Thursday, August 04, 2011

Hetch Hetchy

Opening up the famous valley is a winner all the way around, especially if it is done in conjunction with construction of a new dam to restore the water supply lost as a result.

We recommend Auburn Dam be built for that purpose.

A recent editorial in the Sacramento Bee reports on Hetch Hetchy.

An excerpt.

“Revived after a few years of dormancy, advocates are girding for a new campaign to restore the Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park.

“Flooded by a dam and reservoir in 1923 to provide storage for San Francisco's Tuolumne River water supply, the Hetch Hetchy Valley sits 300 feet under water.

“Over the years, proposals have surfaced to reverse this quirk of history that has given one city the right to store water in a national park. Seven major studies since the 1980s have said Hetch Hetchy Valley could be restored without adversely impacting San Francisco's water supply.

“The issue has resurfaced now because an advocacy organization, Restore Hetch Hetchy, is preparing to collect signatures and place an initiative on the San Francisco city ballot in November 2012. The organization believes either Congress can vote to restore Hetch Hetchy Valley, or San Francisco can vote to return the valley to the National Park Service.

“So when Restore Hetch Hetchy offered a fact-finding trip to journalists, I jumped on it.

“Since the 1913 Raker Act, San Francisco has had a special deal granted to no other city in the United States – a dam and reservoir in the middle of a national park that belongs to all of the American people.

“With that special deal come significant restrictions on public use – limited hours and absolutely no touching creeks, rivers and waterfalls within one mile of the reservoir, which itself is eight miles long. No other national park has such a rule.

“San Francisco also has a private chalet overlooking the reservoir, a legendary after-hours wining and dining site when the park entrance gate is locked.

“On this trip, we camped 6.5 miles from the dam at Rancheria Falls, which tumble down a creek to the reservoir. We were not allowed the touch the creek, except to filter drinking water. No wading or swimming, of course.

“We hiked to Tiltill Valley, with its shoulder-high grasses and profusion of wildflowers, butterflies and birds, allowing us to imagine on a small scale what a restored Hetch Hetchy Valley might look like. The reservoir, in contrast, is a "biological desert," notes Mark Cederborg, a restoration expert.”