Restore Hetch Hetchy can achieve success in one of three places— San Francisco, Congress, or the State and Federal Courts.
We would prefer to work cooperatively with San Francisco, but city leaders have refused. Since 2013, we have taken our campaign to the California courts, where we believe we have a strong case. Most recently the State of California (the Attorney General and State Water Board) have urged the courts "to determine the reasonableness of San Francisco’s water diversion at Hetch Hetchy." A summary of this exciting legal campaign is posted here.
If restoration follows the same pattern as the successful efforts to restore Mono Lake and flows to the San Joaquin River, a legal victory will create political support and force San Francisco to the negotiating table.
Restore Hetch Hetchy would prefer to work directly with San Francisco on a fair and cost-effective plan that will return Hetch Hetchy Valley to Yosemite National Park and all people, while continuing to deliver an uninterrupted supply of high-quality Tuolumne River water to San Francisco and other Bay Area communities. To that end we proposed a cooperative planning process on the ballot in San Francisco in 2012.
Unfortunately, some city leaders felt threatened and convinced elected officials to unite behind a “don’t even think about it” point of view. While the ballot measure campaign effectively educated much of the United States about the singular destruction of one of our flagship national parks a century ago, our planning measure lost at the ballot box. While restore Hetch Hetchy has more members in San Francisco than any other city, no elected official is willing at this time to openly support restoration.
We are therefore focusing our efforts in Congress, and in the state and federal courts. But we look forward to the day when elected officials in San Francisco will embrace restoration of Yosemite and work with us on a cooperative solution.
Several members of Congress have keen interest in restoration. The uncommon influence that San Francisco presently retains in both houses will soon change and provide opportunities for legislation to heal this greatest blemish in any of America’s national parks.
State and Federal courts
We are already intervening in the relicensing of Don Pedro Reservoir, downstream of Hetch Hetchy on the Tuolumne River. San Francisco has asserted that proposed flow increases to help fisheries would have devastating economic impacts. With the assistance of counsel at Hogan Lovells, we have challenged San Francisco’s refusal to evaluate water supply alternatives, which other major water agencies in California have implemented in recent years and which will be necessary to replace a modest portion of supply when Yosemite’s Hetch Hetchy Valley is restored.
Restore Hetch Hetchy has retained local counsel to pursue litigation over San Francisco’s ongoing violation of both State water law and the federal Raker Act that allowed Yosemite’s Hetch Hetchy Valley to be dammed a century ago. We look forward to our day in court when we can directly challenge the use of Hetch Hetchy as a reservoir in light of the plethora of water supply alternatives that are available.
Your help is needed
As we continue to educate the public and the media, we are also talking with Bay Area communities (beyond San Francisco) about regional water system investments that would improve local supply reliability while simultaneously making restoration of Yosemite’s Hetch Hetchy Valley possible.
With the help and support of our friends, we will apply pressure on these multiple fronts until the Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park is returned to the American people.