Water Is An Important Political Issue Everywhere:The Battle For The Hetch Hetchy Valley

It is true isn’t it??  Water really is an important political issue everywhere you go and no matter where you live.

Why this post today?  Hetch HetchyYosemiteSan Fransisco.  Water.

I always traveled a lot.  For business and of course, for pleasure.  What is more fun for you and your family than to travel to new lands or to old familiar places, visiting friends and family, learning new languages and cultures.

When I was young, before I retired and air travel was luxurious, I sometimes would get on a plane Friday night after work, go somewhere and be back at my desk Monday morning.  I had friends in the airline industry and was lucky enough to do some flying for free on Stand-By.

One of the things I enjoyed no matter where I visited was to drive the local communities, get out in the countryside and see how people lived.  And you could not miss seeing what the hot-button political issues were.

And Number 1?  No matter where you were?  Water!

Everywhere there would be signs about local water issues, statewide water issues.

Signs covering each race, Republican or Democrat in the U.S., local parties in Canada or Mexico.  The fences in  the country would often be covered with signs about water.  Water Rights.  The cost of water.  The need to damn a river or a creek.  The desire to remove the turbines.  What politician was o n what side of the issue about water.

Signs covering opponents signs.

And nearly every sign asked for money.  Money to fight the good fight, whether that be Yes to a Dam or No to a reservoir.  They all wanted money.  And they wanted more money.

It was the same everywhere.  Moe water, Access to water.  Farmers needed it more.  Cities needed it more.  Developers needed it more.

My god.

So what started me on this tirade today?

Growing up my Grandmother was always against building dams and reservoirs.  Against sending “our” water to other areas and people.  They always trucked it out in the middle of the night sending it down south to Los Angeles.  And she just knew we needed it more.  And the farmers needed it the most.

Now there is a very significant political issue in California.  A water issue.

Even if you don’t live in California you have heard of the Yosemite Valley.  You may have even visited.  Or want to.

But you may not have heard of the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir.

So what is the Hetch Hetchy and why is it important in 2012.

Hetch Hetchy is the long-lost geological twin of Yosemite.  Long-lost because California politicians and big businesses dammed the Tuolumne River and flooded the Hetch Hetchy Valley in  1923, after a decision a century ago, creating a reservoir that continues to provide water to the citizens of San Francisco and the surrounding areas even today.

Important today because the current citizens of San Francisco will soon vote on whether or not to “un-flood” the Hetch Hetchy and find new water supplies for the people of San Francisco.

How do you un-do a dam and a reservoir?  Where do you find water for more than a million people in a state that often is big-time thirsty due to droughts.

Understand this:  due to the decision 00 years ago to build the dam and flood the valley, sending the water to San Francisco, the people in the city today have pristine, pure drinking water coming out of their faucets.  I have no idea how much bottled drinking water is sold in San Francisco but I would bet it is much less on average than other California cities.

An unending supply of water for more than one million people, 7 of California’s population, the turbines in the dam provide hydroelectricity to homes and skyscrapers, streetlights & traffic signals, swimming pools, restaurants, and fun spots, and all of this for less than $30,000 per year.

Politics?  Money?  Big business?  City vs country?  Developer vs farmer??

It is all revisiting San Francisco and the State of California today.

Eventually it will be broadly understood what an abomination a reservoir in a valley like Yosemite Valley really is,” Donald Hodel, the former interior chief, told The Associated Press. “I think it will be hard to quell this idea (of restoration).  It is like ideas of freedom in a totalitarian regime. Once planted they are impossible to repress forever.”

Over the past decade, studies by the state and others have shown it’s possible for San Francisco to continue collecting water from the Tuolumne River further downstream.

But the city never seriously has considered giving up its claim to the valley.

“This is a ridiculous idea,” Mayor Ed Lee said. “It’s a Trojan Horse for those that wish to have our public tricked into believing we have an adequate substitute for the Hetch Hetchy reservoir. We do not. There isn’t any.”

Read more here
I don’t quite understand the current dynamics.  This Bee article above say the Republicans want to return Hetch Hetchy to its’ natural state while Democrats, led by Barbara Boxer and Diane Feinstein  want to leave it flooded.  That means the Republicans support John Muir and the Sierra Club??
Wut??
I guess times have changed.  I don’t know the thinking of the current Sierra Club.  Perhaps they don’t want to see the natural beauty of the Hetch Hetchy Valley??  Yes, they do!   Read their thoughts right HERE.
 Even with Republican support. Even with Democratic opposition.
David Brower, former Executive Director of the Sierra Club  says in the above article “The Hodel proposal produced the expected panic in San Francisco. Mayor Dianne Feinstein wanted it shredded. Alarmists (and I can tell one when I see one) warned that the alternative to Hetch Hetchy would be the proposed and despised Auburn Dam and Peripheral Canal and other adjustments, the cost of which would probably total six billion dollars. The media reported all this with but a halfhearted attempt to check. A forester told them how long it would take the trees to grow, and a reclamation writer told how long it would take for the lake bed to dry out and be usable. The mayor understandably did not want San Francisco to lose the thirty million dollars a year from the sale of Hetch Hetchy project electricity.At the time I had been advocating that the Sierra Club initiate a second Remove Secretary Watt petition campaign, this time aimed at his successor. And now I was confronted with the need to praise Secretary Hodel for his brilliant suggestion. Here at last, I could assume, he had realized that because he had been wrong he didn’t have to stay wrong.”
 And I have no idea why the Republicans are supporting the effort, they are the folks who flooded it to start with right?  They must smell money somewhere in the deal.  Increased water rates, utility rates and more.
And the other side is afraid that San Francisco will lose their water, certainly their clean drinking water and that water and electricity will cost more.
I guess times have changed.  I think I just heard my old friend John Muir roll over in his grave!  Ronald Reagan’s Cabinet joining his beloved Sierra Club and supporting their causes?  What is it?  Opposite Day??
Do you Twitter?  You can follow @HetchHetchy  and @Sierra_Club and check out all of the Sierra Club Twitter accounts to find your local club.
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