Green civil war in San Francisco over Hetch Hetchy

  • Hetch Hetch high

The Greens are at each other’s throats over San Francisco Proposition F which would fund the preparation work to drain and dismantle the Hetch Hetchy reservoir.

 Dynamite the dam and give the valley back to the fish and animals, or keep one of the nation’s finest supplies of naturally pure water flowing to the city while generating low cost renewable electricity to boot?

What’s a Green to do?

Congress authorized the dam in 1913 and work was completed in 1923. Today the reservoir provides 2.8 million Californians with water so pure it does not need to be filtered.

Proposition F, which will appear on San Francisco’s November 2012 ballot, pits campaign organizations such as the Sierra Club, Environmental Defense Fund and Earthjustice against the city’s political leadership.

 The Los Angeles Times reports:

 “Virtually the entire San Francisco political and business establishment is adamantly against the proposal. Former Mayor Dianne Feinstein, California’s senior U.S. senator, says tearing down O’Shaughnessy “makes no sense.” Mayor Edwin Lee has called the idea “stupid” and “insane.” The Board of Supervisors opposes it and the Bay Area Council, the region’s leading business group, is heading the campaign to defeat the proposal.

“It’s the height of folly,” said Jim Wunderman, the Bay Area Council’s president. “Some things are better off put aside and this is one of those things.”

Those campaigning for Prop F respond:

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.

Tearing down the dam and replacing the water supply with alternate sources, recycling and conservation would impose huge costs on water and electricity rate and taxpayers.  Prop F proponents’ suggestion of replacing cheap hydro power with miles of solar panels seems naive in the wake of repeated solar power bankruptcies and doubts about whether covering miles of California land with 42 miles of solar desertification would prove a boon or a curse to nature.

Who wins in a battle between radical Greens and extreme radical Greens?  Next Tuesday, while watching the returns for President and Congress, keep an eye on San Francisco’s Proposition F and find out.

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About the Author: CFACT Ed