Flood-Damaged Yosemite Valley Expected to Receive $20 Million

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SAN FRANCISCO -- Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt is expected to announce a $20 million plan to clean up and repair infrastructure in Yosemite Valley, which was devastated by the worst flooding in recorded history during the New Year's holiday and remains closed.

The flooding of the Merced River in the valley destroyed some of the tent cabins and campgrounds that already were slated to be removed under the National Park Service's 1980 plan for Yosemite.

The 17-year-old plan, designed to alleviate traffic congestion and the impact of heavy visitation to the valley environment, had been postponed for years because of wrangling over the best ways to accomplish those goals.

Meanwhile, two of the main highways into Yosemite National Park remain closed indefinitely.

And, except for the Wawona area, the park will remain closed through February and possibly beyond, according to the park service.

The easternmost route, Highway 41 through Oakhurst, is the only route open into Yosemite, but only the section of the road from Oakhurst to the Wawona area is open, park officials said.

Another section of Highway 41 from Wawona to the Badger Pass ski area was scheduled to open Feb. 1, but the section beyond that to the valley is closed.

Massive landslides that destroyed parts of Highway 140, the route through Merced entrance used by motorcoaches, will require months of repair work, a park service source said.

The third entrance, Highway 120 through Sonora, the route used by visitors coming from the San Francisco Bay area, might be opened in the spring.

Peak season for Yosemite National Park, which draws more than 4 million visitors a year and is one of the most-visited areas of California, does not start until May.

Visitors with reservations at the valley's hotels and lodges, including the historical Ahwahnee hotel, where bookings are generally required a year in advance, are receiving refunds and first opportunities for rebookings when the valley reopens and where space is available.

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