Poll: Should Hetch Hetchy Reservoir Be Drained?

A November ballot measure in San Francisco will ask voters to decide whether the city should draw up a plan to open O’Shaughnessy Dam, eliminating a huge source of drinking water for the Peninsula.


The liberal-leaning San Francisco Chronicle calls the idea "insane."

The proposal: a November ballot measure that would ultimately, if passed, move us closer to the idea of draining the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in Yosemite National Park.

The reservoir is the main water source for about 2.5 million Bay Area residents in San Francisco, on the Peninsula, and scattered throughout other parts of our immediate region.

On the Peninsula, we see the end result of water that flows from Hetch Hetchy along Interstate 280 at the Crystal Springs Reservoir.

This week, a conservation group called Restore Hetch Hetchy submitted more than 16,000 signatures from registered San Francisco voters in support of a ballot measure that would require a study of how to drain Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, and replace the water lost with other means.

Restore Hetch Hetchy quotes naturalist John Muir as saying the Hetch Hetchy Valley is “one of nature’s rarest and most precious mountain temples.”

The battle over Hetch Hetchy Valley is not new. The debate began in 1913 when the city of San Francisco won congressional approval to build O’Shaughnessy Dam, which buried the wilderness valley under some 300 feet of water ten years later, in 1923.

A 2006 California Department of Water report indicated the valley could be drained, but the cost would be extraordinary: somewhere between $3 billion and $10 billion.

If the ballot measure passes, what's not clear is how 2.5 million gallons of water - especially in dry, drought years - would be replaced.

Hetch Hetchy also produces about 300 megawatts of carbon-free hydroelectric power for the Bay Area.

Several area politicians, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, are critical of the the ballot measure, saying the region can't afford to drain the reservoir.

Restore Hetch Hetchy counters by stating "Modern engineering advances afford us the opportunity to remove the reservoir and create one of the most ambitious and exciting environmental restoration projects in human history. As a living laboratory, Hetch Hetchy will advance the science of restoration by providing biologists, ecologists and botanists from all over the world with the chance to apply cutting-edge science to re-establishing lost habitats."

What do you think? Should the Hetch Hetchy Valley be restored to its original state, and add to the beauty of Yosemite? Or is this a bad idea in this day of few dollars and large water needs?

Tell us in your comments, then vote in the poll below.

Chris Parkinson September 29, 2012 at 04:27 PM
83% say no, what kind of world do you live in Mr. Lula? I live in one where the majority rules, not you campers. Sorry Prop. F is a loser by 83% and counting before we even vote on it. The whole Tuolumne River water supply is modernized. Hetch Hetchy is by far the most brilliant massive project modern mankind has ever done. It has no lead in the piping, like Rome extends for hundreds of miles, is clean sustainable water for millions. Your opinion is either based in a lack of education. If you are educated, you need to demand the money back from the university you last attended, you know nothing of what you talk about. Join the majority and Vote No on Prop. F!
Ben Toy September 29, 2012 at 06:03 PM
Agree and hope you are correct with the 83% with sanity Lula's thinking would have all the buildings/highways/bridges/airplanes/cars/trains/etc replaced before their useful life span is reached.
Tatter Salad October 21, 2012 at 11:18 PM
No! Water storage is an issue; -WHY do you think there has been such a big push to run a aquaduct around the Delta? The goal is simply creating a pipeline from San Diego County all the way to the Rogue. Seriously. Drinkable water IS a problem. Emphasis on 'drinkable.' If you enjoy the taste of S.CAL water, then add some dirt to Hetch Hetchy water, and you'll feel right at home. The other issue is that the Cherry Lake damage HAS ALL READY BEEN DONE - 80 years ago. The species that became extinct in the area as a result (Brown Trout, and Giant Beavers) are NEVER coming back as they once were. I saw the beavers slowly dissappear on the Cherry Creek in the '70's. NOTHING will be improved except ACCESS to raftable rivers for the Southern California Crowd. This area is the closest potential rafting area for S. Cal; and THAT is where the money is coming from supporting this issue. This area DOESN'T NEED MORE PEOPLE. And yes, last August I hiked the area, and bears are at 5x what I've seen before. IF we lose 80% of Hetch Hetchy, WE will need water from the Rogue!
Patrick O' November 07, 2012 at 07:53 AM
This may sound petty and spiteful but: MEASURE F IS FAILING in the polls!!!! WOO HOO!
Chris Parkinson November 07, 2012 at 03:17 PM
All the so called campers who smoke their day's away were soundly defeated. WOO HOO is right! Thank you rational thinking people!


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