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.