November Ballot Initiative Could Let Bay Area Water Users Voice View on Hetch Hetchy

In Environment, Restore Hetch Hetchy

A Restore Hetch Hetchy booth outside a Whole Foods store in Noe Valley helps to make Bay Area citizens aware of Hetch Hetchy and gather signatures to get a new initiative on the November Ballot. Photo by Steve Rhodes.

San Francisco residents could get the chance to vote on draining Hetch Hetchy Reservoir if a measure proposed by the Restore Hetch Hetchy group makes it onto this years November Ballot but even a vote by the people may have little or no effect on the dam.

A vote in favor would not spring the wrecking crew into action, as the city still would have to find alternatives for storage, possibly in an enlarged Don Pedro Reservoir.

But passage would make it clear that San Franciscans want Hetch Hetchy Valley restored to its pre-dam splendor, said Mike Marshall, the group’s executive director.

“If we get it on the ballot, it will be a bit of a game-changer,” he said.
The details of the measure, including how to pay for dam removal and other work, are being discussed.

A 2006 state study estimated a $10 billion cost to raze the dam, restore the valley and replace the lost water supply. Restore Hetch Hetchy contends that all of this could be done for $1 billion to $3 billion.

The group suggests that part of the money could come from the state and federal governments and from private donations. It argues that the restoration would provide a natural wonder for all to enjoy while reducing the state’s water and hydropower supplies by less than 1 percent.

Opponents of the removal generally agree that the reservoir should not have been built in Yosemite, but they say reducing water storage in a drought-plagued state would be foolish.

Critics include the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, which runs the system.

“Our city is facing a $522 million budget deficit, and there certainly are other priorities,” said Tyrone Jue, director of communications for the commission. “Quite frankly, (the campaign) doesn’t take into account the 2.4 million people in the Bay Area who depend on water from Hetch Hetchy Reservoir.” (Merced Sun-Star)

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