SF Chronicle - "Is Hetch Hetchy worth $100 billion?"

San Francisco Chronicle: Is Hetch Hetchy worth $100 billion?

Balanced article reflects on ECONorthwest's findings in "Valuing Hetch Hetchy Valley: Economic Benefits of Restoration in Yosemite National Park"

The San Francisco Chronicle posted "Is Hetch Hetchy worth $100 billion?" online on August 1, and on its front page on Sunday, August 4. The article is balanced and well worth reading. 

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Gregory Thomas, Chronicle Travel Editor and the article's author, poses the pertinent question: "Draining the Bay Area's water storage in Yosemite could open up a new outdoor mecca. Should we do it?"

Thomas briefly tells the story of Hetch Hetchy as an iconic landscape with an unfortunate legacy, then contemplates the wonders that restoration would provide. He thoughtfully provides the perspective of Dr. Mark Buckley, independent economist and author of "Valuing Hetch Hetchy Valley: Economic Benefits of Restoration in Yosemite National Park", the groundbreaking report which inspired his article. Thomas also interviewed Dr. Michael Hanemann, renowned economist at UC Berkeley.

Dr. Michael Hanemann:

 “This paper argues that as time passes — as areas become urbanized, as natural areas become developed — the real scarcity is going to become these outdoor experiences. Those will become more valuable over time and we’ll never come up with a substitute for them.”

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The article also provides fair and thoughtful treatment of Restore Hetch Hetchy. Most importantly, the article makes clear that Restore Hetch Hetchy is seeking a solution that would restore the valley  without Bay Area residents losing a drop of water.

Appropriately, the article includes views from the other side - those of San Francisco Public Utilities Commission Deputy General Manager Michael Carlin. Carlin is an honorable opponent. His job is to supply customers in San Francisco and other Bay Area cities with reliable supplies of high-quality water. Restore Hetch Hetchy salutes Mr. Carlin and others at the SFPUC for their commitment to this essential public service.

To his credit, Carlin does not question the benefits of restoration - only its costs. "Without a comprehensive proposal, weighing the costs and benefits is impossible", he says.

Restore Hetch Hetchy agrees with Carlin. We seek to develop that comprehensive proposal and have a public discussion that compares value of returning Hetch Hetchy to its natural splendor to the cost of the water system improvements necessary make restoration possible.

That is why we put such a proposal on the ballot in 2012 and filed suit in the California courts in 2015. In each case, however, San Francisco successfully prevented a proposal from being developed.

The release of "Valuing Hetch Hetchy Valley" is part of our effort to develop that proposal, encourage broad political support and force San Francisco to address the opportunity at hand. Stay tuned.

The mission of Restore Hetch Hetchy is to return the Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park to its natural splendor while continuing to meet the water and power needs of all communities that depend on the Tuolumne River.