Effort Fails In San Francisco To Move Towards Draining Hetch Hetchy Valley In Yosemite National Park

A ballot initiative designed to move San Francisco away from reliance on the reservoir that submerged the Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park was overwhelmingly rejected by voters.

Proponents of the initiative, though, said the more than 55,000 votes the measure received demonstrated some success in "inspiring San Franciscans to imagine a different future - one that would increase their water security and begin to reverse the damage the City has done to Yosemite National Park and the Tuolumne River."

Out of the 244,099 votes cast on the Water Conservation & Yosemite Restoration Initiative, 188,924 opposed it.

The initiative would have required San Francisco to create a water conservation task force, and require that task force to present a plan to voters for greater water conservation and restoration of Yosemite National Park.

“Although we have not yet prevailed, the Yosemite Restoration Campaign has achieved many of the goals we set out to accomplish," campaign leaders said in a prepared statement. "For the first time ever, San Franciscans considered a different future that would increase our water security and begin to reverse the damage the City has done to Yosemite National Park and the Tuolumne River. Nearly a quarter voted to reform our 19th century water system so that the Hetch Hetchy Valley and the Tuolumne River can be restored.

“Today was a beginning, not an end. Over 50,000 San Franciscans sent a powerful message to our elected officials that the status quo is not good enough. We will spend the next two years leveraging and expanding this base of support to advance the cause of water reform in San Francisco and environmental restoration in Yosemite. We have no doubt that the values of sustainability and restoration will ultimately prevail."

Proposition F would have required the city to develop a two-part plan to build San Francisco’s local water resources and "reverse the damage done to the environment by the current water system over the last 100 years," the campaign said.

Groups that supported the initiative included the National Wildlife Federation, San Francisco League of Conservation Voters, National Parks Conservation Association, Sierra Nevada Alliance, Foothill Conservancy, Forest Issues Group, Friends of the River, California Water Impact Network, Eco Equity, Endangered Species Coalition, The Planning and Conservation League, Earth Island Institute and Wild Equity.



Good try, but it'll never happen.

Like those stickers saying Keep Tahoe Blue, then these people plug up Tahoe. It shoudl read "Keep Tahoe Blue, Stay Home"

Never thought there were that many evil conservatives in the Bay Area. Isn't that where Pelosi get's elected time and time again? What's going on? Was this expected?

San Francisco's dirty little secret is not so secret anymore. All Californians need to vote on this. California voters say "let us vote!" Bring on the statewide initiative! All of those San Francisco Prius drivers who just voted to keep a dam in a national park are just a big hypocritical joke along with their leader, Senator Feinstein.

Just a bunch of hypocrites.

Frankly, I am less worried about restoring Hetch Hetchy (although I want it restored) than what is happening across our public lands today. In the name of so-called green energy, look at what we are doing to the best of those public lands. Abutting the Mojave National Preserve, we will soon have a 3,600-acre solar power plant. Steens Mountain in Oregon is also on the chopping block for an industrial-scale wind farm. Except for the [Portland] Oregonian, no major newspaper this year took my op-ed on those issues, since it is now politically incorrect to challenge "green" energy anywhere. A hundred years ago, that is exactly how we lost Hetch Hetchy. Those challenging the project were insulted and "marginalized." They were kooks; they stood in the way of "progress." And so it is today with "green" energy. How dare anyone stand in its way?

I dare all of the environmental groups who supported Prop F to consider the Hetch Hetchies we are creating today. Will green energy stop global warming? Not a chance, unless we also stop population. Forty years ago, those organizations dared remind the world that growth is the deeper issue. Why did San Francisco vote them down? Because it knows that growth needs water. It may be a blue city in a very blue state, but on that score it is conservative through and through. We will not save the public lands--or restore Hetch Hetchy--until we admit some harder, not just "inconvenient," truths. A healthy environment demands human discipline at every level, and that means "green" energy, too.

Al Runte certainly has some points for all of us to think about.

I wonder if even a small part of the issue is that Californians have a deep-seated (and well-founded) anxiety about drought, and so are more than usually possessive about hanging onto water sources? I remember living in the Bay Area during the drought of the mid-70s, and of rationing water to the point where the government was using the slogan "if it's yellow let it mellow if it's brown flush it down."

It's a thought, anyway.

Wow. Really surprised that San Francisco voters could not get on board with this idea. Maybe a statewide ballot measure would be a good approach.

Interesting thought, Meg. I'm guessing that noone exit-polled this one.

Many in the environmental community come to discussions about dams with an assumption that they are all unnessesary or somehow past their utility. Many dams are. But the fact is, Hetch Hetchy is one of the best-engineered water systems on earth, and continues to provide enormous benefit--in pristine drinking water and carbon-free power--to millions of people in and outside of San Francisco. In addition, the dam is deeply isolated in a mountain range, accessible only by a small road, meaning any restoration project would be extremely expensive. You could complete at least 30 Elwha-river-sized-projects for one Hetch Hetchy, and Hetch Hetchy wouldn't even help salmon. The cost so dramatically outwieghs the benefit, it just isn't feasible.

A-men to that. Green energy can also be acheived with smaller scale projects, mainly improved efficency, but also home wind and solar.

Hi Al. Good thoughts. We were involved closely with the Proposition in San Francisco. We are also involved in working against certain ill-conceived solar and wind energy plants in the desert. Information on our effort regarding that issue is available on our website. http://www.npca.org/about-us/center-for-park-research/solar/solar-energy-national-parks.html On that page you will find a link to our report and the video titled "Feeling the Heat." This effort is one of our most robust efforts right now, and we are making some progress, working with Senator Feinstein and others who are concerned about the impacts of the industry on pristine desert lands.

With regard to the Hetch Hetchy initiative, the leaders of Restore Hetchy Hetchy, on whose board I sit, knew from the git-go that the initiative was not likely to pass. And such an initiative might not ever pass in San Francisco, but what this initiative did was completely elevate the issue of restoration into the public discussion in a way that has never happened previously. Unfortunately, the entire Democratic Party establishment of the City was opposed to the proposition. The only exception was the African American Democratic Club. In San Francisco there is no Republican Party to speak of, so the Democratic Party effectively represents the business interests within the city, as well as numerous other interests. In addition, Senator Feinstein has always been adamantly opposed to any talk of restoration and Democratic officials in the City look to her for leadership.

The Hetch Hetchy restoration campaign effort will continue, and will likely grow over the years to come. While there is a sizeable hill to climb to get to the outcome we want it is possible to ultimately win this campaign. It could take another 10 to 50 years, but we will keep at it.


So actually the San Fransico Democrates are really Republicans in disguise??

Democrats can be anything they want, say anything and do just the opposite of what they say. All for the good of the Parks (It must be understood:).

We need a statewide initiative or Act of Congress to address this issue. Why should San Francisco alone make this decision? This Valley belongs to all Americans and all Californians. The voters of San Francisco have failed to do the right thing. We will make the decision for them. Tear down this dam!

The thing about water rights is that once they're granted, they're very hard to pry away. California is essentially a desert with water primarily from the mountains.

San Francisco might even consider this if they could be guaranteed rights to water storage in Lake Don Pedro. However, Turlock and Modesto would fight it out in court if they were forced to allow equal rights to San Francisco unlike the senior rights they now enjoy.

There's currently a dam at Jackson Lake. I've seen several dams in wilderness areas around Lake Tahoe. The water districts will not give them up. That's the difficulty in trying to tear down dams. You're not likely to see legislation to wrest away water rights, since every legislator can foresee that their constituents' water rights can also be taken away.

Al Runte made some excellent comments. So are the so-called environmental groups selling out for political interests on these mega-solar and wind projects?

Hey Anon,

"Environmental groups" aren't a monolithic block. Some are concerned with green energy, others with conserving wilderness, others with health issues, etc. Not sure if the situation you're referring to reflects a "selling out" by a certain group so much as an instance of competing interests among groups with overlapping concerns.

Which brings us back to Anon 1:47's post. Some are catching on.