Hetch Hetchy dam might be in the hands of voters in late 2010

Hetch Hetchy dam, one of the main water sources for San Francisco, may be put on the ballot later this year. Environmentalist group, Restore Hetch Hetchy has been fighting to have the removal of Hetch Hetchy put on a ballot for many years.
Approved by voters in 1910, the $45 million bond to construct a water system along the Tuolomne River. This system provides water for most residents of San Francisco, as well as some in surrounding cities. Not only does the Hetch Hetchy dam provide water for thousands, but it also provides a source of electricity for Modesto and Turlock.
Hetch Hetchy Valley was said to be the second Yosemite-a grassy valley with meandering rivers, and sloped hills. After the 21-year construction project was completed, the dam was a total of 312 feet tall. The reservoir stores about 300,000 to 350,000 acre-feet of water, and provides approximately 5% of San Francisco’s water supply. By removing Hetch Hetchy, San Francisco would have the ability to restore an entire ecosystem.
State officials expect the cost of deconstructing the reservoir to come to $10 billion. However, environmental groups estimate that the deconstruction would cost anywhere from $1 billion to $3 billion.
Read more at: http://www.modbee.com/local/story/998148.html
Brian O’Neill


5 thoughts on “Hetch Hetchy dam might be in the hands of voters in late 2010

  1. Folks who are inclined to dismiss this idea because (1) SF will lose its water and/or water rights (2) the valley will take hundreds of years to look good again; (3) it’s too expensive — should first read some of the studies found at — http://hetchhetchy.org/studies.html

    We say the total cost would top out at $3 billion in current dollars at the highest. Hetch Hetchy Valley is about one-half the size of Yosemite Valley. Is Yosemite Valley worth $6 billion???

    1. Thank you for your comment, and interesting studies. From the studies I have read, San Francisco will lose only about 5% of it’s total water containment capacity. Also, some restorationists predict that natural wildlife *could* re-inhabit the valley within 10 years after it is drained. I do, however, agree that it will take many decades-possibly even many centuries-to return Hetch Hetchy to it’s natural beauty.

      Do you have any information pertaining to the expected revenues from tourism if the dam were deconstructed? I am interested in reading about how the tourism funds could help fund the dam removal, or other restoration efforts.

  2. WaterWise Consulting — Sadly there is very little material available describing the monetary economic benefits of restoration. A starting point is the Dept of Water Resources report (which is on the hetchhetchy.org site). On page 29 DWR laid out some estimates ranging from $26 million annually of “use benefits” to $6 billion of non-use benefits.

    BTW, our board member who predicts a quick recovery of the valley (excepting the bathtub ring and the big trees) is a veteran professional ecological restoration expert. One of his recent projects is the Giacomini wetland recovery project in Marin County.

  3. It’s not the case that “State officials expect the cost of deconstructing the reservoir to come to $10 billion.” The state’s estimate was between 3 and 10 billion, with the latter high estimate premised on a tripling of SFPUC’s storage capacity. As for replacement storage, SFPUC owns two reservoirs high in the Sierras (tributaries to the Tuolumne), Cherry and Eleanor, that have never been used for municipal water, even though the city promised the federal government (before passage of the law that permitted the dam) that it would use those reservoirs first before ever turning to Hetch Hetchy.

  4. A follow up to that comment – the storage at Cherry and Eleanor is about 85% of the maximum storage at Hetch Hetchy. The other 15% could be made up by other readily available alternatives that would need to be developed, such as drawing water directly from the Tuolumne or storing some in the much larger downstream reservoir, the Don Pedro. SFPUC paid for part of that reservoir, but obtaining use would require agreements with agricultural irrigation districts (Modesto and Turlock).

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