Taking the high road

There has been quite a bit of excitement among Restore Hetch Hetchy supporters since we filed litigation two weeks ago on John Muir’s birthday ...

and also excitement among those who would prefer that the reservoir remain intact. Some of their feedback has been firm and forceful, but civil. Other feedback has been less so, with the drought understandably on people’s minds.

The first reaction we received was from Nicole Sandkulla, Chief Executive Office of the Bay Area Water Supply and Conservation Agency (BAWSCA), which represents the wholesale customers who use 2/3 of the water in San Francisco’s Regional Water System. The statement reads in part: 

We would prefer that media headlines read "restore Hetch Hetchy Valley", rather than "drain Hetch Hetchy Reservoir". Note that it is usually editors, not reporters, who write the headlines. 
Copyright Barrie Rokeach 2015. All Rights Reserved

“Draining the Reservoir, an essential part of the System, could be a serious threat to the users who depend on it and to the California economy.”

 “Any action to drain Hetch Hetchy Reservoir or otherwise impact the System must be preceded with a plan to protect the health, safety and economic well-being of all the water users”

Restore Hetch Hetchy agrees that restoration must be preceded by full implementation of a plan to assure that not one drop of water supply is lost.

But the temptation to dismiss restoration by assuming it would reduce water supply is still strong, and has led others to use adjectives like "crazy", "outrageous" and "baseless.”

From day one, Restore Hetch Hetchy has been committed to keeping San Francisco's Regional Water System whole with respect to water and power. Comprehensive studies prepared by the University of California at Davis, the Environmental Defense Fund and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation demonstrate that system improvements can be adopted to ensure that there is absolutely no disruption in water supply to San Francisco and other Bay Area communities. 

clark_with_caption_2.pngTop agency officials Carl Boronkay and the late Tom Clark, each of whom ran water agencies several times the size of San Francisco's, have publicly supported restoration and confirmed the feasibility of doing so without reducing water supply by a single drop.

As for the drought: Hetch Hetchy Reservoir is a storage tank, not a source of supply. It accounts for about 1/8 of the surface storage in the Tuolumne River watershed, and its contribution toward supply reliability can and must be replaced. Other water agencies have done far more to reduce their impact on California’s rivers and wetlands.

Restore Hetch Hetchy would love to work cooperatively with San Francisco on a solution for the Regional Water System that fully preserves (or even improves) supply and makes possible the restoration of Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park. Only because they have flatly refused, at least so far, have we taken our first steps in the courts.