Sunday, December 22, 2013

100 Years Ago Congress Flooded Hetch Hetchy - the other Yosemite Valley

Painting of Hetch Hetchy Valley by Albert BierstadtOur "three gorges" were two - Yosemite and Hetch Hetchy.  100 years ago Congress passed and Woodrow Wilson signed the Raker Act.  It permitted the flooding of Hetch Hetchy to supply water for San Francisco.  That act of environmental destruction made possible today's San Francisco.  Should we have done it? Can we "undo" it?
Prof. Richard Frank (UC Davis Law) discusses the issues at Legal Planet:

"Contemporary accounts–including those of John Muir–attest to the stunning beauty of the Hetch Hetchy Valley. (Muir wrote: “Hetch Hetchy Valley is a grand landscape garden, one of Nature’s rarest and most precious mountain temples.”) In its natural state, Hetch Hetchy was considered an ecological twin of the world-renown Yosemite Valley that lies, relatively undisturbed, a few miles to the south.

San Francisco’s construction of the O’Shaughnessy Dam on the Tuolumne River flooded the Hetch Hetchy Valley under 300 feet of water, turning it into a municipal reservoir. Public access to this portion of Yosemite National Park has been limited for decades and, compared to its natural state, there’s not a lot see or enjoy there in any event. John Muir considered the destruction of the Hetch Hetchy Valley to be his biggest political failure, and a national tragedy. "

Frank goes on to discuss current debates about whether the dam should be dismantled and Hetch Hetchy restored.

No comments: