Restore Hetch Hetchy throws another curveball


It would be lovely to be able to talk seriously about removing the dam in Hetch Hetchy Valley, to restore John Muir's "holiest temple" and expand hiking and camping areas in Yosemite. But I'm not ready to go there right now -- and to claim that giardia in the water is a good reason to dynamite O'Shaugnessy Dam is a bit beyond silly.

The Chron writes about the Restore Hetch Hetchy movement every now and then, and there's always a lot of talk about the water system. But the paper never seems to mention the other part of the dam -- it generates electricity. And it was, and remains, the lynchpin of what's supposed to be a public power system in San Francisco.

Congress would never have allowed San Francisco to build the dam if it was just for water. The whole deal, memorialized in the Raker Act of 1913, hinged on the city using the dam for both water and power, and using the power to establish a public-power beachead in Northern California to compete against Pacific Gas and Electric Co. Tear down the dam and the city loses not only a pristine water supply but enough non-fossil-fuel electricity to power a significant part of its electricity needs.

I know that there's a lot of controversy about large hydro as renewable power, but the dam's already there, and I think everyone agrees that existing hydro is a better source of electricity than coal, oil, natural gas or nukes.

In a perfect world (and we'll get there one day), San Francisco would have a municipal power system that relied entirely on solar, wind, and tidal energy. And we'd have a Bay Area water system that reduces use dramatically, recycles gray water, shifts agriculture to drought-resistant sustainable crops, replaces lawns with native ground cover and requires far less fresh-water input every year. At that point, the dam will be redundant and pointless. Bombs away.

But until we no longer rely on a privately-controlled electrical grid based on fossil-fuel and nuclear generation, we just can't afford to lose the dam. Why the Chron never talks about that side of the equation remains one of the great mysteries of local journalism.



"We at the SFBG are obsessed and consumed with public power over all other issues".

Quite why, is lost in time. But I do recall BB foaming at the mouth at an election "party" ten or so years ago when, yet again, a public power proposition lost, always because not enough people gave a flying crap about it.

So here is a perfect opportunity for SFBG to get behind something which is as liberal and progressive as you could ask i.e. tearing down a "big business" dam that destroyed one of the most beautiful and pristine places on the planet.

Yet you don't. Why?

Rhetorical question.

You see public power as a way of channeling untold wealth into municipal hands in order to pay for any number of hopelessly liberal causes. And NOT as a way of, for instance, lowering charges to consumers (which might actually be a way of piquing voters' interests).

But, really, why the obsession? It's been going on for decades, over Brugamnn's relentlessly ageing body, and still nobody cares about it. Will it be over only when the good Lord takes him?

Posted by Folly on Jul. 23, 2010 @ 7:55 am

Even if it meant ending any chance at public power in NorCal, I'd still take down the dam.

My environmentalist instincts trump my socialist instincts.

And taking down Hetch Hetchy is probably a necessary step to taking down Glen Canyon dam and a lot of others too.

Posted by hermann on Jul. 24, 2010 @ 2:26 pm

First, there is absolutely NO power generated O'Shaughnessey Dam. Power generation occurs at other locations in the system and most would continue after elimination of the dam in Yosemite National Park.

Second, the point about giardia and crypto is that SF should have a filtration system for its water as does virtually every major municipality in the country. The addition of a filtration system would readily facilitate the very reasonable alternative for water supply advocated by Restore Hetch Hetchy and other groups. And because those proposals call for the full cost of dam removal and system retrofitting to be paid by all US citizens the effect would be that SF would be getting a much needed filtration system for free.

Posted by Jerry on Jul. 26, 2010 @ 6:31 am

Come on SF, this is long overdue! Any SF resident who considers himself/herself to be liberal must be in favor of tearing down the dam at Hetch Hetchy. The dam is a black mark of hypocrisy on SF's image.

Posted by JM on Jul. 04, 2011 @ 9:55 pm

So if I got this right you want to restore it to a snapshot in time you feel to be more beautiful than now. That's cool, but I feel it was even more beautiful when it was in it's natural state of being under a mile thick sheet of ice. I know you guys are against global warming but you got to admit if not for global warming you never would have seen the Vally in the first place. And since I'm on the subject, I know you guys think we can control the temp of the earth and if we can may I suggest 68 F. Just one more thing, All of your groups have been guided since around the 30's by the same people and money who outlawed hemp for use in paper products, and building materials. You have know idea do you? Just keep restoring things to a point in time of your choosing. Like restoring my beautiful Angle Island back to it's ugly, scraggly half burnt wasteland it was before. But hey, keep up the good work and I'll see all of you in hell..

Posted by Guest on Jul. 24, 2011 @ 3:17 am

"restoring Hetch Hetchy"=lame climate denier comment TROLL ALERT

Posted by vigilante on Jul. 24, 2011 @ 9:11 am

It's contribution consists solely of this (non) witty bon-mots.

Posted by Lucretia "Secretia" Snapples on Jul. 24, 2011 @ 11:06 am

It's about their endless attempt at a public power power-grab.

When all around the world, governments and municipalities are privatizing utilities, the SFBG wants to hand electricity over to the same morons that run Muni and can't fix the potholes.

Luckily, the voters see through this flim-flam game and always vote it down.

The decision to pull down a dam in a National Park has to be a Federal decision, not a local one. SF can get electricity from lots of other places. It's all the same stuff anyway.

Posted by Walter on Jul. 24, 2011 @ 12:15 pm