Hetch Hetchy

When you can accomplish something, like the removal of Hetch Hetchy, without costing water or power loss, and restoring one of the most beautiful valleys in the country, it isn’t a matter of should we do it, but when do we do it.

However, as much as it might be a no-brainer for the rest of us, one can certainly sympathize with the objection San Francisco has to perhaps clouding the fabled purity of the water now coming to them straight from Hetch Hetchy.

Dan Lungren: It is time to restore Hetch Hetchy Valley
By Dan Lungren – Special To The Bee
Published 12:00 am PDT Friday, March 30, 2007

Yosemite Valley — with all its resplendent beauty — be dammed! Let’s flood it now. After all, there are plenty of other national parks for Americans to enjoy.

Increasingly, the city of Los Angeles is in desperate need for this water source.

Besides, even though Yosemite Valley would be submerged, the granite peaks and their waterfalls would still be visible from the dam’s state-of-the-art observation deck.

Imagine if the city of Los Angeles made this claim today. Although this scenario is fictitious, this argument was made on behalf of the city of San Francisco in the early part of the last century.

Eighty-four years ago the Hetch Hetchy Valley — the smaller twin to Yosemite Valley that is completely contained within the boundaries of Yosemite National Park — was converted to a reservoir to serve the water needs of San Francisco. At that time John Muir, the famous preservationist and founder of the Sierra Club, fought this decision and said, “Dam Hetch Hetchy! As well dam for water tanks the people’s cathedrals and churches, for no holier temple has ever been consecrated by the heart of man.”

So how did one of nature’s most beautiful sanctuaries, a jewel for millions of Americans, get converted into a water source for a single city? The short answer is that a ready supply of water was available with no apparent practical alternative at a time when our frontier seemed endless.

What about now? The restoration of Hetch Hetchy is about more than water and definitely more than politics. The restoration of Hetch Hetchy is about the return of a national treasure to all of the American people, and the addition of a prized piece of the fabric back into the quilt that is our national park system.

Opposition to restoring the valley has been strong. However, claims about disrupting the Tuolumne River system and equating the removal of a dam to closing down of an interstate highway are understandable only if a viable alternative is not presented.

Fortunately, a recent study by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s administration confirmed that it is “technically feasible” to have the water supply from Hetch Hetchy be fully recovered, along with the current level of power generation, without depriving the citizens of San Francisco of either.

For example, water from the Tuolumne River, currently feeding the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, could be allowed to flow into an expanded Don Pedro Reservoir, which is now six times the size of the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir. Alternatives such as Don Pedro Reservoir and improvements in engineering technology did not exist in 1923, when the dam was completed in the Hetch Hetchy Valley.

About David H Lukenbill

I am a native of Sacramento, as are my wife and daughter. I am a consultant to nonprofit organizations, and have a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Behavior and a Master of Public Administration degree, both from the University of San Francisco. We live along the American River with two cats and all the wild critters we can feed. I am the founding president of the American River Parkway Preservation Society and currently serve as the CFO and Senior Policy Director. I also volunteer as the President of The Lampstand Foundation, a nonprofit organization I founded in 2003.
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