A wrong created 90-years ago may have a chance to get righted. The dam that holds water for the city of San Francisco and some neighboring cities was erected on federal land – Yosemite National Park, in one of the shadiest land grabs in American history. For the first time, a city obtained the rights to the water flowing out of a river located in a National Park. The Tuolumne River flows from high in the Sierra Nevada mountains through the backcountry of the park and down towards the Pacific.
After the 1906 earthquake, the government of the city of San Francisco felt a need for a reliable source of water to combat fires and to support an exploding population. They petitioned the US Department of the Interior for access to this water source. Despite efforts of the Sierra Club and its founder, John Muir, the 1913 Raker Act was passed and the deed was done. Muir died a year later but once said: “Dam Hetch Hetchy! As well dam for water-tanks the people’s cathedrals and churches, for no holier temple has ever been consecrated by the heart of man.” The O’Shaughnessy Dam was built and water stopped flowing naturally in 1923.
The Tuolumne canyon lies at 3800 feet above sea level and contains two of the highest waterfalls in America, Wapama Falls at 1,700 feet and Tueeulala Falls at 840 feet. They rival the falls found in the main Yosemite Valley. The canyon walls are just as awesome.
For decades, people have sought the removal of the dam and for the needed water to be stored downstream in reservoirs that could be built and restore the valley. Currently, the water flows without pumps or filtering almost 200 miles to the Bay Area. Gravity is amazing.
This November, citizens will get a chance to weigh in. It could cost $3-20 billion by some estimates, but what’s right? San Francisco’s MEASURE F would allocate $8M to formally study the project. That would be the first step in an effort greater than the one that made the dam in the first place.
If you live in SF do what you think is right. I refer you to a very good article that appeard Sunday Sep 30 in the San Jose Mercury by Paul Rogers.
Unrelated thought worth quoting: “In God’s wildness lies the hope of the world.” – John Muir
MrHalfDome™ – Rick Deutsch – www.HikeHalfDome.com