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Reader Participation Day: Should The Hetch Hetchy Valley In Yosemite National Park Be Drained And Restored?


Do you think the Hetch Hetchy Valley of Yosemite National Park should be drained of its reservoir and restored?

Should the Hetch Hetchy Valley of Yosemite National Park be drained of its reservoir and restored?

On its face, that's a pretty easy question to answer. Of course! No landscape as exquisite as that within Hetch Hetchy that lies within a national park should be flooded.

Here's part of what John Muir had to say in his fight against the O'Shaughnessy Dam that created the reservoir:

Hetch Hetchy Valley, far from being a plain, common, rock-bound meadow, as many who have not seen it seem to suppose, is a grand landscape garden, one of Nature’s rarest and most precious mountain temples. As in Yosemite, the sublime rocks of its walls seem to glow with life, whether leaning back in repose or standing erect in thoughtful attitudes, giving welcome to storms and calms alike, their brows in the sky, their feet set in the groves and gay flowery meadows, while birds, bees, and butterflies help the river and waterfalls to stir all the air into music—things frail and fleeting and types of permanence meeting here and blending, just as they do in Yosemite, to draw her lovers into close and confiding communion with her.

Sad to say, this most precious and sublime feature of the Yosemite National Park, one of the greatest of all our natural resources for the uplifting joy and peace and health of the people, is in danger of being dammed and made into a reservoir to help supply San Francisco with water and light, thus flooding it from wall to wall and burying its gardens and groves one or two hundred feet deep. ....

(You can read his entire screed here.)

Of course, the nitty gritty is in the details as they say. Perhaps the biggest detail (not to minimize the objections of some San Franciscoans who worry about their water source), is the sheer cost of draining and restoring the valley. Cost estimates have ranged anywhere from $1 billion to $10 billion.

Now, come November, San Francisco voters will get a chance to start a process that could result in the draining of the reservoir that now fills the Hetch Hetchy Valley. An initiative on the election ballot would, if passed:

* Require San Francisco to create a water conservation task force

* Require the task force to present a plan to voters for greater water conservation and restoration of Yosemite National Park

* Give voters approval power over any recommendations through a charter amendment that will appear on the November, 2016 ballot.

So, what say thee? If you lived in San Francisco, would you push to see the valley restored?


I say strap 10 sticks of dynomite to the base of that dam and let her blow!!!

ypw: interesting perspective. Those water rights issues are intractable, especially in a dry state like ours.

Until the storage of that water can be replaced, the answer has to be no. California's population keeps growing, and we will need all the water we can get (even when counting on water conservation).

The infrastructure to replace the water storage is already in place. It's called Lake Don Pedro. San Francisco already has rights to water storage there, and the lake itself has never been anywhere near full capacity. The excess capacity is several times larger than Hetch Hetchy Reservoir.

The issue that San Francisco has is that it would be tougher to replace the hydroelectric generation that is regulated by a dam they control. They also wouldn't have "senior" rights to water storage, which would belong to the Turlock and Modesto Irrigation Districts. All this would mean a tough negotiation if they were to gain equal rights to water storage. As it stands now, Turlock and Modesto have rights to drain down to meet their needs before San Francisco can tap from the lake.

In addition to that, the water they get from Hetch Hetchy requires almost no processing. All they add to it is chloramine. Water from another source would probably have to be treated like much of the water in California.

Here's a comment from RangerDave that got snagged by the spam filter (we're working on that):

Yes, if I lived in San Francisco or anywhere else, (and I do live anywhere else) I would push to see it drained and restored, BUT (you knew that was coming, right?) not until money can be raised to pay for it.

And I'm not talking about government money. How 'bout a grassroots campaign to pay for it with private donations? Governments at all levels need to curb their spending until they can live within their means, meaning no deficit spending and all debts paid off. Then, if the citizens agree, put some money toward the project.

A restored Hetch Hetchy Valley would not happen in my lifetime but I would rather my grandchildren see that valley as John Muir saw it and not have them saddled with government debt from overspending at the same time. And even without the dam water would still be available from the river for San Francisco .

California is a state in which achieving any major infrastructure project is difficult. It's because of a combination of severe environmental review requirements and the opposition of many in the state to anything that could facilitate population growth (although this is a pipe dream: the growth happens anyway, and life becomes more difficult for everyone when the infrastructure fails to keep pace).

What I've heard, but admittedly this is only a recollection, is that California has the same water capacity that it had when there were 16 million residents. The state now has something like 35 or 40 million.

Given these considerations, it would seem to be foolhardy to remove one pillar of the inadequate infrastructure that exists.

Also, if San Francisco were put in charge of replacing Hetch Hetchy, I think that would foretell serious trouble. The city is dysfunctional and poorly administered in many respects. It's hard to imagine it would do an adequate job using city government to locate and develop a new water supply.

This blog has a filter and refuses to accept this Paiutes Truth, so I will have to figure out how to say it so in ways that wont offend, lol

Alright "cheif Tenaya", you want the hard fact, here it is; there are TOO MANY PEOPLE. What are you doing using tenaya's name to disparage this campaign? The hard reality is that San Fransisco is full of arrogance and entitlement from people like you, who don't want to spare a few bucks to implement city-wide conservation measures, who live in a metropolis like SF who claims to be sooooo green and progressive but continues to maintain comfort while sucking up the life blood of the living land and pooring it down the drain. What do you think tenaya would care about more, a seething metropolis (which ironically will be slowly inundated by water in the not-so-distant future) or all the mighty rivers of the majestic Sierra Nevada, nearly every single one of which is dammed, imprisioned behind a wall of reinforced concrete, enslaved to the greedy and self centered people of "The City" and the ridiculous plethora of products they consume. Hiker Bob, you seem to love hiking, dont you want future generations to know that you had the foresight to think of THEIR life instead of just your own? Imagine small wide-eyed children hiking through a restored Hetch Hetchy Valley in 100 or even 200 years, and their guides telling them that none of this would have happened had not concerned and empassioned individuals like yourself, Bob, decided that this sacred place was more important than all that other beaurocratic junk and silicon microchips and military weaponry and plastic water bottles and everything else this state subsidizes. Get your heads on straight people, these are dark times and we must turn to the things that sustain us and NOT ABUSE THEM. The Tuolumne thanks you.

Oh come on, don't blame it on population growth and immigration inducements as a cause for the need to continue subjugating the environment (or a reality based budget:)!

With some regulars on here invoking the "troll" adjective it's only fair to return the favor. Environmental Trolls I think is the term I'm searching for.

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