Los Angeles Times Coverage: Yosemite and Hetch Hetchy Ferry Proposal

Los Angeles Times Coverage: Yosemite and Hetch Hetchy Ferry Proposal

Setting the record straight

A few weeks ago, the Los Angeles Times published an inaccurate article involving our proposal to provide ferry access that would allow park visitors to better explore the Hetch Hetchy canyon. We repeatedly told the reporter that, at best, his story was deliberately misleading, but he declined to change it. We then wrote a letter to the editor explaining the error, but it was not published.

This past Wednesday, the Los Angeles Times published an editorial which incorrectly confused our proposal with other ideas being considered by the Department of Interior and the National Park Service. We wrote another letter to the editor, which was published November 8.

The LA Times' original article and editorial, and our two letters are posted here, in chronological order, for those interested.

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The hike to Wapama Falls is wonderful but one of the few experiences available at Hetch Hetchy today. Rancheria Falls, for example, is a 13-mile round trip, too far for most park visitors. With ferry access, Rancheria Falls would be only a 2-mile hike.

Here's a short recap of our ferry proposal to date:

·     Restore Hetch Hetchy believes that, until the reservoir can be emptied and the valley restored, recreation and access to the Hetch Hetchy area should be improved and would provide substantial visitor benefits. San Francisco promised this access when it pleaded with Congress for permission to build a dam a century ago. Restore Hetch Hetchy also believes that improved access would inspire people to support the valley's restoration.

·     Restore Hetch Hetchy and CalTrout have written three letters: (1) to the Secretary of Interior and Mayor of San Francisco, (2) to the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, and (3) to the National Park Service, asking for improved access and recreation. While many improvements are warranted, we have focused on a quiet, non-polluting, electric ferry as the best way to help visitors to explore the Hetch Hetchy canyon.

·     We have also met (separately) with federal officials and representatives of San Francisco. The federal officials, representing both the Department of Interior and the National Park Service, listened to our proposal with interest and pragmatically discussed its challenges and benefits. They have made no decision about whether to move forward (as far as we know). San Francisco, on the other hand, told us simply the City is opposed, does not care what commitments the City made 100 years ago, and the matter has already been discussed with legal counsel.

·     The Outdoor Recreation Advisory Committee, a group unaffiliated with Restore Hetch Hetchy and CalTrout, has submitted a set of recommendations to Interior. These recommendations are broad, apply to public lands in general (not just parks), and do not mention Hetch Hetchy or even Yosemite. It is simply a different thing.

 In early-October, a Los Angeles Times reporter called, asking about our ferry proposal and how Interior and the National Park Service had responded to date. He repeatedly asked if the two agencies had disagreed. We had seen no hint of disagreement and we said so. We told him that Interior and the National Park Service had both listened to our proposal, asked questions and discussed the opportunity, and that there was no discernible difference of opinion between the agencies.

 When Yosemite Superintendent Reynolds was reassigned a few weeks later, however, the LA Times posted an article online, asserting that a disagreement over the ferry was a principal cause. We asked them to make certain changes before the article was printed - at least as far as our inferred support for that conclusion. They declined.

Since that time, numerous individuals, including staff at the National Park Service and the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission as well as groups doing other business in Yosemite, have assured us that Reynolds' reassignment was unrelated to the ferry issue. Bottom line: The LA Times got it wrong when said the ferry proposal led to Reynolds' reassignment.

The LA Times also got it wrong, when it said that Secretary Bernhardt has supported ferries on Hetch Hetchy Reservoir

 We do very much hope that Bernhardt will support our proposal. But he has not done so yet.

The Los Angeles Times is one of the nation's leading newspapers, and our story must seem pretty minor as their reporters move on to the next big thing each day. We are disappointed by the Times' errors but grateful that the paper did print our letter explaining the worthiness of our proposal for a ferry.

We will continue to work with the Los Angeles Times and all media to tell the story of the unprecedented opportunity we have to restore Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park.