Thursday, June 22, 2006

Auburn Dam, Covering & Creating Beauty

In the July/August issue of Via the American Automobile Association’s magazine for members, there is a delightful article by Josh Sens: National Parks, The Trails Less Traveled (pp. 46-52), that makes a real good point.

“On a bright blue day in June, we were gazing out at the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir from the top of the O’Shaughnessy Dam, the concrete cork in the Tuolumne River. Until the 1920’s, when the dam was built to quench San Francisco’s thirst for water, this was Yosemite’s other valley, smaller in scale but comparable in majesty to its more famous sibling to the south. Hetch Hetchy Valley now lies submerged under several hundred feet of water, and the dam is seen by many not only as a scar but as a symbol of misplaced priorities.

“What seemed to me, as Braun and I walked the trail to Wapama Falls, a path etched along the water’s edge, was that in covering one beauty, the dam had managed to create another. The sheer valley walls rise abruptly from the waters like the sides of a great granite tub, their outlines casting a quivering reflection in the mirror of the reservoir’s surface. Just ahead, the impressive cascade of Wapama Falls was weeping freely, draining the park’s north-western snowpack. (p.48)

This is a point well remembering in the continuing debate about Auburn Dam, that although it will cover beauty it will also create new beauty, as yet unseen.