« Return to this article

for people who care about the West

Another plug to pull?

  The Sierra Club has a new campaign: It wants to restore the valley John Muir called "Yosemite's twin." But California's Hetch Hetchy Valley, once part of Yosemite National Park, is presently buried under 360,000 acre-feet of water. Resurrecting the valley would require draining the reservoir that the San Fransisco area taps for its primary water source. Few seem ready to take the plunge.


"Conceptually it sounds like a grand idea, but there are so many details that it's hard to get your arms around the proposal," says Michael Carlin, water resources manager for San Francisco. The reservoir drowned the valley in 1913, when President Woodrow Wilson dammed the Tuolumne River, flooding Hetch Hetchy. Carlin worries about where the city will find another water supply that won't cost taxpayers an arm and a leg.


The Sierra Club says it wants to work with all water users and come up with a solution that satisfies everyone. "We're not talking about Kmart parking lots; this is a national park and a national heritage area," says Ron Good of the Sierra Club. "We believe it's possible."


Good says San Francisco could store Tuolumne River water in the nearby Don Pedro Reservoir since it has a 2 million acre-foot capacity and isn't used to its full potential. At this point, however, the club has no commitment from a legislator to carry a bill to dry out Hetch Hetchy.


* Rebecca Clarren