Sunday, July 24, 2005

Remembering Hetch Hetchy

The SF Chronicle reports on the rebirth of a century-old issue: draining Hetch Hetchy Valley and bringing back one of America's most striking natural wonders. The fight that started over 100 years ago in 1903 revolves around a continuing debate between conservation and development and preserving our wilderness areas. Heralded by American naturalist John Muir as, "one of Nature's rarest and most precious mountain temples," Hetchy Hetchy was largely unknown to the American public (as the idea of conservation and National Parks in general were just beginning to evolve in the national conscience)until many years after the valley had been inundated. This prompted the NY Times to write, "The American people have been whipped in the Hetch Hetchy fight," upon authorization of the O'Shaunessey Dam by the U.S. Congress on December 6, 1913.

Gov. Schwarzenegger has asked for a report from the California Department of Water Resources on the possibility of draining the Hetch Hetchy Valley and re-establishing one of the wonders within Yosemite National Park. According to the CDWR doing so would not limit the supply of water to San Francisco and the Bay Area and wouldn't cause any significant loss of electric power. The downside: depending more on fossil fuels for power (like coal and oil), loss of quality water (h20 from the High Sierras is some of the cleanest in the country), and no more gurantee when severe water shortages hit one of the driest regions in North America.

Once again the discussion comes back to the question, "How much is wilderness worth to us?" Seems to me a simple answer is putting forward some serious conservation measures. Maybe its time for California and the rest of the semi-arid desert west to come to grips with the fact that living in such an environment will require some sacrifices on their part and in the end those sacrifices will enable natural wonders like Hetch Hetchy to remain.


Anonymous said...

By costly removal of HH dam, we will lose great reserve of pure water. That water is deliverred to Bay Area by gravity system.
Removal of the dam will not only reduce our water supply but cause greater dependence on oil. The generated electricity and water delivery will benefit the greedy oil companies.
Perhaps they are the ones interested in removing that dam. More profits from burning oil, more polution and less water.

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