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Congressman Dusts Off 1913 Law In Battle To Get Yosemite National Park's Hetch Hetchy Valley Drained



A California congressman has dusted off a nearly century-old law in a bid to see the Hetch Hetchy Valley of Yosemite National Park drained and restored.

U.S. Rep. Dan Lungren, a Republican with an abiding love for Yosemite, wrote Interior Secretary Ken Salazar last week with a request that he have his staff determine whether the city of San Francisco is in violation of the 1913 Raker Act by not being more sustainable in its use of water.

Specifically, the congressman wants to know if the city should be pulling 190 million gallons of water out of the Tuolumne River a day without first making the best use of its own water resources.

"As part of the conditions imposed on San Francisco is a requirement that the City first fully develop and use other available water resources before it begins to export water it captures from the Tuolumne River," Rep. Lungren wrote the Interior secretary.

"... in order for the City to continue to enjoy the benefits of the grant enshrined in the Raker Act, the City must export no more water than is 'necessary' to meet domestic and other municipal purposes 'together with waters which it now has or may hereafter acquire," he continued. "However, San Francisco currently engages in a variety of non-sustainable practices which demonstrate a failure to satisfy that requirement."

The congressman noted in his letter that the city:

* Does not currently recycle water;

* "..has virtually abandoned use of all local groundwater supplies";

* Does not utilize modern rainwater collection techniques that could produce, on average, 55,000 acre feet of water annually.

"It is my belief that by transporting and using the water captured from the Tuolumne River, without first fully utilizing these local resources, the City is failing to satisfy the clear mandate of the Raker Act that all local resources be exhausted before drawing water from the Tuolumne," wrote Congressman Lungren.

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who does not want to see the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir drained, responded that San Francisco is a wise user of its water resources and that the city's residents, on a per capital basis, use "less than half ... the state's per-capita average."

"Hetch Hetchy provides critical water supplies to 2.5 million people and thousands of businesses," she added in a statement, "and any effort to jeopardize that water supply is simply unacceptable."

At Restore Hetch Hetchy, a non-profit striving to see the valley restored, Executive Director Mike Marshall said that, "Restoring Hetch Hetchy must occur in the context of reforming our 19th-century water system and reducing its destructive impact on the environment."

"Increasing local water supplies will reduce the need for Tuolumne River water and further reduce the need for the Hetch Hetchy reservoir. Multiple studies have determined that the reservoir is unnecessary," he added.


I've visited Hetch Hetchy and IMO it looks like a tailings dump.  I must be missing something that John Muir and others saw or see in the place.  I love parks but cannot understand the fuss over HH.

I like this - fighting laws with laws.

Be an interesting fight.  The most liberal area in the country against an element that is greatly influenced by Liberal discourse and activism.  They'll probably join forces and bang on some ranchers or farmers somewhere.  They are evil you know:).

Sen. Feinstein's insistence on continuing to say that "Hetch Hetchy provides critical water supplies ......" is a disingenuous way of obfuscating the simple fact that the source of the water is not "Hetch Hetchy" but, rather, the Tuolumne River.  And it should be noted that 83 miles of the Tuolumne River were given the high distinction of being signed into law as a National Wild & Scenic river in 1984.  Ronald Reagan signed that legislation.  So, what Sen. Feinstein must mean is that a federally protected Wild & Scenic River is providing water to a city 160 miles away that turns around and sells 2/3 of it to others.

And the Senator's statement suggesting that SF is using its water efficiently is patently false.  By definition you are being inefficient if you use something once and then throw it away (or in this case dump it in the Pacific Ocean or the SF Bay).  Efficient use of water means recycling it and using it a second time to irrigate your six municipal golf courses, the 1000 acre Golden Gate Park, median strips along Sunset Blvd in SF, etc. etc.  San Francisco is the only major city or county in California that does NO water recycling.  See the 18 page list of municipalities that do recycle water at ---

San Francisco is on page 12 with a big goose egg.

I just imagined the image of Nancy P. being shamed and had to laugh.  
The idea is fine just don't have the tax payers foot the bill.  Any of it.

His motives may just be to point out the flaming hypocrisy of San Franciscans who are usually so sanctimonious when it comes to the environment, but if it shames them into advancing the cause of eventually removing the dam and restoring Hetch Hetchy, I'm all for it.

Why consider motives at this point if the end justifies the means.  It is an interesting concept, though :).

I'm a little bit suspicious of Lungren. He's hardly an environmentalist. He also well known as being a carpetbagger who moved to a part of Sacramento where he thought he might be electable.

If anything I think he'd love to "stick it" to San Francisco.

Personally I'd think it would be great if the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir was drained, but I'm highly suspicious of Lungren's motives.

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