Almost 100 years ago, Congress approved a dam and reservoir in Yosemite to supply water and power to San Francisco. The project flooded the scenic Hetch Hetchy Valley. Now environmentalists want to drain the reservoir, hoping to restore what they call “a second Yosemite Valley.” Under Measure F, the city would spend $8 million to develop an alternative plan for its water and power. But critics say the measure squanders taxpayer money and could jeopardize the city’s water supply. Should we restore Hetch Hetchy?

Background on Measure F and the Battle Over the Hetch-Hetchy Reservoir

Century-Old Battle Over Yosemite's 'Second Valley' Heats Up: A good explanation of the basic debate from KQED's Quest

Could Yosemite's 'Second Valley' be Restored?: Article and illustrations explaining the timeline for restoring Hetch Hetchy Valley from the Contra Costa Times

Judge Rules that Hetch Hetchy Ballot Language Should Stay: Background on the semantics of the ballot language from SFGate

Mike Marshall, executive director of Restore Hetch Hetchy
Scott Wiener, supervisor for District 8, City and County of San Francisco

  • Kathy

    Hopefully this will be a chance for the pro-Yosemite side to counter the misinformation coming from the PUC

  • Beth Grant DeRoos

    My family has been here in the Sierras since the 1860’s and I have fond memories of my grandparents telling me the beauty of the area before Hetch Hetchy was built.

    With well water we have to be very frugal and not wasteful, and yet I wince when I see how the water that falls here in our Sierras, gets sent to San Francisco and wasted. Do city people even stop to think about this precious resource called clean water?

    Maybe if we removed the dam people would be forced to rethink waste as well as better local ideas for catching rain water for city use.

  • John

    What is the earthquake risk of the Hetch Hetchy System? Would it be wise to rebuild the water system before the water source for San Francisco is destroyed by a major earthquake?

  • RA

    The pro side here is madness. I’m actually a huge fan of water recycling plants (like LA built a few years back) though they’re somewhat expensive. I think desalination is also good (though REALLY expensive).

    However, IF we built such plants then we STILL shouldn’t get rid of the dam and instead send the water somewhere else where it’s useful. Like SoCal or the central valley or something. Destroying the reservoir would be a total waste of both water and electricity.

    So, yeah… this prop-F is a non-starter with me.

  • Adam

    There doesn’t seem to have been any discussion of ecological value of the valley. The Sierras are becoming increasingly fragile and any help we can give to those ecosystems will be important into the future. And it’s worth remembering John Muir’s thoughts on the valley; “”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.”

  • National Petroleum Radio- NPR

    I say un-damn the knowledge so we can un-damn the streams. All issues lead back to energy, which is why it’s so important to look outside the NPR media bubble and start believing your military whistleblowers. Real alternative energy systems are hidden for energy company profits. easure F supporters (and the rest of humanity) could have their cake while we All eat if you would just please understand what the whistleblowers are saying: DISCLOSURE PROJECT. Zero point energy for all and you can desalinize all you want. you people live in a zero-sum bubble- think about a world of abundance and do your own research.

  • Stering

    I’m an avid backpacker and have volunteered for the Sierra Club on work crew trips. I practice Leave No Trace, and still this proposition makes no sense to me. As our climate continues to change we will need every water source and storage facility we have. If this dam were planned now, it would not happen, but it did happen and we do not have the resource or leeway to remove it. All that being said, we should be working on saving water in every way, but that’s a different topic, a different proposition.

    • Paul

      Totally agree. Who would not want HH in it original state? But the cost of this study and moreso removal of the dam would have huge water & financial impacts not only on SF, but Fremont, Milpitas, Santa Clara, Palo Alto, and several other cities that purchase this water from SF. Not only that, if HH dam was removed, some other natural area would need to be covered by PV Solar or Wind Generation, to replace this truly non-carbon emitting source of energy. And PV & Wind placement in Calif is always litigated-out by hard left-wing enviromentalist groups anyway.

      Removing HH would also place Lake Don Pedro off limits to all forms of recreation there, another huge impact on our state’s economy.

      I’ve been to HH several times to hike. On its own, it is a serene and beautiful place. Not as nice the natural HH valley it once was, to be sure. Even if HH was drained, it would several decades before left wing enviro’s would allow the public to access it. And access would only be by hiking trails, so for the very young & disabled, only photos will have to do.

  • BobW

    How much would it cost to add a hydroelectic plant to the dam?

  • RA

    Hold on. Draining it would provide $6B in revenue per year ?! Where’s THAT claim coming from?

  • Skeptic

    What happens to the water that is released from the dam? Who will own it? Who will get it? How will it be stored? Why is Dan Lundgren supporting it? He says it is because he loves the environment, but his record over the years puts this to the lie. I believe that the profit motive is behind this restoration proposal.

    • Betty

      What happens to the water if it is not released from the dam? Who owns it? Who gets it? How is it stored? Why is anyone against it? They say it is because the system works, but the system they describe puts this to the lie. I believe that the profit motive is behind this anti restoration proposal.

  • I see the problem that every one of our resources are antiquated. Our electrical production loses almost 50% of the power due to line loss. Our waste water can be recycled and used for parks and golf courses. Out sewage plan is to pump our waste water out to see 1 mile. I vote we let the technology catch up with society and build our infrastructure like we are going to be here for a while.

  • Chemist150

    Let it be. If we don’t need the water resource now, we will. It’s there, let’s use it. If it’s drained, it’ll be a big mud pit and simply be filled with underbrush and be an eyesore for years to come. It’ll destroy the ecosystem that has evolved around it and disrupt the dynamics once again.

    I agree with the comment that cities should recycle water. Let’s start doing that. Why is this proposition not about getting that done? The money would be better spent on recycling projects rather than going backwards.

  • scott dennis

    In presenting the ‘restoration’ of Hetch Hetchy a value judgement has already been made about California resources…I propose that the most disastrous environmental intervention of the past 150 years has been the deliberate destruction of our Central Valley Wetlands…if we are going to start restoring something…how about restoring Tulare Lake which was once the LARGEST natural lake West of the Mississippi (yes about twice the surface area of Tahoe)

  • C. Sobel

    Walking around the current reservoir is ironically one of the most serene and undisturbed walks that we have taken in Yosemite. At the time, we commented that if it were removed, the area’s quiet atmosphere would be changed by structures for camping and tourists.

  • Mike

    I am personally astonished this conversation is even being taken seriously. As a state we have enough serious and threatening issues to occupy us for the next hundred years without debating over the dismantling one of the few things that actually works well; the Hetch Hetchy system. The money for just the study alone could be put to so much better ues in pursuit of real alternative energy development or perhaps the education of the deeply selfish if not outright mentally unbalanced people that would actualy waste our collective time on such a ridiculous adventure at that being considered. The argument in favor of leaving well enough alone is so pervasive it is not possible to completely ennumerate it here. Get a grip!

    • David

      nice use of loaded language; seems like you’re taking the conversation seriously

  • BobW

    Make the resevoir into a giant fish farm. There are ways to keep the dam and be enviromentally responisible.

  • sensible

    This idea is the finest example of the lack of technical and scientific knowledge in the general population in the USA today. You cannot conjure up water in the ridculous ways noted by the drain the Hetch Hetchy talking heads in a way to replace the volume Hetch Hetchy holds

  • srstan

    There seems to be a lot of assumptions about the area 40 or 50 yrs. from now. I fear that the “second Yosemite” is going to be a “Death Valley” by then. I hope I’m wrong!!!

  • Matt

    Public Debate and Discussion about Proposition F:

    “Water Sustainability and Environmental Restoration Planning Act”

    Planet Drum Foundation will present a public forum Wednesday October 10, 2012
    in the Koret Auditorium of the SF Main Library, 100 Larkin St., San
    Francisco from 6:30-8pm.


    Mike Marshall- Restore Hetch Hetchy (For the Proposition)

    Adrian Covert- Save Hetch Hetchy (Against the Proposition)

    Jason Mark- Earth Island Institute (Moderator)

    San Francisco is located on SF Bay at the confluence
    of the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers. This watershed contains the
    rivers of the Sierra Nevada, including the Tuolumne, the source of San
    Francisco’s water.

    The debate is an opportunity to ask some questions and learn about San Francisco’s controversial proposition!
    Join us at the SF Main Library and discuss the future of water in San Francisco.

    Sponsors: Planet Drum Foundation, Earth Island Journal


  • Ellis

    SF Measure “F” is a solution
    looking for a problem. This is one of the wackiest ideas I have ever
    heard of in my life. Hecth Hetchy is an engineering marvel. This is
    not about mountain top removal. It’s clean and green. This is what
    gives environmentalists a bad name! Environmental Groups should look
    at solving the nuclear waste disposal problem. And shutting down San
    Onofre Nuclear Power station in which one of the units was build
    backwards. Obviously, this plant needs to be immediately

    Snippet from Corpwatch: “And Don May, the president of California
    Earth Corp who has been fighting the plants since the 1960s, says
    that the future cost could be much higher because there is a major
    fault line about two miles away that is overdue for an earthquake.
    What worries him most is the fact that Bechtel installed one of the
    reactors backwards. “The way the reactor has been installed at the
    site means that the seismic braces will exacerbate the impact of an
    earthquake rather than reduce it. In addition the reactor walls have
    been worn down to half their original thickness from constant
    bombardment.” May explained. “If there is an earthquake, Lord
    help us.” Bechtel admits that the reactor was installed backwards
    but that’s about it.”

    • David

      nice red herring

  • Mr. Blue

    San Francisco could be bringing water from canals that criss cross the central valley. The only thing that is stopping this is the way that the government uses the water. Farmers are growing rice in the desert while farmers that live and work near potential natural rice paddies are being payed not to grow rice because there is a surplus. How twisted is that? Also, farmers can have their water rights revoked if they don’t draw a certain amount of water from the canals. They don’t need to draw that water, but they have too. What do you think could happen to california’s water recourses if the government and the different Public utilities could get their act together.

  • Mr. Blue

    The San Francisco Bay Guardian calls Proposition F “…a huge waste of time and money” [4]
    The San Francisco Chronicle calls Proposition F “…a misleading measure that will squander taxpayer money”.xThe thing here is that the project WILL use lots of taxpayer money however, would you rather have all of this money used to restore a amazing natural wilderness, and find alternative scources for water, or would you rather it go straight to the pentagon so the U.S. can kill more civilians in Iraq. (I’m not saying that the U.S. government tries to kill the people, it’s just that it happens. That’s war.)

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