Secretary Ryan Zinke meets with Restore Hetch Hetchy

Secretary Ryan Zinke meets with Restore Hetch Hetchy

Yesterday, July 22, 2018, along with four members of our Executive Commitee, I met with Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. We asked him to consider returning Hetch Hetchy to Yosemite National Park and the American people.

The meeting was scheduled pursuant to a formal request which we filed through Interior's online process. We have asked previous secretaries as well, but this was our first positive response.

After the meeting, Secretary Zinke posted the following on Twitter: 

"Good meeting with Restore Hetch Hetchy. Taking a fresh look at different opportunities and options to restore public access and recreation to the valley."

By email today, Interior spokeswoman Heather Swift said, "This was a fact finding meeting and an opportunity for the secretary to learn more," and that Zinke "is very interested in exploring different options and opportunities for restoring the valley and allowing public access for recreation in a huge part of Yosemite National Park, while also providing both conservation and water delivery benefits."

The meeting took place at the Evergreen Lodge - the closest available meeting room to Hetch Hetchy. (San Francisco's Camp Mather is actually a bit closer, but we did not ask them if we could meet there.) 

The four members of Restore Hetch Hetchy's board who took part were Vice-Chair Virginia Stock Johannessen, Treasurer Peter Van Kuran, Secretary Mark Palley, and Fifth Officer Mark Cederborg. They are impressive individuals, as are all Restore Hetch Hetchy board members.

Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke (left) with Restore Hetch Hetchy Executive Director Spreck Rosekrans in the Cedar Room at the Evergreen Lodge

 Photo: Peter Van Kuran

Before coming to the Evergreen, Secretary Zinke had met with members of the Yosemite Fire Team and its helitack crew. The Ferguson Fire is currently raging along the southwest border of the park.

Our meeting lasted 30-40 minutes. Mr. Zinke was friendly and informal. He listened well and asked good questions. He raised other California water issues that were of concern and stated that he thought reservoirs were important. We said we agreed, but that not all places were appropriate and certainly not Yosemite's Hetch Hetchy Valley.

I did most of the talking for Restore Hetch Hetchy, but he asked each of our board members about their backgrounds and interests in restoration.

After the meeting, we went down to Hetch Hetchy and walked out onto the O'Shaughnessy Dam. We talked a bit more about the opportunity for restoration. There was smoke in the air, so the view was not as spectacular as usual.

Our press release and yesterday's Wall Street Journal article are posted on our website. Additional press will be online today. 

We look forward to following up with the Department of the Interior. More to come - hopefully much more.