August 18, 2019
Ms. Nancy Vogel, Director, Governor’s Water Portfolio Program
Re: Restoring Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park
Dear Ms. Vogel:
As the Newsom Administration pursues its Water Resiliency Portfolio Initiative, it should consider the substantial benefits that would be realized by restoring Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park.
Hetch Hetchy was once a resplendent glacier-carved valley, with towering cliffs and waterfalls cascading onto a serene valley floor. Pioneer conservationist John Muir called it a "remarkably exact counterpart" to the now world-famous Yosemite Valley - 15 miles to its south. But in 1913, the United States allowed Hetch Hetchy Valley to be dammed and flooded by San Francisco. It was the only time in American history that such destruction has been allowed in any of our national parks
There are many reasons why restoration of Hetch Hetchy should be considered. First and foremost, the opportunity is unique. We can create another “Yosemite”, and do so without losing a drop of water supply.
The reservoir that now covers Hetch Hetchy Valley accounts for only about 1/8 of the water storage in the Tuolumne watershed. Studies by the Bureau of Reclamation, U.C. Davis, Environmental Defense Fund and others have all indicated that relatively modest investments in groundwater recharge, additional surface storage or other supply enhancements can replace the incremental water supply function of the reservoir. Hetch Hetchy Valley can be restored without any loss of water supply.
Among questions posed by the initiative is “Which state policies or laws no longer fit California’s water reality or public values?” There is universal agreement that putting a dam in an iconic valley in California’s most famous national park is not consistent with today’s public values. So then why live with mistakes of the past when we don’t have to?
Restoring Hetch Hetchy would inspire communities, throughout California, across the United States and around the world, to better protect and manage their natural resources.
There is no doubt that California needs reliable water supplies to sustain its cities, businesses and world class agriculture. But this can be done while protecting and restoring our most spectacular landscapes, including Hetch Hetchy.
Imagine a second Yosemite.