Congress excludes public in Yosemite National Park, again

Statement of Restore Hetch Hetchy Regarding

Congress’ Exclusion of Public in Yosemite National Park 

The House of Representatives engaged in last-minute, closed-door shenanigans as it passed a $1.37 trillion spending plan for 2020. The bill includes a ban on boating on Hetch Hetchy Reservoir - an opportunity we have promoted that would allow visitors to explore the spectacular canyon (as we continue to push for restoration).

At least when Congress passed the Raker Act in 1913, there was public debate. Not this time.

The bill claims to be about protecting water quality, but fails to note that San Francisco operates its own gas-powered boat on the reservoir. Our proposal was for non-polluting craft, such as canoes and kayaks, and a small electric-powered ferry.

 

The San Francisco Chronicle included the story on its front page today, and posted it online as well.

 

Our statement is below.

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Statement of Restore Hetch Hetchy Regarding

Congress’ Exclusion of Public in Yosemite National Park 

 

December 19, 2019

 

Background

The House of Representatives, at the behest of the City of San Francisco, has taken action behind closed doors to exclude park visitors from boating on Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in Yosemite National Park.

The provision to ban boating on the reservoir was included in a last-minute attachment to the House’s 2313-page appropriations bill. Passage of the bill is necessary to avoid a government shutdown and is expected to pass the Senate. The specific Hetch Hetchy language states:

Hetch Hetchy Reservoir. The Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, which is located in Yosemite National Park, is the drinking water source for 2.7 million Americans. Since the reservoir's creation in 1923, boating has been prohibited to prevent the introduction of contaminants, and to date the quality of the water from Hetch Hetchy Reservoir is such that it does not require filtration. The Service is directed to maintain this longstanding prohibition.

Because it is attached to a one-year spending bill, the boating ban will expire at the end of 2020.

Statement of Spreck Rosekrans, Executive Director

San Francisco’s water quality claim is a ruse. Other water agencies safely allow boating on reservoirs throughout California and other states. Further, San Francisco operates its own gas-powered boat on the reservoir. Our proposal involves only quiet, non-polluting craft, including kayaks and canoes, which would allow visitors to explore currently inaccessible areas of Yosemite National Park.

Public access, including boating, was widely promised when Congress debated and ultimately passed the Raker Act allowing Hetch Hetchy Valley to be dammed and flooded – the only time in American history that such destruction has been allowed in any of our national parks. Members of Congress and specifically Representative Raker, the bill’s author, were assured that boating would be allowed. At San Francisco’s behest, Congress has unwittingly undermined the Raker Act, carefully negotiated a century ago, and sacrificed public access in Yosemite National Park.

The real reason San Francisco does not want environmentally friendly boating on Hetch Hetchy Reservoir is that they want to limit public access. If park visitors are allowed to explore Hetch Hetchy’s spectacular canyon, many will support emptying the reservoir and restoring the valley. San Francisco wants Hetch Hetchy to itself.

 

Restore Hetch Hetchy’s mission 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.