The case for Prop F

Vote Yes and the city can update a dated water system

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By Mike Marshall

OPINION Progressives have a rare opportunity to improve San Francisco's water and power policies by passing Proposition F, the Water Conservation and Yosemite Restoration Initiative, this November. Prop F would require the city to do something it's been reluctant to do: develop a plan for making our outdated, wasteful water system more sustainable and environmentally friendly.

Despite San Francisco's "green" reputation, we don't yet recycle water, we treat rainwater as sewage, we wash our streets and flush our toilets with drinking water, and we use Yosemite National Park as a water storage tank (Hetch Hetchy Valley, where we built a dam almost 100 years ago, was one of Yosemite's grandest valleys and contained an extraordinary ecosystem).

Meanwhile, other California cities and counties have developed much more eco-friendly water systems. Orange County, not known for progressivism, recycles 92 million gallons of water a day.

Opponents of Prop F claim that reform of our water system would be too expensive, but they cite unreliable and inflated cost estimates. One of Prop F's purposes is to replace such speculation with realistic numbers.

Opponents say it's "insane" to take away San Francisco's water source, but that's misleading; Hetch Hetchy Reservoir is a storage site (one of nine reservoirs in our water system), not a water source. The Tuolumne River is our primary water source, and will remain so regardless of whether we return Hetch Hetchy Valley to the National Park Service for restoration.

Opponents claim we'd lose the hydropower generated by the current system, but our hydropower facilities are downstream from Yosemite, and would continue to power all the same city services they currently do. It's true that if we relinquish the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, we'll have less power to sell to other energy markets, but we can make up the difference by increasing our investment in renewable power such as wind and solar, which we should be doing anyway.

In fact, San Francisco owns 42 miles of above-ground right-of-way between Yosemite and the city, where we can place enough solar panels to generate at least 40 megawatts per year—an idea that the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission has never even considered. This, too, can be part of the plan that will result from passage of Prop F.

Remember, Prop F changes nothing about our current system. It simply requires the formation of a task force with a lean budget of $8 million to develop a specific plan for reform, which will be completed in 2015 and made available for public review, discussion and debate. San Francisco voters would then approve or reject the plan in 2016. Only if voters approve the plan will actual reform begin. This approach is appropriately cautious, thorough and transparent. If the costs of reform are too high, or if our commitment to a sustainable future is too low, voters will reject the plan and our current water system will continue unchanged.

Prop F opponents aren't waiting to see what the costs of reform might be, or even whether the reform plan makes sense. They want to prevent the plan from happening. How does that serve the interests of San Francisco residents, when the plan would give them essential information about how and whether their water system can become more sustainable?

So please join me in voting for Proposition F. Let's at least get a water reform plan on the table.

Mike Marshall lives in Hayes Valley is the Executive Director of Restore Hetch Hetchy.

Comments

We have not even begun to take dramatic steps like those of L.A. to conserve water. And by the way, one of the main reasons we use so much less water is that we are in a cool, wet climate where we have very few large grass yards and swimming pools (not because we are somehow champions of conservation measures).

As Michael stated, we don't even have a functioning recycling program yet; let alone the large scale wetlands restoration, rainwater capture, bioswales, permeable pavement, gray water systems, urban composting toilets, and other such measures that will one day completely revolutionize and dramatically reduce Bay Area water use to such an extent that we can start looking at, not just restoring Hetch Hetchy Valley, but by the end of the century, the entire uninterrupted Tuolumne River watershed all the way down to the ocean.

The planet is in trouble folks.

And as a result we need to take off our 20th century horse blinders and start thinking about, and planning for, the big picture.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Oct. 31, 2012 @ 4:25 pm

and other Republicans who, out of pure spite and hatred towards San Francisco and the Peninsula, are doing their best to destroy our water system and the clean, renewable power it generates. You claim you're "tired" of progressives parroting the Commerce-Ed Lee line on this issue. Well I'm tired of seeing progressives play the useful fools for extremist Republicans like Dan Lungren on this issue.

Posted by Troll II on Oct. 31, 2012 @ 4:31 pm

This issue has absolutely nothing to do with Dan Lungren who is nothing but a right wing opportunist latching onto this issue as a political maneuver in order to grandstand and keep himself in elected office. The campaign to restore of Hetch Hetchy was begun nearly a century ago by John Muir (decades before Dan Lungren was even born) and then carried on by other strong environmentalists like David Brower.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Oct. 31, 2012 @ 4:46 pm

The plan is not to "keep himself in elected office" but to cast a wide grouping of natural allies into disarray. Eric, it is sad to see you- or at least your name being used to- promote this evil plan.

I agree that the dam should have not been built; probably most people do. Certainly some day it will reach the end of its service life and it will be removed. At the present time it is invalueable for a reliable water storage and public power generation. There are far too many things going wrong with our ecosystem to be focusing on a problem so costly in dollars and assets to address.

Tearing down this dam will not save a single salmon. Why not put effort into curtailing the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta water diversion plan? Dan Lungren isn't going to help with that though.

Real Eric Brooks? I'm not convinced.

Posted by lillipublicans on Nov. 01, 2012 @ 8:55 am

Lungren is not doing this to split San Francisco progressives. It is the Chamber of Commerce that is putting forward the false arguments that have fooled a great many progressives into splitting with environmental sensibility.

On your point of saving salmon, that is not entirely true. the act of draining -only- Hetch Hetchy won't restore the salmon on its own. However it is the first step in eventually freeing the entire watershed of dams and that -will- restore the salmon.

On your other points see my new response above.

(And yes, I am indeed the real Eric Brooks. If these posts were from someone else, I would have reacted to them with an immediate threat of prosecution. Hijacking the identify of a real person online is a felony. As 'Guest' said, my comments are totally consistent with a comprehensive environmental objective. Public power is not worth the continued dysfunctional wrecking of an entire watershed ecosystem.)

Posted by Eric Brooks on Nov. 01, 2012 @ 10:02 am

And I'm glad you express ambivalence with regard to Prop F. I shouldn't have suggested as though it were in the past tense that I hold you in high esteem, but rather have only referred to the "utmost" respect no longer being in effect. Yes, I think you are absolutely wrong on this in several regards.

You did claim that the website chamisa.freeshell.org/ would support your statements, but although I can't claim to have followed every link, in particular I found no support for your statement that "removing reservoirs is -good- for water security, because it takes water out of huge unshaded reservoirs where it rapidly evaporates."

I think we're *many* decades away from this idea meriting serious consideration and those who have been convinced to support it -- or even express ambivanlence at this time -- have in effect fallen into a trap set by the same sort of duplicitous rascals who have brought about so much other destruction in our ecological and civil spheres.

*NO* on F. (And thanks for your continuing work with regard to sustainable energy, Eric.)

Posted by lillipublicans on Nov. 01, 2012 @ 10:57 am

I'll re-post this here as well to make sure everyone sees it, and also add some further remarks to address your overall assumptions and presumptions:

Here's the URL for a paper showing the impact of evaporation in large reservoirs behind hydroelectric dams. (Hydroelectric dams were chosen in order to show the considerable water loss associated with the generated electricity; and to therefore help clarify that dams are not at all an impact free source of power.)

See http://www.waterfootprint.org/Reports/Mekonnen-Hoekstra-2012-WaterFootpr...

And as I have already stated, this is just one among many serious negative environmental impacts of large dams.

So my brother, you are simply incorrect in your assumptions. And if we don't decommission the dam on Hetch Hetchy by 2030, we will be unnecessarily abusing the land, water and watershed, overwhich we have so arrogantly pronounced ourselves stewards.

And your contention that the many ecologists and grassroots organizers (who have spent decades of our lives fighting to restore watershed ecosystems by removing reservoirs like this) are somehow naive dupes of this ballot measure and its underlying plan, and further, somehow don't know what we are talking about, is both insulting, and shows that you are the one who in fact, appears to not know what he is talking about.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Nov. 01, 2012 @ 8:53 pm

I'll re-post this here as well to make sure everyone sees it, and also add some further remarks to address your overall assumptions and presumptions:

Here's the URL for a paper showing the impact of evaporation in large reservoirs behind hydroelectric dams. (Hydroelectric dams were chosen in order to show the considerable water loss associated with the generated electricity; and to therefore help clarify that dams are not at all an impact free source of power.)

See http://www.waterfootprint.org/Reports/Mekonnen-Hoekstra-2012-WaterFootpr...

And as I have already stated, this is just one among many serious negative environmental impacts of large dams.

So my brother, you are simply incorrect in your assumptions. And if we don't decommission the dam on Hetch Hetchy by 2030, we will be unnecessarily abusing the land, water and watershed, overwhich we have so arrogantly pronounced ourselves stewards.

And your contention that the many ecologists and grassroots organizers (who have spent decades of our lives fighting to restore watershed ecosystems by removing reservoirs like this) are somehow naive dupes of this ballot measure and its underlying plan, and further, somehow don't know what we are talking about, is both insulting, and shows that you are the one who in fact, appears to not know what he is talking about.

Do us, and yourself, a favor, and study, before tossing around blithe uninformed determinations on the foolishness of others.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Nov. 01, 2012 @ 9:02 pm

an invitation to get all insulting by tossing around nasty terms such as "naive," "arrogant, "and "ignorant."

I don't think you are *any* of those things but I think you are fucking wrong on this topic.

As I posted elsewhere, the paper you cite is judging the water consumption of hydropower of dams which are constructed for no other use.

"Also one should account for the fact that many hydroelectric
dams are designed to serve other purposes as well." (Page 5/183)

Read it again Eric. If you want Californians to keep our reserve water in little plastic bottles we buy at Costco, just come out and say it.

Honestly, I'd prefer a return to civililty between us. This plan does make my blood boil though, and I think you have taken the invective up a couple notches without justification.

Posted by lillipublicans on Nov. 01, 2012 @ 10:09 pm

It is the evaporation that I was talking about and which happens at all large dams regardless of what they are used for.

And I'm sorry brother, but when you blithely toss around comments to the effect that I and others have fallen into some trap laid for us, that is clearly an arrogant presumptive judgement on our knowledge and intellect.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Nov. 01, 2012 @ 10:42 pm

for the purposes of generating energy carries the unexpected cost of reducing flows of water downstream in addition to the other known environmental costs of dam building.

"Also one should account for the fact that many hydroelectric dams are designed to serve other purposes as well." (Page 5/183)

For the purposes at hand -- i.e. the dam is for water storage first and formost, and power secondly -- and taking into account that it is one of the most efficient types of dams as far as water storage goes -- i.e. low seepage and evaporation -- using this argument to justify the "study" to tear down the dams is ... wrong.

The reactionaries are laughing their heads off over this. Progressives and environmentalists at each others throats. We'll pay for this study and it'll be used to justify a move to take the decision out of our hands.

*NO* on tearing down the Hetch Hetchy reservior.

Posted by lillipublicans on Nov. 01, 2012 @ 11:02 pm

but how does what you just wrote show that dams for any purpose, are good, and that Hetch Hetchy should not be decommissioned?

Furthermore you are woefully mis-stating the conclusion of the study which is, and I quote:

"Hydroelectric generation has historically been considered as a non-consumptive water user; however, through the estimation of the blue water footprint of hydroelectricity at 35 sites, this study finds that hydropower is a large consumptive user of water. The amount of water lost through evaporation annually from the selected reservoirs is equivalent to 10% of the global blue water footprint related to crop production."

And while the study focused on hydropower, it clearly applies to dams used for any purpose. Evaporation and the minefield of other environmental serious problems caused by dams do not magically go away when a dam is used for water storage.

Indeed, the last time I checked, Hetch Hetchy is being used for -both- hydropower and water storage (and is doing a wasteful job of fulfilling each task, as all dams do).

And finally, yes, eventually all large dams should be decommissioned. This will take many decades, but it is crucial to environmental restoration, especially where salmon need to be restored.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Nov. 01, 2012 @ 11:31 pm

But mention of salmon with regard to Hetch Hetchy is a non-sequitur. There are plenty of dams which should be torn down before this plan for Hetch Hetchy is considered.

http://ga.water.usgs.gov/edu/wuhy.html

Posted by lillipublicans on Nov. 02, 2012 @ 8:02 am

Arguments by the commutative assertion of cooties, nice.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 01, 2012 @ 9:58 am

lillipublicans wrote:

"Eric, cite one example of a reservoir being torn down to promote water security."

This is of course, a trick question. As I have said repeatedly, large dams are removed for myriad interconnected holistic reasons, only one of which is water security. So while removing just about any large dam will improve water security, this is almost never the sole or even primary reason for removing large dams. Such interconnected reasons include, habitat restoration, fisheries recovery, reforestation (which by the way nearly always increases local precipitation and thereby water retention), species recovery, flood management, wetlands restoration, salmon recovery, proper watershed nutrient distribution, esthetic beauty, etc.

Accordingly, I never stated that dams are decommissioned solely for purposes of water security.

So rather than respond to your troll question I'll simply fall back on the apt reply "Homey don't play that."

However I will provide a site that is another good place to start to learn about the many reasons dams are harmful.

See the text and links at:

http://www.internationalrivers.org/environmental-impacts-of-dams

Posted by Guest on Nov. 02, 2012 @ 5:34 pm

anything -- *ANYTHING* which suggests not having a reservior of water is better in terms of water security than having a reservior.

Why do you keep on evading that? If you don't have any proof that removing Hetch Hetchy will lead to more water security -- and naturally you're not going to be arguing as some pro-Prop F propagandists have that we'll simply be able to build other dams -- just admit it, why don't you?

Posted by lillipublicans on Nov. 02, 2012 @ 8:52 pm

On what basis do you make the absolutely absurd claim that I have not posted anything which explains how forest watersheds are better for promoting water security?

I have posted extensive comments to that effect, as has Marcos.

The main focus of those comments has been that forest watershed ecosystems become sponges for water and carbon, and promote retention of snow pack (which would otherwise flow as water more quickly down to the ocean and be rapidly lost). I also just explained that reforestation promotes higher local precipitation, thereby not just conserving but actually -increasing- water supply.

Alternatively, while dams do store water, a great deal of that water is lost through evaporation. I also just posted a link to an article which explains that dams diminish groundwater levels in their immediate vicinity. (And since groundwater stores evaporate, water is better held in them, than in a reservoir.)

So Marcos and I, having repeated this stuff over and over again, in response to your unfathomable endless responses claiming we didn't post any of it, should have made clear by now that robust forest watersheds promote better water security, stability, and sustainability over the long term.

Now that I have, once again, repeated all of those arguments, can you please explain by what pretzeled logic you are actually asking readers to believe that I didn't make them?

The only possible explanation, is that you are simply an asshole who gets off on arguing with people incessantly on blogs.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Nov. 03, 2012 @ 7:52 am

One grammar correction to my comments above. I meant of course to say that because groundwater stores do not evaporate, water is better stored in them than in open reservoirs.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Nov. 03, 2012 @ 7:55 am

I asked you a simple question: where is there a link to a study showing removing reserviors promotes water security.

I believe that dams reduce groundwater downstream and I believe that water evaporates --moreso when subjected to sun, wind, low rh -- what I'm not convinced of is that letting water run downstream out into the ocean is the best way to promote water security.

Don't try to browbeat me Eric. I've heretofore held your opinion in high regard, but I'm not impressed by your debating style here.

I am willing to be convinced -- and certainly having the likes of Troll II, Mayor Lee, Dianne Feinstein, Demented, etc. on my side is none-too-comfortable -- but this idea seems at its root to have the same aggressively nihilistic impulse behind it which is behind eliminating parking spots and artificially reducing road carrying capacity in an attempt at dissuading car travel.

In short, it seems like self-hating. The idea can certainly be overstated Eric -- and there are plenty of truly scary manifestations of human ingenuity which abound -- but *we* *are* the beavers here.

Posted by lillipublicans on Nov. 03, 2012 @ 8:16 am

If you had, I would have posted such a link.

But at this point, I am finished playing along with your bullshit troll games.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Nov. 03, 2012 @ 9:18 am

and you repeatedly cited the same study which was describing how facilities built to harness hydro-electric energy consume water.

Recall that just recently I cited you as among those whose commentary on this site I find most informative and valueable. How surprising to see you take my frank language characterizing the plan you are promoting -- note, not you personally -- as "stupid," as a license to delve into pure ad hominem insults such as suggesting that I am an "asshole."

Now you segue into diversion by calling it "troll games" after I apparently crossed some imaginary threshold with regard being explicit in asking the question I have implicitly been asking for some time.

I have said repeatedly questioned your statement that "forest watersheds" are a more secure source of water than reserviors and you have not provided any citation for that. Does water not evaporate from forests? Does not snow pack melt and reduce flows into said "sponges?" Does not high uncontrolled flow end up in the Pacific Ocean where vast amounts of energy is needed for desalination before it can be used again?

Still, despite your imperious bluster and rudeness, I remain willing to be convinced. I am not willing to have you browbeat me.

Posted by lillipublicans on Nov. 03, 2012 @ 10:11 am

We already did prove it. And the answer to each of your repeated ad nauseam questions is, no.

The fact that you don't even know what a forest watershed is explains a lot.

Look it up.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Nov. 03, 2012 @ 3:48 pm

Water stored in forest watersheds, as snow pack, and as groundwater doesn't flow down to ocean genius...

Posted by Eric Brooks on Nov. 03, 2012 @ 9:22 am

Eric Brooks is correct in saying that tying the serious Hetch Hetchy issue to Dan Lungren is a red herring. The idea of restoring Yosemite's second magnificent valley has broad bipartisan support. No less than four former California Resource Secretaries (a cabinet position) have voiced their support, including Democrats Mary Nichols and Huey Johnson and Republicans Doug Wheeler and the late Ike Livermore. And three former Superintendents of Yosemite National Park have are active supporters; they are Bob Binnewies, BJ Griffin and Dave Mihalic. In addition to Lungren, Congressman John Garamendi and State Senator Lois Wolk, both Democrats and both experts on water issues, have publicly voiced support.

Commenter Ann Garrison falls into the same trap that SF's Chief Puppet, Ed Lee, fell for. When you really don't understand something resort to name calling --- "insane, stupid, ridiculous" and the like. Folks like that would be well advised to read the numerous reports which explain why restoration is feasible without harm to SF or its wholesale customers; what the various alternatives are for getting Tuolumne River water to SF without having to store it in Yosemite National Park; and what the true cost of restoration and the alternative storage and diversion options would be.

Ms. Garrison assumes and therefore asserts that water rates would increase. That assertion has about as much credibility as SFPUC's claim that restoration would cost $10 billion. Here's the truth behind that canard: at an October 17, 2005 meeting of SFPUC's Citizens Advisory Committee that committee voted 10 to 1 on a resolution urging SFPUC and the SF Board of Supervisors to cooperate in the ongoing studies regarding restoration. SFPUC employee Ellen Levine was at the meeting to oppose that resolution and she made the mistake of throwing out that $10 billion number. Someone asked her where the number came from. She sheepishly admitted it came "off the back of an envelope".

Restoration supporters have long said that the true cost of full restoration (between $2 and 3 billion) should be paid by a combination of park fees, federal appropriations, state appropriations and significant private philanthropic contributions. (The full one-half billion dollar cost of the major Statute of Liberty restoration project in the 80's was paid for by private contributions.) SF residents should not and would not pay any more than residents of any other city or state in the country.

There is one aspect of this issue that has been overlooked in all the rhetoric from both sides of the issue. in 1984 84 miles of the Tuolumne River were designated by Congress as part of the National Wild & Scenic River system, an honor reserved for only the most special rivers in the country. About 40 or so of those miles are above the reservoir and the rest are below it. Removal of the reservoir would mean that there would be about 90 miles of continuous unimpeded free flowing river running from the Tuolumne's headwater to Don Pedro Reservoir. That's a thought that brings a smile to people who appreciate the value of free flowing rivers.

I currently live in Tuolumne County, where some local elected officials jokingly refer to us as Tuolumne "Colony" when the subject of San Francisco and its water grabbing tendencies come up. We're tired of being treated like a colony. SF votes would be wise to heed the advice of their more thoughtful colleagues like Mike Marshall and Eric Brooks and pass Prop. F and let all of us get on with the methodical job of putting together the facilities to assure full water deliveries to SF and then turn to the job of restoring a magnificent valley. We owe it to our children and grandchildren.

Posted by Guest Jerry Cadagan on Nov. 01, 2012 @ 7:39 am

"Tear down this Wall"

Posted by Guest on Nov. 01, 2012 @ 8:10 am

divides those who are natural allies for attaining greater ecological sustainability.

Posted by lillipublicans on Nov. 01, 2012 @ 8:43 am

drive for socialistic ownership of business is directly opposite from the drive to save the environment.

The SF left doesn't want to save Yosemtie - they want to exploit it for their own ends, just like the very capitalists they claim to despise.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 01, 2012 @ 8:55 am

So few have ever stood on the banks of a free flowing wild and scenic river and felt the earth tremble below your feet as the water coursed past....

Posted by marcos on Nov. 01, 2012 @ 9:04 am

scaled-down model at Crystal Springs Reservior -- hmmm... another dam to destroy so as to "save water"? -- and have felt the water's rush in my ribcage and breathed the mist from O'Shaunessey's engineering.

Prior to that system being built, San Franciscan's drank polluted water.

Posted by lillipublicans on Nov. 01, 2012 @ 7:37 pm
Posted by marcos on Nov. 01, 2012 @ 9:19 pm

windy day during a big ebb, you've seen it all.

Posted by lillipublicans on Nov. 02, 2012 @ 8:07 am

Since restoring the valley from the stinking morass of mud it has become will take at least 250 years. I'm all for long-term thinking but that's ridiculous.

Posted by Troll II on Nov. 01, 2012 @ 9:58 am

A 250 year journey to environmental restoration, begins in its first minute, with its first step, in the present.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Nov. 01, 2012 @ 10:21 am

The dam at Hetch Hetchy is just one of nine dams in the system. The water and power comes from the TUOLUMNE RIVER, not the dam at Hetch Hetchy. In fact, the power is generated far downstream from the dam at Hetch Hetchy. Prop F is just for a study. Water rates are not going to rise just for a study that costs $8M. Come on, the water department recently spent more than thirty times that amount on a BUILDING! As for the costs to remove the dam and restore the valley, should that happen eventually, that will be the federal government's responsibility since the land is within a NATIONAL Park. Private donations would also be used, just like the recent half a billion dollar restoration at the Statue of Liberty (another National Park property).

Posted by Niners Fan on Nov. 02, 2012 @ 10:05 am

Wish I had seen this before, you guys are great. Such insight, such depth of knowledge.

Posted by Chris Pratt on Nov. 02, 2012 @ 1:02 pm

Lets study the whole things, the options of building more water storage areas in California, we can find some nice valley near the bay area. Look at replacements and the cost of them. Look at how long it will take and how fast it can be built. Save the time and money Vote No on F.

Posted by Garrett on Nov. 06, 2012 @ 12:03 pm

Why the heck were only those in SF able to vote on this measure? Hetch-Hetchy Valley is part of a national park in California therefore the other population should have a say!

Posted by Guest on Dec. 06, 2012 @ 2:49 pm

Clearly Federal and State law would trump SF law if it came to a national movement to remove the dam. I think that will happen eventually. As you say, it's too important for local issues to decide.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 06, 2012 @ 3:05 pm

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