelines.
MID also maintains 215 wells in support of its conjunctive management activities for groundwater and surface water.
MID’s irrigation distribution system supports local flood control by routing foothill-stream runoff away from populated areas. MID formed the Merced Irrigation District Drainage Improvement District #1 (MIDDID#1) in 1994. Several residential, commercial, industrial, and government parcels received drainage service from the district.
MID owns, operates and maintains five recreation areas adjacent to lakes Mc lure and McSwain. While the Lake McSwain Recreation Area is located adjacent to Lake McSwain, McClure Point, Barrett Cove, Horseshoe Bend and Bagby Recreation Areas are all located adjacent to Lake McClure. A total of six boat launch facilities are available in the Parks system. More than 600 campsites are available year-round. Floating marinas are located on Lake McSwain and in two locations on Lake McClure. Recreational activities enjoyed in the recreation areas include fishing, boating, swimming, camping, hiking and bicycling.
MID is authorized to act as an electric utility under the California Water Code. The district has owned and operated hydroelectric generating facilities on the Merced River since 1927. In 1996, MID exercised its authority to sell power to retail electric customers. Since then, MID has connected more than 12,600 customers to the electric system.